S.G. Browne

For the Love of Zombies

People are always asking me about zombies.

Have you always loved zombies?
Do you think you’ll survive the zombie apocalypse?

Is it necrophilia if you’re both dead?

In case you’re curious, the answers are:
Yes, no, and I don’t think so.

Truth is, I’m not an authority on zombie sex. However, I do know a lot about sloughage, frothy purge, and cadaver impact testing.

For some reason, this troubles my parents.

I’ve been a zombie fan ever since I saw Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead on Creature Features back when I was in sixth grade and they instantly became my favorite monster. I even used to dream about them chasing me through the streets. Or surrounding my house. Or doing my taxes. And I’ll admit that I enjoy the fast moving zombies as well as the shuffling ones. They’re both terrifying in their own way.

I do realize, however, that there are zombie purists out there who only want their zombies to be of the post-apocalyptic variety. Slow and mindless and horrifying. They don’t like it when you do anything new or different when it comes to the living dead. They get very Dr. Seuss Green Eggs and Ham about their zombies.

They do not like them when they run
They do not like them if they’re fun
They do not like them when they’re smart
They do not like them with a heart

While I respect this point of view, I have a large umbrella when it comes to zombies and I welcome all types to stand under it. Fast and slow. Sentient and mindless. Comical and terrifying. After all, can’t we all just get along?

Which relates to another question that often comes up:

Why do you think zombies are so popular right now?

You could make the argument that zombies are an allegory for the end of the world as we know it. That the current popularity of zombies is a direct reflection of global fears regarding the economy and terrorism. Horror as catharsis for the fears and anxiety of a society making commentary on itself. You could even argue that zombies are the proletarians of the monster hierarchy and in troubled economic times, they become the poster child for the financial ills of a nation.

A lot of other zombie authors and film makers who are asked about the popularity of zombies agree with this hypothesis. Me? Not so much.

While it makes sense that zombie films can flourish in an economic downturn due to their typical lower financial risk at the box office, I don’t know if I believe that the current surge in zombie popularity is a direct reflection of global fears.

Truth is, I think people have a tendency to apply social context where it doesn’t exist.

After all, where was the zombie mania during the Vietnam War? Watergate? The Iranian Hostage Crisis? The Stock Market crash of 1987? The first Persian Gulf War?

Where was it? It didn’t exist. Not on this scale.

I believe the recent surge in zombie popularity can instead be attributed to the fact that zombies have been taken out of their proverbial archetypal box. No longer are they just the shambling, mindless, flesh-eating ghouls we’ve known and loved for most of the past four decades.

They’re faster. Funnier. Sentient.

In addition to running like Olympic sprinters, making us laugh, and thinking for themselves, today’s zombies write poetry (Zombie Haiku), perform household chores (Fido), and fight for their civil rights (Breathers).  They can also be found on YouTube going to marriage counseling and on iTunes singing to their former co-workers (Jonathan Coulton’s “Re: Your Brains”).

They’ve expanded their range. Become more versatile. More well-rounded. And who doesn’t enjoy a well-rounded zombie? Plus they’re tragically comical, shuffling along, losing their hair and teeth and the occasional appendage. Add the fact that they used to be us, that we could all become them one day, and you can’t help but relate. Which is, ultimately, why I think we find them so compelling.

As for the other classic monsters, they don’t hold quite the same appeal for me as do zombies.

Werewolves?  They’re like the jocks of the monster world. Full of testosterone, pumped up on steroids, sprouting hair all over the place, and always trying to be the center of attention. I just can’t take them seriously. Plus no one ever worries about a werewolf apocalypse. That would be ridiculous.

Vampires? They’re the frat boys of monsters. All pretty and full of themselves and constantly trying to get you into bed. Every move they make, all the posturing they do, is just a smoke screen to lure you in so they can feed on you. Drink your blood.

They’re insincere. Hiding their true motives. Scam artists.

Zombies, on the other hand, don’t try to impress you with their good looks or their charms or their ability to burst out of their Lacoste polo shirt every four weeks. They don’t pretend to be something they’re not. They wear their decomposing hearts on their sleeves and aren’t ashamed to say, “I’m a zombie and I want to eat your brains.”

They have an unpretentious veracity. You have to admire that in a monster.

The other question I’ve been asked is:

Do you think zombies are here to stay?

Truth is, zombies never went anywhere. They’ve been starring in low-budget films and mass market paperbacks for most of the past forty years. They’re just finally being appreciated for their diverse talents and given the opportunity to show that they’re more than one-dimensional monsters. Instead of being cast in supporting roles, they’ve become the leads, the stars, the marquee attraction. And as long as writers and film makers continue to push the boundaries of the mythology, I think zombies will remains as popular tomorrow as they are today.

(*Author’s Note: Portions of the content of this post have appeared before on this blog as well as on other guest blog posts, so please forgive the redundancy. However, this is the first time they’ve all appeared together in one place.)

