Tall, dark, and decaying? Yeah, that’s not my type. In the post-Twilight era, after the vampire genre had been worked almost to death, there was a rush to find the next hot creature for supernatural romance. A few years ago, zombies made a pretty serious bid for that prestigious position. Leading the way was Daniel Waters’ Generation Dead, published back in 2008, which quite cleverly presented zombies as the next marginalized group in our society—second-class citizens who are not protected by the law and who are feared and hated by the dominant group. When goth girl Phoebe falls in love with a zombie, she discovers social awareness along with the thrills of infatuation. Another popular one was Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (2010) which was made into a rather successful movie in 2013. This book is told from the perspective of a zombie named R who bites off more than he can chew when he begins to fall for a human girl. Other books followed, including Lia Habel’s Victorian spin on the zombie romance genre, Dearly, Departed. But while I thoroughly enjoyed reading some of these books, the genre as a whole still squicks me.
So I’ve written before about the vampire literary canon, which granted has a bit more solid of a literary tradition. But with the rising popularity of zombies in TV shows like The Walking Dead and iZombie, as well as in the mildly uncomfortable new zombie subgenre of paranormal romance books, I figured that an examination of the literary history of these brain-eating undead was in order. While more popular with visual media like movies, video games and TV, zombies still have a strong literary presence, especially in recent decades. Below are some works that I consider to be part of the zombie literary canon.
Zombies. In some ways they are my least favorite among the multitude of supernatural creatures—they don’t tend to have terribly interesting personalities, and the new trend of zombie romance is just far more disturbing than the classic vampire love stories. Nonetheless, zombies can be very interesting in what they represent. While vampires embody our complicated yearning for immortality and power, zombies represent our fear of death at a downright primitive level—the finality of death and decay, the simple meaninglessness of it, the shift from human to inhuman, and the loss of the self. Meanwhile the survivors of zombie pandemics fight for meaning, and humanity, and for living one more day. My latest read captures this struggle on an epic global scale: World War Z by Max Brooks. Continue reading World War Z–An Epic Zombie Tale