It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of zombie stories. The day I decided to become a horror writer, I thought of nothing else but writing zombie stories. I’ve written a lot else since that day, but I still haven’t turned my back on zombies. They’re just so damn cool.
So, in no particular order, here is why I believe zombie stories, games and just plain old zombies are awesome:
1.Zombie stories can be extremely funny.
From what-an-idiot to that-looks-like-my-boss hilarious. But even then, there’s still that element of fear. They’re fun to look at, but don’t let them come too close.
Zombie stories also tend to comment on world events, social hot-topics of its time and even real people (musicians, politicians and even those socialites that somehow became famous). Just take another look at the record–throwing scene in Shaun of the Dead. Or the opening sequence for that matter.
Zombie stories can be funny while also touching on serious subjects. For example, in my Lost in the Dark collection, I have a zombie story called Fashionably Undead, where a bunch of shackled zombies are paraded up and down a ramp, sporting the newest clothing trends. The story, while funny and gruesome, touches on aspects of slavery, mind-controlled fashion- and trend victims, relationships and so on.
(Sorry to interrupt, Joe, but I will jump in here and remind readers that I have an hilarious zee tale available right now. Badass Zombie Road Trip will leave you crying with gut wrenching laughter.)
2.Zombies can be as scary, ugly and gruesome as the writer wants them to be.
Why? Because they’re already dead. Nobody wants to see a pretty sparkling zombie. Zombie lit is and never will be a Frog Prince story.
Hell, as a reader you can picture zombies with your mother-in-laws hairstyle, your boss’s toupee or your husband’s stupid grin. Look out for movie zombies that remind you of famous people, especially presidents – they’re there.
3. Zombie stories take us way, and in some cases waywaaay, back.
I might be wrong, but I don’t know one zombie fan that didn’t fall in love with zombies during a movie or book they read as a child or teenager. Every time I watch or read a zombie story, I feel like a kid again.
I can recall scenes from movies I watched as a kid and how it scared me. For me it was the remake of Night of the Living Dead (I was about 10 years old). What child doesn’t fear a dead body, especially one that wakes up for a late night brain snack.
Who doesn’t like feeling like a kid again. It’s one of the main reasons people enjoy horror.
4. They just keep coming.
They’re like rabid, horny bunnies, or those guppy fish that live to breed. You can be the best martial artist or gun-crazy sharpshooter, but if thousands of zombies have you trapped, they’ll find a way in like a hungry octopus, even if they have to climb over each other to make a human wall. Hunger has always been the biggest instigator for animal-like behaviour in people.
And death can come at any moment. There are no second chances.
You can be a 100 pound weakling or a steroid freak, but if a zombie scratches or bites you, you’ll be a stiff in no time.
The suspense lies in not knowing when or how. Will it be quick and painful (being torn limb from limb), or will you be infected and slowly die, forcing your loved ones to put a bullet in your brain. Maybe you’ll be lucky and one of your companions accidentally shoots you.
5. You gotta love the characters.
I know every story, whether horror or fantasy, can have great characters, but where else will you meet an array of interesting characters that can die in the most gruesome manners, and then come back.
With zombie stories, you get to meet a whole bunch of characters, cast into extreme post-apocalyptic situations, and wait to see who drops dead first, and who comes back to bite who.
Again, don’t think it’s a coincidence that some of these characters remind you of people you know. People you care for or even love.
In my The Dead Don’t Sleep Here Anymore story (Undead Tales 2), I created three characters – a grandfather, father and baby boy – trying to cope with family issues while barricaded in an army base. And don’t think it’s only zombies that are trying to tear this loveable yet fallible family apart.
One more thing about characters: every zombie story has at least one person you can’t wait to see killed.
6. It’s damn fun.
I love writing, reading and playing anything zombie related. As long as it’s well written, I really don’t care how corny or cliché it sometimes is. Where else do you get to laugh at people dying and dead people writhing towards you? Being scared while laughing is one of the best feelings you can experience.
And when it comes to zombie games, what feels better than blowing up a couple of people without feeling guilty.
7. It could happen.
There are lots of educated takes on the zombie-apocalypse, and while a lot of people say it’ll never happen, there are more than a handful of scientists who say it’s quite possible.
A paranormal scientist I spoke to recently said he’s seen dead bodies come to life before, but instead of being infected by a virus, they were possessed by demons. Isn’t that perhaps what’s meant by hell on earth?
8. A zillion ways to die.
No, not a million, a zillion.As a zombie writer, I can be as creative as I want when it comes to death scenes. If I can one day make someone laugh, cringe and sad during a particular death scene, I’ll die a happy man.
9. There’s always room for something new.
A lot of writers believe zombie stories are too cliché or hacked, but I believe there’s still a lot of room for new approaches. It can be nice to write within a set list of rules sometimes. An avid zombie reader knows what to expect from a zombie book (zombies, head-shots, bites that infect), but they still enjoy a good twist or a new take on something that works.
Forgive me for mentioning another book I’m working on, but right now a group of amazing zombie authors (Joe McKinney, Ryan Miller, Ian Woodhead, Armand Rosamilia and myself) are working on Children of the Grave, a collection of zombie stories taking place in a fixed, purgatory-type world, where the reader chooses which direction the story should go. Each direction is being written by a different author. Expect to be blown away.
10. Zombie walks
Lots of fun and a great place to meet zombie fans. If you’ve never been on one, organize one as soon as possible. Do it for charity, then you don’t have to pay the make-up people. Just don’t try to bite a stranger. It’s not sexy. Trust me, I tried.
All the best,
Joe Mynhardt is a South African horror writer, publisher, editor and teacher with over fifty short story publications. He has appeared in dozens of publications and collections, among them DARKER MINDS with Gary McMahon and Stephen Bacon. He will also appear in THE OUTSIDERS alongside great authors such as Simon Bestwick, Ray Cluley and many more. Joe is also the owner and operator of Crystal Lake Publishing. His editorial debut, FEAR THE REAPER, will be available in the second half of 2013.
Read more about Joe and his creations at www.Joemynhardt.com or find him on Facebook at “Joe Mynhardt’s Short Stories”.