Tuesday, 16 February 2010


It occurred to me the other day that when I was looking at various urban fantasy/horror character types, I didn't look at zombies. Now, this might have been because zombies aren't particularly nice to look at, particularly after the first week or two, but I thought I'd better have a think about them, before I get complaints (is there a zombie union? One reasonably local branch could be the South Humberside Union For Formerly Living Entities, for example). So what can we say about zombies?

  1. Zombies are mostly basically stupid. This is something of a problem when it comes to them being major characters. It's hard to be a character without any character. Those times I've seen it done, the individual has retained more personality, as with Shadow's dead wife in American Gods.
  2. This stupidity gives them a certain amount of comic potential, mostly as the ultimate straight men. Mostly though, they end up a bit too disgusting for laughs. Kelly Link seems to do all right with them though.
  3. There's no such thing as just one zombie, except where they happen to have personality, when they suddenly do start to appear alone. Essentially there's a split between the solo zombie and the shuffling horde of.
  4. They make great extras, and I've just had an idea about that, but it wasn't what I meant. What I meant was that they are the ultimate in two dimensional characters, because no one expects any more from them. Need a gas station attendant for a non-speaking role in the novel? Why not use a zombie?
  5. They're generally quite hard to stop. I suppose the point with zombies is as a reminder of mortality. They're the slow but certain death that will, eventually, once it's stopped mistaking bowls of semolina pudding for brains, catch up with all of us.
So that's zombies. I must admit I haven't looked too deeply at them, because I tend not to use them much. I have exactly one zombie story to my name to date, and that involves furniture. I'm sure you all know more about zombies than I do (which strikes me as an odd thing to be sure of. What exactly do I think you get up to in the rest of your time?)


Jodie said...

There's a new young adult book out right now about teens that get turned into zombies and have to come with being basically horribly disfigured and shunned (from the extract I read they have lept a lot of personality) but I can't remember what it's called...It's true waht you said about them making great extras that you don't have to work on developing.
My favourite zombie has to be a Pratchett creation.

stu said...

Is this Reg Shoe, by any chance?

"Undead yes! Unpeople No!"

Christina said...

Traditional zombies don't have a great deal of personality, however, lately, people have been using zombies as main characters in their novels. Me, I like the scary, unthinking, unstoppable zombie. I like the zombie games where you can shoot them dead. Zombie union? That's interesting.

I so wish I could remember that movie I prescreened. In that movie, they had a zombie support group for the (what else?) zombies! It was pretty funny.

stu said...

Yes, I think SHUFFLE might catch on.

Jodie said...

Yes it is :)