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What's with the Zombies? - Off in the distance
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The Bellinghman
Date: 2012-06-29 13:13
Subject: What's with the Zombies?
Security: Public
What's with the Zombies? Why are they taking over SF&F?

OK, that's perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but let's look at the Hugo list for this year, at least as far as I've got through it.

Of the 5 novels, two use the Z word

That's Deadline by Mira Grant, and Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

A third novel, A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin, doesn't use the term. But it's the 5th novel in a series in which — well how shall I describe it? — dead people rise again and attack their former families and friends. Zombies by another name, and even if they don't feature during this novel, their existence is the great threat behind the series as a whole.

In the graphic story section, there is Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication by Howard Tayler. His current story (i.e. a year later in the online Schlock Mercenary publication) is also using the zombie trope, though we will have to wait a few more days to discover whether corpses infect.

(In the novella list Mira Grant reappears with Countdown, but I will just note that that's a prequel to her novel and not list it as another example. Also reappearing is Game of Thrones the TV series, which is the dramatic version of the 1st novel of which Dance with Dragons is the latest.)

So we have a whole swathe of stories from a bunch of writers in which zombies feature.

Why?

Is it a coincidence, or is there something in the concept of the zombie that allows writers to play with existential threat? Now that imminent nuclear destruction has gone, is our biggest threat the suicide bomber? Is the zombie a metaphor for the enemy that you cannot reason with, and that doesn't mind if he dies so long as you do too?

If so, how come Martin was there back in 1996, when Game of Thrones was first published?

(I'll also note autopope's Bit Rot, where it's a robot zombie outbreak.)
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Sarcasticia Nitpickerson
User: tisiphone
Date: 2012-06-29 12:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Enh, these things come and go. Vampires are out of fashion and steampunk's had its 15 minutes, so it's on to zombies. Want to lay bets on the next big sf&f thing? My guess: fairies.
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Silly Swordsman
User: silly_swordsman
Date: 2012-06-29 13:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Nasty fairies, grimdark fairies, fairies who do not like humanity...

Mind you, that's the elves of folk lore and Pratchett and Feist and many others.

No, I think the mindlessness of zombies is what appeals. We're weaned off Evil now, and there have been plenty of traditionally-evil protagonists, so we're left with baddies that have real, believable motivations for their deeds. Evil is understandable, and thereby less terrifying.

Zombies are a merging of merciless natural disasters with a human form, making them more alien by their initial familiarity.

Plus, the threat of becoming a zombie with their lanky hair, bad posture and torn clothes must the the most terrifying thing the fashion-conscious youth of today will ever encounter. :-)
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Alex McLintock
User: alexmc
Date: 2012-06-29 13:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Was walking through count garden yesterday when Anna and I were accosted by five zombies. My suggestion of "keep still they'll pass us by" didn't work but we survived unscathed.
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Alex McLintock
User: alexmc
Date: 2012-06-29 13:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Covent Garden
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Autopope
User: autopope
Date: 2012-06-29 14:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Bit rot was stunt writing -- "is it possible to write a hard sf space operatic story about CANNIBAL ROBOT ZOMBIES IN SPAAAAACE?"

I will confess that there's a zombie, and animated skeletons, in "Neptune's Brood". But: same universe, same rationale.

There are also a couple of I-can't-believe-they're-not-zombies in "The Apocalypse Codex", but, er, Lovecraftian fiction, okay? And I started down that road with "The Atrocity Archive", written circa 1999-2000.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2012-06-29 14:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I was excluding Neptune's Brood as being as yet unpublished (and also same universe as Bit rot).

And if you're doing Lovecraftian fiction, then unspeakable horrors are pretty much what we'll get. But it's a reprise, in a way, of something that goes back to the '20s and '30s. What are we seeing now that we were seeing then?

(Well, apart from a worldwide economic slump.)

Or is it a case of History repeating itself, the first time as Horror, the second time as something more playful?
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