Today I was at Denny’s, my weekend tradition, my weekend habit. I carry a black, red-spiraled notebook and it’s full of illegible notes to the untrained eye (I’ve had twenty-seven whole years of practice reading my handwriting, and sometimes I find myself stumped).
And for the first time, someone asked me what I was writing.
I didn’t want to tell her.
I’ve been asking my brother’s fiance for help with the Farsi that appears in the novel because she’s from Iran and it’s her first language, and she wanted to know the context, and I found myself reluctant to tell her.
Because I’m writing about zombies–the genre that everybody says it’s dead.
And maybe it is dead, but no more dead than the other genres that pump out the same bullshit in a relentless torrent of what the fuck, why are we still being spoon-fed these same stories.
I haven’t seen every zombie movie on the planet–in fact, I’ve only probably seen a half of them, if that. I’m especially not well versed in the older zombie features, the ones in black and white, the ones made before I was born. So I’m not going to focus my discussion on that, but rather focus it on the way that zombies are being treated now.
In the NaNoWriMo forums, I’ve seen them contextualizing zombie outbreaks with diseases like Ebola. I know that some organizations has used the zombie apocalypse to help popularize being prepared for disasters like tornadoes or hurricanes, etc.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind compared the diners apathetically dining to zombies, or more specifically, the dining dead.
Shaun of the Dead first juxtaposed Shaun and his buddy as zombies before literal zombies literally attacked, and then they said that due to their mental state, zombies were well suited to minimum wage jobs.
The Walking Dead swiftly turned from zombies to the human monster–starting with Shane, Rick’s decent into chaotic neutral as last season he bites a human to protect his family before turning around and running head first into a ban of cannibals. The fact that they don’t need to be bitten to turn drives the message home: humans are the monsters even before they die, the end.
So there you have it–in recent mainstream stories about zombie, they usually end up representing the following:
1) The apathetic, which almost always turns into a jab at the working class
2) fear mongering regarding highly infectious disease
3) a shallow, navel-gazed philosophy about the human condition. It’s Lord of the Flies minus the talking pig on a stick.
I don’t want my novel to be like that. Working class people are the heroes, the survivors in my nanowrimo.
I don’t want people to be villainize sick people. I don’t want the message of my novel to be, well they’re too sick to let live so we’re going to end up killing them even if we feel really, really bad about it.
I’m tired of people writing stories about how the base standard for human behavior is something horrible. I’m tired of reading and hearing about the rape that appeared in movies like 28 Days Later and saturates the Walking Dead. I’m tired of being told that this is the base line of the human condition because it denies the politics of how come those certain people act in those certain ways.
The genre is better than that. It can be better than that.