The vampire obsession for many makes sense.
At one time, the word vampire invoked Dracula, a skinny, pale, monster with scary teeth and a weird accent, but pop culture has changed our word association. Today, the word conjures up visions of Edward Cullen from the Twilight series, who isn’t scary so much as sexy and slim with sparkly skin.
But zombies? The undead, clawing their way out of tombs and crypts and graves with skin hanging off their faces?
Not much sex appeal to be found in that, no matter how you write it. And there’s lots of writing about zombies these days.
AMC’s popular TV show The Walking Dead was nominated for three Emmys last year and three this year. Many recent books and movies explore the notion of the animated dead.
There are several zombie runs and walks in northeast Indiana, and Denver may have broken a record last month, gathering about 20,000 zombies for its 2012 Denver Zombie Crawl. (The Guinness Book of World Records online lists the world’s largest gathering of zombies as the New Jersey Zombie Walk in 2010, which had 4,093 zombies.)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the government’s health and safety group, even has an entry on zombie preparedness.
So what on earth is the appeal?
I would say it’s not the zombies themselves so much as the stories that are being told, says Tracy Scott, owner of Books, Comics & Things. It’s a way that’s interesting to get to the story that’s interesting. Zombies themselves, they walk around. They shuffle. It’s not a big deal.
The trend started about 10 years ago, he says, with a graphic novel called The Walking Dead. Today, zombies have expanded to television (The Walking Dead), books (the Allen County Public library has added 10 zombie titles this year in the young adult section alone), movies (Zombieland and the Resident Evil series) and, yes, even board games. Scott names Last Night on Earth and Zombies!!!, with three exclamation points, he specifies.
It’s humans trying to escape the zombies, Scott says. There’s an expansion pack that turns you into zombies trying to eat the humans.
When zombies first became the topic du jour, they rode onto the scene piggy-backing off those aforementioned sparkly vampires, starring in their own supernatural romance stories, says Katie Jacobs, a librarian in the young-adult section at the Allen County Public Library. If anything, the fad has started to pass in literature, she says, as dystopian science fiction has become the genre of choice, a trend started in part by The Hunger Games series.
If it can combine dystopian and zombies, Jacobs says, trailing off.
Take This is Not a Test, by Courtney Summers. The story, Jacobs says, is about people stuck in a mall hiding from the zombies outside. The book looks at how those people deal with one another. It becomes a Lord of the Flies-type of situation, she says, not just about the violence outside, but about how folks inside the mall start to lose their humanity and fight amongst themselves.
It’s the story that grips Dave Millar, too. He’s been into zombies since he first saw the original Night of the Living Dead when he was 10 or 11. Once a solo hobby, Millar now watches The Walking Dead with his oldest daughter and plays zombie board games with his family.
A lot of people think that it’s more of a gore factor, says Millar, 41, of Fort Wayne. I really enjoy the storytelling in it; the way that George Romero (who directed Night of the Living Dead and other zombie films) would kind of show society’s flaws in his movies and then has his own twist on that.
It’s pretty neat seeing how popular it’s really getting now, something I’ve enjoyed watching and reading about. (I enjoy seeing) other people start to enjoy that and kind of take their own spin of that.