I like zombies. I like zombie fiction… Well, I like one kind of zombie fiction, which is the cinematic telling of a zombie story. The written fiction, by and large, interests me not.

(Caveat; there is now a growing genre of zombie fiction in the world of comics, and some of this is good. I’m going to exempt it on the specious grounds that comics are, to some degree, closer to screenplays than short stories/novels. I know this is a bad argument and one day I might propound upon it more fully. Just not today.)

Zombie fiction, in the Romero age, is apocalyptic fiction in which the flesh-eating undead are a metaphor for social issues. For the most part written zombie fiction ignores the utility of the zombie as metaphor and replaces it as a killing machine that produces gore. And gore, for the most part, is actually quite hard to write.

It is not that difficult to cover an actor in strawberry syrup and blobs of bread to make someone look vaguely gory. If you want to be more impressive you can add prosthetic appliances (of various quality). Even badly done effects work in a limited way. Not so the written word. You can describe gore but that will not make it necessarily effective (which is to say disturbing and fearsome). Indeed, often it reads more as comedy and less like tragedy. It needs pacing, it needs context and it needs to occur to someone that you have an emotional response to. Someone biting a chunk out of a nobody does nothing for me; a zombie biting the hero’s mother (who she has been fighting to get to) does.

For the most part this is because zombie fiction is a sub-genre of horror mostly written by fans. Fan tolerance of writing is, unfortunately, high. Fans like the genre and will, for the most part, read anything in the genre. Thus, with nothing close to peer review, the writing focuses on the easy stuff to write; people biting other people. This is, I fear, the reason why Star Wars fan films consist mostly of sabre duels; they are easy to direct (by and large) and the fans like to watch them. This does not a good genre make.

Which is why I must shamefully admit that I write zombie fiction. Two stories thus far. I’d like to think that I am doing something more with the genre than people biting other people (I don’t make Star Wars fan films, however…) but perhaps I am not. Perhaps I am just writing more fan wank and indulging in that usual ego-stroking activity of ‘I understand the genre, unlike those sub-human fools!’ I would certainly like to think that I am trying to be telling story that happens to have zombies in it rather than writing about biting that tries to tell a story.

Oh well, at least I am trying to get the stuff published. That means something, doesn’t it?


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