The living dead. Walkers. Ramblers. Give them whatever nickname you like, but you can’t escape the zombie in our popular culture. So, what draws so many of us to write about the undead?
This question fascinated me as I finished a zombie tale of my own, Dear. My inspiration began with an article about a disease spreading through the deer and moose population. Brains rotting away from the inside out, the infected animals stumbled along like zombies, often bashing their heads into trees until dead. A good start for any horror story, I think you’ll agree.
Soon after, I started asking the writer’s ultimate question: What if? What if the disease jumped from animal to man? What if the same suicidal drive existed in the human brain? What if extinction was the only cure?
I framed my story as a letter written by a quiet man in the aftermath of the plague, and as I finished my first draft, I found the answer to my question.
I can’t deny the fun of writing about rotting re-animated corpses, and the zombie bandwagon left so long ago, I’d never catch up, but neither fun nor trends drove me on. I found my compulsion in the legacy of George A. Romero.
A popular notion exists of the zombie as metaphor. In Romero’s pioneering films he addressed themes such as segregation and rampant consumerism head on using the undead as a lens to focus his concerns. As I wrote ‘Dear’, my story soon started to take on the flavour of current events. My own fears of a country gone mad came to the fore. With the recent UK fracture over Brexit, and a rise in both state propaganda and the far right, Dear became a reflection and a warning. I’d gone full George A. Romero without noticing.
So, I offer you my entry in the perennial zombie sub-genre. A tale of disease and a country gone mad. A tale of a quiet man and a deer. A tale, if you’ll pardon me, with a lot of Romero.
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