Thursday, 9 August 2012

Zombies: New Rules


I'm sure I'm not the only one dismayed by the rash of bad zombie fiction that's been released recently; stories that only seem to exist to rip-off Romero, The Walking Dead, or Twenty-Eight Days Later (yes I know they're not technically zombies, but they are zombie-esque). I'm sure there's some good books in amidst them all, but it's hard to tell them apart from their descriptions: each and every one seems to tell of the gradual spread of the zombies, whether by a virus or whatever, and of survivors banding together and... etc. etc. You know the rest I'm sure.

I know of a number of 'literary horror' readers (a dreadful term, but it will do for now) who've vowed never to read another zombie book, and I know authors who'd turn their nose up at writing a zombie story nowadays... old-hat and déclassé, old boy.

But I'm a bit perverse sometimes, so I've decided to force myself to try and write some zombie stories, but with a few rules in place to make sure they're not just generic toss. I've got two ideas worked out (but not written) that meet my rules, although they aren't consistent with each other (i.e. the two stories can't be said to exist in the same fictional universe) and I'll probably have them finished at exactly the point the commercial zombie bubble bursts.

Anyway, here are the rules I've set myself:

New Zombie Story Rule#1: no using the basic narrative structure of modern, civilised society being gradually swept away by a zombie outbreak. The setting can be post-apocalyptic (and is, in one case) but the story can't be about how that situation came to be.

New Zombie Story Rule #2: the story cannot be centred around a disparate group of plucky survivors.

New Zombie Story Rule #3: it is not original to have the same old story but with a 'zombie with a twist' (like fast zombies - for fuck's sake) or a different setting (zombies at Buckingham Palace etc.)

New Zombie Story Rule #4: neither can originality be gained by having a pseudo-scientific explanation for the zombie outbreak.

New Zombie Story Rule #5: zombie's are the risen dead, but they don't have to want to eat us (in one story I have planned they do, in another, no)

New Zombie Story Rule #6: symbolism - zombies as a symbol for mindless consumerism was an original idea when Romero did it. It isn't now. Nor is the idea that zombies are symbols (used consciously or otherwise) for our fears of super-flu etc.

New Zombie Story Rule #7: zombies don't have to hang around in big groups.

What about you? Any good, original zombie books to recommend? Any further rules you think I should be following? Any of you think I'm talking rubbish?

1 comment:

Alan Ryker said...

I won't read zombie books or watch zombie movies. While I'm pretty picky about books, I'll watch anything, so that says a lot.

I think the surest rule would be No More Zombie Horror. Zombie anything else, but not horror. The zombies can be horrific, but the point of the story can't be to scare.