I am iced in today. Since I’ve exhausted my current stock of productivity, and have failed at taking a nap, I’ve decided to subject you all to a personal pet peeve of mine: zombies.
The past couple years I’ve heard people bitch that they’re tired of zombies. That there are too many zombie stories, particularly in comics. Me, I don’t think there’s such a thing as too many zombie stories… provided they don’t suck. The problem is, the majority of them suck. Yes, that film/novel/comic/whatever else is your favorite is probably on my list of zombie-related stories that aren’t actually good.
Way back when Romero gave birth to the bastard child that is the zombie genre, he wasn’t telling a story of plucky heroes up against impossible odds. Okay, I can’t say that’s entirely true, because to a degree it was about that; however, the reason it was about that is because the larger point of those films was really about how we, as a species, are utter shitbags. He was engaging in that fine tradition of satire and social commentary that the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres have long been heir to. Yet most of the post-Romero zombie tales I’ve seen/heard/read since then simply take what Romero did, strip out all the meaningful bits, and tell the exact same plot that Romero already told. That’s pretty much a recipe for shit soup right there, and flavoring it with the urine of “we’re the exact same movie as all the other movies but our zombies go fast,” does nothing to cover up the taste of feces.
This isn’t too say there aren’t good zombie stories out there, but truth be told the only ones I’m aware of are comedies. Even the two stories about zombies I published are probably more humorous than not. I’ve a third piece that is arguably mostly serious with only traces of dark humor, but it’s not likely to ever see the light of day until I can afford to pay an artist (that won’t be any time soon), and a fourth piece that’s little more than n0tes which is admittedly more humorous than serious. Right, I almost left out a zombie-related “PSA” that came about when I was doing a weekly webcomic… which was again more humorous than not. Hmm… maybe the only way to innovate on the genre is with humor, but I’d like to think that’s not true.
Think of it as a challenge. Rather than presuming that there are conventions that a zombie narrative must have, think about the social commentary that Romero was making. Hell, think about the story elements that Romero used, and which have since been picked up as the conventions of the zombie genre and the ways they can be played with. Just in the time it took me to right this post I’ve thought of new options, and I’m not even that bright. Of course thinking up ideas is the easy part. It’s actually producing them and getting them out there that’s the important part of the challenge.