Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Own Personal Zombie Week: Why do we Love Zombies?

Rigor Amortis, an anthology of zombie romance, erotica, and horror from Absolute XPress, debuts on Friday. I'm very pleased to have a story appearing in the collection.

A good friend of mine asked me recently what attracted to me to zombies. Why did I write about them? I recoiled in horror. "I'm not attracted to them at all," I insisted. 

Frankly, zombies have never been my thing--I prefer (non-sparkly) vampires and werewolves, ghosts and unspeakable horrors from beyond. We all know how zombie stories end: we are consumed or we live to be consumed another day. Hey, just like real life. 

Of course, in recent years, there's a new breed of zombies shuffling down the block. Zombies in games like Left for Dead and films like Zombieland pursue their prey rather...vigorously. 

Back to my friend's question. Obviously my kneejerk answer isn't fully honest. I mean, I wrote a story about a zombie stripper, so I have to find them at least a little compelling, right?

I got to thinking about society's fascination with the undead, how these monsters mirror the angst of the culture they inhabit. You can't get a much better encapsulation of the Victorian psyche than the modern vampire. They are pale (almost consumptive), with unearthly beauty and a disdain for the rigid social and sexual mores of the late 19th century. In the 1950s, we start to see undead who are mindless, shuffling masses, or slaves to sinister masters with nefarious plans for wholesome young Americans. The zombie mythology was already firmly established, but I can't help wonder if fears of the "Communist Horde" didn't influence the way zombies were portrayed back then.

21st century zombies are brutal predators. No longer content to amble up to the brain-pan for a nosh, they leap out of the shadows and devour us with flashing teeth in explosions of blood and gore. We, the ultimate consumers, are just so much chum to be eaten.  

There's always something sexy about predators in the stories we tell ourselves, isn't there? And Power is a potent aphrodisiac. Compare the Victorian vampire versus the 21st Century Zombie. What does it say about our cultural state of mind when we invite these monsters to share the most intimate of embraces?

I'm looking forward to seeing what my fellow contributors say about that come Friday. 

I'd love to hear your own thoughts in the meantime.