Kage Baker was picky about her monsters. Zombies never really made the cut.
She did have a slight soft spot for 1932’s White Zombies, but it was only due to loyalty to Bela Lugosi. Lugosi is interesting in it, but the rest of the film sucks – and not in that good Lugosi way. You could claim it’s a metaphor for the paternalistic use, abuse and acquisition of women – the “hero” hires a witch doctor to bend his desired lady to his will, but accidentally turns her into a zombie instead. However, that’s a metaphor blunt enough to cause brain damage, and most of the cast emotes by frenzied weeping or staggering around glassy-eyed like Millie the Moocher on the opium nod.
When George Romero achieved the modern zombie paradigm of decaying, brain-eating revenants, Kage opted out of the genre altogether. While she conceded the Romero films had a definite black humour and cinematographic skill, they were just too disgusting for her. I’d like to think that some of the recent efforts – the hysterical Zombieland, say, or Simon Pegg’s incomparable Sean of the Dead – would have pleased her more. But maybe not. Flying eyeballs, oozing brains and peekaboo viscera were just not her style.
She didn’t even like to watch the Thriller video.
Anyway, here we are coming on apace to Halloween and the walking dead are much on my mind. Not the television show – the synthesis between fantasy and soap opera leaves me cold. I found myself rooting for the zombies to eat all those self-absorbed whiners very early on … the modern fondness for injecting decent horror, science fiction and fantasy with the febrile plot devices of General Hospital is booooring. Hell, the Munsters were a better show.
No, it’s my own dead that haunt me this autumn. I’ve hit a bad patch. On the one hand, I am in a perpetual black mood; occasionally it lightens to a really, really dark grey, but, like Batman, not really very often. Grief is a constant stone in my breast – or maybe it’s my heart acting up, but I really don’t think so. At worst, it’s indigestion, as I am now conscientiously eating 5 or 6 tiny meals a day: high in protein, low in carbs, and about 10 times more than I used to eat at all.
I miss bread. I miss Kage. I miss being carelessly strong and capable, able to get by on a few hours of sleep in a night. I miss the interesting high of being wide awake and hungry, burning my candles at both ends and refining spiritual lamp oil out of exhaustion and sensory overload.
I am quite detesting this getting old business – life most emphatically does not begin at 50 (or whatever catch phrase age is now in vogue): it begins where it always did, in the cold grey light before dawn, where you are always the same age. And you’d better harvest all the strength you can from yourself there, because you’re not going to get it from anywhere else.
On the other hand (there is another hand; several, usually, Fate being as many-armed as Kali Ma) – on the other hand, I am writing. I’ve been neglecting this blog, Dear Readers, because my waking hours have been focused on getting an old, old, old novel fit to show to my agent. It might be a waste of time, but it’s something I have to do. It knows it, too; the damn thing runs riot through my sleep and is evidently building a time distortion field around my desk – I cannot lose any portion of it, though it’s made of a dreadful patchwork of typed and handwritten sheets of all sizes. Every time I need something I’m sure was eaten by mice 40 years ago, it inexplicably shows up – Kage’s distinctive, wretched hand writing, good expensive black ink clinging to cheap paper.
I am now so far in re-writes, it’s going to be easier to finish it and send it off, than to do anything else. At least then it will be Linn’s problem for awhile, and stop haunting me.
I hope so, anyway. I am so very tired of all the insistent ghosts outside my doors. It’s time and past time for some of them to walk on a little ways.
Whaddaya say, dead people? Bug off awhile and let me work. This is real life here, not some silly TV show.
I like the corollary to “Life Begins at ( Whatever Age You Are.” The one that says “You’re Only As Old As You Feel.”
If I’m only as old as I feel, then I must have genuine Jurassic strata somewhere. Probably about knee level; they feel that stiff.
Yes indeed, zombies are boring and gross. Vampires are more interesting, just not the whiney, petulant ones from Twilight. But witches now, witches are cool.
Kage did like witches – decent hard working ones, of course; independent ladies of intellect and firm will. Her very favourites were the Sir Terry Pratchett’s Weird Sisters – Magrat, Nanny Ogg, and the incomparable Granny Weatherwax. Kage wanted to grow up to be Granny Weatherwax … so did I, but I am helpless to escape the fact that I am a natural Nanny Ogg … right down to the red boots.
Yes; this is a haunted autumn.
Be brave, my friend. It doesn’t go away. But it gets easier.