Kage Baker didn’t like zombies.
Not even in October, when her fondness for all monsters was at its peak. She had no respect for werewolves – a childhood spent watching Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman leaves an entirely different impression of them than one spent watching Taylor Lautner. They’re equally stupid. but Chaney Jr. was like a sad, unsuccessful racing tout; the Dead Salesman of the undead, on a perpetual Lost Weekend. Lautner is just a brooding muscle boy.
But she liked both of them more than zombies.* She was willing to admit that Romero had created a genre classic – she just didn’t care for it. Of course, Kage died too soon for what I consider the best zombie films – she never saw Shawn of the Dead or Zombieland. She never even saw the Will Smith I Am Legend, which was not too bad until the director couldn’t figure out how to end it; she neither read nor saw World War Z, which at least had some amazing visuals.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies just made Kage roll her eyes in exasperation – and she didn’t even like Austin all that much. Television was no help, either. She died way too soon for The Walking Dead, which is well thought of (though I don’t like it at all). Worse, she also missed the television shows I, Zombie and Z Nation, which I think are fantastic. Z Nation, in fact, is the show that reconciled me to the zombie genre in the first place. Kage would have loved The Murphy.
Anyway, I have grown rather fond of zombies, in certain carefully contrived circumstances. I’ve learned to recognize their dramatic possibilities. They are off the list that my subconscious keeps of topics that are silly, jejeune, over-worked or just plain – well, icky. There are metaphors and similies possible on the subject. My snob alarms – and I have some lulus! – have been somewhat disabled.
Today, I spent several hours on research – on diseases, protozoans, climate change, weather patterns, eccentric astrophysicists, parasitology and Toxoplasmus gondii. Consequently, today I produced close to 3,000 words of notes and then wrote 500 words of actual content on A Zombie Story. I wish it had been the other way around, but you can’t build much until you lay the foundation, right? It may not be what I settle down to write next, but it absolutely must be written to some extent – the idea won’t leave me alone, and it’s got to be translated into text or I won’t able to get anything done.
And who knows? It may be that this will be the spur to finish something else. Sometimes what it takes to inspire one is having something else making faces from the wings. It’s having a full plate that forces one to finally pick a chocolate up and actually eat it. Being between a rock and another, equally shiny rock – that’s when one absolutely has to make a decision.
I want to write. I’m ready to write. I am damned sure going to write something. I’ll write whatever wants to be written, at least until my mind makes a decision on which road I mean to travel to the end.
It’s always a bit of a surprise, Dear Readers. That’s half the fun.
*Always excepting the zombies in Sir Terry Pratchett’s novels, of course. Those are cool.
Zombies never interested me: too stupid, too easily outfoxed, but I bet your story will be good. Research and the right angle can make any story a winner.
Do not feed zombies salt; it makes them realize their condition and go shambling back to their graves, unheeding of their master’s pleas to stop! Stay!
And Kage was correct, as usual; Jane Austen was boring, IMO, with all that nattering about who was a gentleman or not and who was going to marry whom. Snore city.
Zombies are usually boring, yeah. But they don’t have to be; I have some ideas on that. And the problem of zombie-ism – the process of zombification – has some interesting room in it, in which to dance with the ideas of what is human? Do you stop being human if you’re dead? JUST because you’re dead? Do we only respect the dead because they tend to go away and not bother us? Also, I have a fun biological theory to explore as well.
I loved zombies the first time I saw Day of the Dead, in the early 1990s. I didn’t understand why until I started studying story. As you already know, there are, essentially, four kinds of conflict. Man v. Man, Man v. Nature, Man v. Society, and Man v. self. The zombie story is Man v. Nature: Zombies are part of nature and should be respected. When man becomes too greedy (not necessarily for money, either), too proud, or too anything, he begins to disrespect the RULES! That’s when they get him! (This is also true for the movie Aliens – people die when they don’t know the rules.)
The actually plots in zombie stories are more about humans trying to retain their humanity than they are about killing zombies.
And that is what makes them interesting, Jason! For me, suddenly, anyway.
I totally understand having to write the thing that will not let you go. Same with songwriting or even songlearning. I look forward to reading anything you come up with, Kathleen!
If you commit to any kind of creativity – writing, composing, painting, making quilts or pies or garden gnomes – you have to submit to the will of the art. You must write what wants to be written. It’s why writers have things that will never be submitted, I know – you have to write the damn things, no matter how they turn out. I suspect there are songs, paintings, quilts and pies like that, too. Garden gnomes, not so much – you can display just about anything in that genre … I have, in fact, a zombie garden gnome who comes out to play every October.