The zombie: it’s a creature that provokes a wealth of emotional responses. Menace, terror, panic, excitement, fascination and trepidation all share equal, top billing. And it’s not just the actions of the zombie that engineer such states of mind. It’s the very name, too.
Indeed, the “Z word” is one that hits home in near-primal fashion. Just mentioning it strikes a deep, chilling and malignant chord in our subconscious, even if we’re not overly sure why that should be so.
Perhaps it’s the image of the rampaging, utterly driven, killing-machine, violently forcing its way into our homes. Maybe, as a result of the fraught, violent and unpredictable world in which we now live, it’s the growing association between the dead-returned and matters of a definitively apocalyptic nature.
Or, possibly, it’s all due to the sense that the zombie is an unstoppable form of evil; a shambling, marching, or running, horror that threatens to overturn society and create a new world in its image, rather than in ours.
In short, the zombie offers us – the Human Race – one thing and one thing only: extinction. And we know that. As a result, we fear the soulless creature. Yet, as highly intelligent entities, and ones keenly aware of our own precarious mortality, we find ourselves not just repelled by the zombie, but strangely, and almost hypnotically, drawn to both it and the future it promises of death, decay and planet-wide devastation.
Of course, in today’s society, our perceptions of the zombie are primarily driven by the world of entertainment; that is to say, the likes of Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, and the Resident Evil movies. But it hasn’t always been like that. In fact, there was a time long gone when it was nothing like that.
The concept of the zombie has been with us, the Human Race, for not just decades or even centuries. It has been an integral part of our myths, legends, folklore and beliefs for thousands of years.
Long before exotic viruses, biological warfare, and sinister military experiments brought the dead back to life in our cinemas and on our television screens, there were the dark spells and incantations of the ancient Egyptians, the Sumerians, and the Babylonians. Their high-priests and –priestesses sought to restore the dead to some semblance of life and to zombify the still-living.
Their goal was to command both categories, to have them do the bidding of their human masters, and to control them – which is very different to the zombies of today that are definitively out of control.
Within the culture of the Celts and the people of Haiti, Scandinavia, and Africa, belief that the recently deceased could be reanimated, and that the living could be reduced to zombie status and used in almost slave-like fashion, was widespread centuries ago. Today, the zombie serves as entertainment. Back then, it simply served.
All of which brings me to my newly-published book, The Zombie Book: The Encyclopedia of the Living Dead, co-written with Brad Steiger and published by Visible Ink Press.
Rampaging, driven, killing machines. Soulless and dead. Infected and infectious. Zombies. The epidemic of the living dead is stronger than ever in today’s pop-culture. Blending the historical with the modern, the biographical with the literary, the plants and the animals with bacteria and viruses, the mythological with the horrifying true tales, The Zombie Book: The Encyclopedia of the Living Dead is a comprehensive resource to understanding, combating, and avoiding zombies.
More than 250 entries cover everything from hit television shows, books, and movies, including The Walking Dead, World War Z and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, to zombies’ ignominious role in folklore and mythology, such as the Greek god Asclepius, ancient Voodoo religion, and the Native American Wendigo legend.
The Zombie Book: The Encyclopedia of the Living Dead examines mad cow disease, the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the Centers for Disease Control preparing for the end of the world, and much, much more…