Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Okay, so I hafta’ admit.  I’m becoming a big fan of the zombies.  I’m not talking about the old band from the 60’s though it is the time of the season for loving … loving zombies.

At first I tried to resist, I really did.  The only real thing I did was write a mildly zombie-esque piece for one of Splotchy’s story viruses some time ago and leave it at that.  Then, a little more than a year ago, the then-president of one of the Armed Services’ senior war colleges recommended Max Brooks’ World War Z to the student body.  “I know it sounds crazy” he said, “but this book deals with a lot of the things that we are struggling to come to grips with in shaping national and military strategies for the future”.

So I picked up the book and started reading it.  Unfortunately, my studies soon overwhelmed me and reading for leisure soon took a back seat to reading for a master’s degree. I could see, however, from the first several chapters that this is a zombie book that is about anything but zombies.  I only just recently finished it, and it’s truly an incredible book.  The thing it really looks at is how might the current mechanisms, habits and trappings of a modern globalized society – governments, post-industrial economies, militaries, transnational crime and black markets, different cultures – easily aid and abet the spread of, fail to recognize, and ultimately face harsh choices in dealing with a truly global extinction-type threat that cannot be mitigated, but only destroyed.  It is told in an “oral history” format from the point of view of the man who wrote the U.N.  Commission report on the Zombie War ten years after it “ended”.  I could write for hours on this book, but I won’t. I will only say READ THIS BOOK.  You will not regret it.  It is pop culture horror that makes you think long and hard.

Two things that got me off my ass to start reading it again. First, I wanted to start reading more fiction; while I love reading history, especially military history, non-fiction was starting to drag.  I needed to start adding some quick-reading and more entertaining stuff to my life. The second thing I did was to watch “The Walking Dead”. I was bored and alone in my room on the Sunday night of the season finale, so I tuned in and watched from start to finish.  Another good product that attempts to look at, on an individual and societal level, what could happen when faced with an un-stoppable, un-curable, non-negotiable bid for extinction. Unlike a book, on film you need to see the horror and the action in dealing with it. While there was enough brain-blowing creamy goodness to go around, there could have been more. Still, I’m waiting for Season Two; it is officially the only television series I am following.

Like Beach Bum mentioned previously, I have had some zombie dreams, one in which I actually stopped the zombies and explained to them that they weren’t acting like zombies (they weren’t responding to sound, they were hiding and setting ambushes and other things that require functioning intellects). During my recent trip to San Francisco I got to the airport very early, more than 90 minutes before my 7:40 am flight boarded.  As I sat at my gate at the end of the terminal in the early morning I saw the first big push of humanity shambling toward me in that early morning fog – all walking in the same gate, mechanically, slowly, glassy-eyed and holding coffees and laptop cases.  All I could think was “Here come the living dead. A sturdy M-4 and a clip or two and I’d have them all down with headshots before they came within 20 yard of me”.

In the world of science, zombies now live among us, terrorizing the insect world. We have discovered that zombie ants, their brains under control of fungi, are in the Amazon and zombie-creating fungi are potentially in rainforests all over the globe waiting to eat the brains of unsuspecting insects. Or maybe evil flies hell-bent upon zombifying them will let their larvae eat their brains.

Hell, serious authors on serious blogs like Daniel Drezner on Foreign Policy have even written about zombies:

Note that academic papers have been written about the damned things – specifically stating that rapidly and aggressively dealing with zombie populations is the only way to avoid extinction.  If you don’t read the body, at least read the introduction and the discussion at the end. 

"Clearly, this is an unlikely scenario if taken literally, but possible real-life applications may include allegiance to political parties, or diseases with a dormant infection."

Classic. The neo-conservative ultra-right-wing Christian tea-partier is just a modern political zombie.  It’s pretty freaking clear that their brain has been either destroyed or replaced with something – a fungus, a larva, what have you – that makes them mindlessly intent on devouring whatever is left of this country’s humanity.


Beach Bum said...

...then-president of one of the Armed Services’ senior war colleges recommended Max Brooks’ World War Z to the student body.

That is a very unappreciated book, like you said its not really about zombies. I read one person called it an indictment of how our nation and global society is managed.

Like you said I could write a lot about it but can't. I was the proverbial bug slamming into the windshield of fast moving car last night with a huge issue that came up and bit the hell out of my ass. Calling it a day.

okjimm said...

Reading is good. It's like a reality TV show with the TV turned off.
Just saying, but I am into Naomi Klein, " the Shock Doctrine." could be worth a peek.
Hey, and again, just saying.... but I married a Zombie, once. She ripped out my heart and made a noodle casserole.

Chef Cthulhu said...

BB - Hope you're able to get yourself scraped off the windshield soon.

okj - love the metaphors and I'll look into your recommendation.

Randal Graves said...

If there's ever an outbreak of some superbug, the world is so incredibly fucked, although maybe we'll get lucky and some of us will find a cool mall to hang out in.