Filed under: Breathers,Zombies — Tags: , , , — S.G. Browne @ 5:55 am

Zombie Haiku: An Interview with Ryan Mecum

Today I have a special guest who has stopped by for an interview.  You could say he’s a supernatural poet, of sorts.  Kind of like the Lorax, only instead of speaking for the trees, he speaks for zombies, vampires, and werewolves. And he does so through the use of haiku.

Please welcome Ryan Mecum, the author of Zombie Haiku, Vampire Haiku, andWerewolf Haiku.


SGB: In Zombie Haiku, you have the narrator writing about the zombie apocalypse and, inevitably, his conversion into a zombie through the use of haiku. What gave you the idea for the book?

RM: I once wrote a haiku as if I were a zombie wanting some brains. It made me smile so I wrote a few more. Soon I had about thirty gross haiku from the zombie perspective which I enjoyed sharing with friends. It wasn’t until I had a publisher interested that I realized I might be able to organize the little poems in such a way that they could all be part of a larger story.

SGB: So what came first? Your love of zombies or your love of haiku?

RM: Zombies came first. 7th Grade, Return of the Living Dead Part II. I learned haiku in 4th Grade, but didn’t fall in love with them until I had a roomful of fellow college classmates laughing at a few I wrote during a creative writing course.

SGB: Can you share one of your favorite entries from your book?

RM: It’s hard to beat the one in Breathers where you compare the sound of maggots eating flesh to Rice Krispies, but here goes…

Blood is really warm,
like drinking hot chocolate
but with more screaming

(Editor’s note: I love that one!)

SGB: You followed up Zombie Haiku with similar takes on the vampire and werewolf mythos. Did you find that one of these three lent itself to the haiku form more easily than the others? Are vampires more poetic than zombies? Do werewolves know how to count syllables?

RM: The haiku is such a stoic poetry form that, when reading them aloud, they often flow out as gracelessly as a lurching zombie. I have loved writing poems from the voice of a werewolf and a vampire as well, but there is something about a zombie writing a poem that resonates with me. Vampires probably think they’re more poetic than zombies, but there is an innocence to a poem written by a zombie versus a pretentiousness when written by a vampire. Werewolves don’t care, which make them a bit more poetic, but they are so rushed they might miss the moment. There’s a full moon above you, werewolf. Stop, enjoy it, and let out a howl.

SGB: In all three books, the narrative is from the point-of-view of someone who starts out human but who eventually becomes the “monster.” Are you sympathetic to the challenges of being a zombie, vampire, and werewolf? Or are you just channeling your inner monster?

RM: Totally sympathetic to the challenges of the monster. That is probably the main reason why I loved your book Breathers so much. I enjoy wondering about daily life from their perspective.

SGB: Do you have a favorite poet? Are there any other writers who have inspired you?

RM: Andrew Hudgins has a book called After The Lost War, which had a strong impact on my desire to be a poet. Billy Collins is another favorite. Both of these writers helped me realize that poems didn’t have to be riddles the reader had to solve. However, Stephen King is easily the one writer that left the largest impression on me. Not only did he feed my love for things that go bump in the night, but he also helped me want to be a writer because so many of his characters were writers. King gave me glimpses into the life of a writer, which has had a lasting effect on me.

SGB: On Twitter, you write haiku on subjects ranging from breakfast cereals to mixed tapes to Pac-Man. Can you write a haiku for us about public bathrooms?

RM: Would you believe I wrote one on that topic a few months ago? Here it is…

Gas station bathrooms
I cover in graffiti
with your phone number

SGB: How many haiku have you written over the past three years? Do you constantly find yourself counting syllables?

RM: I’m counting syllables all the time. I dream in 5/7/5. I’ve written four books of monster themed haiku, each with about 350 poems. So that’s 1,400. I tweet about 3 haiku a day, and have been doing that for almost two years. That puts me to about 3,500 haiku. That’s a lot of haiku. Hopefully one of them is a keeper.

SGB: Film tri-fecta question: What’s your favorite zombie film? Vampire film? Werewolf film?

RM: I usually say Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead for my favorite zombie film, but I’ve been leaning a bit more toward his Night Of The Living Dead lately. My favorite Vampire film is Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark. My favorite werewolf film is Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers.

SGB: What’s next? More haiku? Or are we going to see zombie verse in iambic pentameter? (To rot or not to rot, that is the question.)

RM: I’m trying to stay away from mixing monsters and other poetry forms. Something about wicked witch limericks sounds like a tougher sell than haiku. My next book, Dawn Of Zombie Haiku, comes out this summer and I am really excited for people to read it. It’s written from the perspective of a young girl keeping a haiku journal during a zombie outbreak. Ever since the first book, I have wanted to write another zombie story in haiku. It took me a while to find a story that I both loved and felt would stand out as original in the growing cannon of zombie fiction. It was fun to write.

SGB: Where can people find you on the Internet to learn more about you and your books?

RM: People can find more info about me at www.ryanmecum.com and they can be fed a few daily haiku via my Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/mecumhaiku.

SGB: Thanks for taking the time to visit with us, Ryan. Good luck with the new book and with all of your future endeavors!

RM: Thanks S.G.! And thanks for creating Andy Warner. He’s a friend of mine.