Beth is one of my favourite people as well as being one of my favourite authors. Her steampunk novel, The Clockwork Dagger, is scheduled for release in September (Not to brag but I’ve had a sneak peek — you’re going to love it!). Just check out that cover, then click on it to add it to your ‘To-read’ shelf on Goodreads. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Good. Now go ahead and read Beth’s confession regarding zombies…
A Confession Regarding Zombies
by Beth Cato
I recently spoke to middle graders about writing. I opened my talk by summarizing my writing in a way to get their interest–“I write about a hundred different ways to end the world, and a few ways to save it.”
This caused a boy to raise his hand with the desperate need to speak about, as he termed it, “his favorite apocalypses.” He asked for my top ten and then had to talk about his all time top five. At the top of his list: zombies. “There’s just something about the walking undead,” he said, his eyes shining with delight.
Meanwhile, I was trying to hide my shudder.
I have a confession to make: I’m a speculative fiction writer who is completely squicked by zombies.
I will not watch The Walking Dead. I try to avoid most zombie movies. I rarely read zombie-themed books–and when I like it, that means it’s a pretty big endorsement on my part. (Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines is one from the past year that I definitely recommend: it’s post-apocalyptic Los Angles with superheroes AND zombies. Great stuff.)
That said, I haven’t ignored the trend entirely. I’ve made a few contributions to zombie lit–“Brains for Breakfast,” which is in Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Presents Flush Fiction and a poem, “What Remains,” in a zombie-themed issue of Penumbra. But that’s it.
I’m not bothered by the undead in general. Liches? Awesome. I love the idea of undead wizards. Mummies are nifty, especially if they are intelligent. Really, I don’t mind animated bodies that retain some cognitive function.
That’s really the key. The thing that perturbs me about zombies is their mindlessness–no memory, no awareness, no sense of self. To me, that’s the worst fate possible, to become an empty vessel.
It’s a very real concern for me. My paternal grandfather died because of Alzheimer’s. We’ve been told, “This might run in your family. You just have to wait and see.”
I wasn’t close to that grandfather. I lived in California; he lived in Alabama. I only saw him a few times in my life, and only once after his diagnosis. It was a very sad meeting, especially for my dad who wasn’t recognized at all. My grandfather stared into space, his eyes vacant. He drooled. I never had the chance to know him, and I never would, and now he didn’t even know who I was.
And I’m left to wonder… will my own brain betray me in this way? Will I see my dad’s consciousness slowly fade from his eyes?
Zombies are the horror genre to me. The real deal. But maybe that’s exactly why people are attracted to zombies, and why they are indeed at the top of so many people’s favorite apocalypse lists. People want to understand their deepest fear. Maybe that’s why I can’t help but write about zombies sometimes, too.
This guest blog is part of a series of posts this month featuring zombies. I’m focusing on zombies for the month of June to celebrate the release of my book, Waste Not (And Other Funny Zombie Stories)