Saturday, May 11, 2013

Zombie Rules: Why Should Zombies Misbehave?


When I used to work a video store, the zombie films were always categorized under the "Horror" placard. Since then, I've always associated zombies with the horror concept; and yes, I'm going to use the "Z" word over and over again.

ZOMBIES. ZOMBIES. ZOMBIES.

At one point, I decided to write a horror novel that would include "zombies." Well… the evil scientist in the novel describes his creations as zombies because he believes that a dead person who loves to eat human flesh should be called such. I'm talking about Nightmare of the Dead, a book I would love to write a sequel for. Unfortunately, the book is a horror novel and not a zombie story; I didn't know there was a difference until recently.

I hate the argument that one person's description of a zombie is not "realistic." Are you kidding me? That's like saying the ghost sitting across from me isn't really a ghost because it's not wearing a bow-tie  We're talking about walking corpses that, for some reason, like to eat people. Maybe the "walkers" run, maybe they walk; in some stories, they talk, or think. Sometimes, zombies use tools! Sometimes zombies like to eat brains, and sometimes they vomit all over you. 

From what I've learned, a zombie story is supposed to feature a bunch of "average" people (now I'm getting upset, can't you tell?) who run around trying to survive while "killing" things that are already dead--things that can't be called "zombies" because that word is overused…

What's an "average" person? Are there people in your neighborhood who know how to use firearms? Are there nurses, electricians, hunters, criminals, policemen, firefighters--don't these people exist? Why is it scary when someone who has few "survival skills" is attacked by monsters / zombies? Isn't it scarier when someone who has specialized training which can help them survive a catastrophe learns their skills can't help them? What's "average" about someone who can swing a katana without any formal training in swordsmanship and sever both flesh and bone, without consideration to the blade's actual composition.

I guess I'm getting confused about zombie stories again. They're not horror stories. They're not supposed to be scary. They're supposed to be confined to a series of rules so that people can easily distinguish what a "zombie" book is even when the word "zombie" isn't used in the story at all. To make sure I can sell stuff, I'm going to make sure I basically clone either a television show, video game, or book because it's getting consumed on a mass scale and it follows the "rules."

Rules and art don't mix; creativity and innovation are stifled, but I guess writers aren't artists…