The Zombie Papers: The Hollow Men Rebooted, Part 4

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

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Click Here for Part 2

Click Here for Part 3




The Walking Dead, a popular graphic novel turned TV show, is one of the fore-runners in the contemporary zombie writing.  In the world of The Walking Dead, a small group of survivors, led by a Sheriff, fight to survive in a post-apocalyptic zombie-populated world.  The zombies, called “walkers” are decaying corpses with insatiable hunger.  The Walking Dead’s zombies eat the flesh of humans and animals alike.  When they are feeding, they are so distracted by their hunger that they often miss the chance for fresh human meat as the heroes make hasty exits.  In fact the “walkers” of The Walking Dead seem to be unmotivated by anything other than hunger.  Many scenes in the television show depict the “walkers” in a kind of suspended animation until a human passes.  The infection that caused the zombie-like condition, however, lies dormant in all of the survivors.  Upon death, even those who initially survived the pandemic will reanimate.  The notion that every living person has living within them the potential to be a “walker” is important.  While not all the survivors in The Walking Dead are “good” people, everyone has the potential to becoming an unthinking, unfeeling, consuming reanimated corpse.


            Other zombie films, such as the 2004 horror/comedy Shaun of the Dead by writer/director Edgar Wright, are more direct in playing up the mindless way with which we make our way through our daily lives.  Protagonist Shaun wakes up the morning of the zombie apocalypse and heads to the local convenience store to grab a drink.  Along the way, he passes obvious signs of mayhem.  He slips in a puddle of blood in the convenience store, complains there is no newspaper for sale, shrugs off a zombie he thinks is pan-handling, and doesn’t notice his neighbor’s dead body on the front steps.  Shaun flops in front of the TV, flipping past news reports of a crisis, and sips his Diet Coke.  Shaun’s obliviousness begs the question: if the zombie apocalypse happened, would we notice?  

          

As Columbus, protagonist of the 2009 blockbuster film we Zombieland ponders “why am I alive when everyone else around me has turned to meat,” we wonder what it is about our world that we find so unfulfilling.  In Zombieland, a virus mutates from mad cow disease to a strain that infects humans.  Columbus survives by keeping to a list of rules.  The first two rules on his list are quite telling.  Rule number one is “cardio.”  Columbus warns us that a lack of connection with your physical self will ultimately lead to your death.  His second rule addresses common sense: double-tap (always shoot a zombie twice).  The two most basic rules in this movie tell us to avoid becoming a “human happy meal,” you need to be connected to the body and the mind, to be healthy and to think.  Yet in Zombieland, the undead rule and the living are on the run. 


So what does it all mean? Check back next time for the final installment of The Zombie Papers.



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Scales by Pauline Creeden: Review & Excerpt

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Synopsis:


Verona is a bottom feeder. She is the one mer in her clan who is considered the ugliest and least intelligent. Growing up with the constant bullying and abuse wasn’t the worst of what her kind had in store for her. At seventeen years old, she must now endure “The Reckoning.”

The scales will measure her worth to her clan. Will she endure thirty days as a land-walker to gather information and knowledge to appease her clan and return a valued member? Will she wait three years, until she is twenty, and find a mer of her kind to accept her and marry her? Or will she suffer exile for the rest of her life?

  



Review:

I was really fortune to receive an ARC of this novella from the author. What I love about Pauline Creeden's writing is her ability to write interesting characters, a complex world, and deliver a social message that doesn't hit the character over the head with it's insistence. When I finished reading Scales, I sat back and considered the title. My initial reaction was Mermaid = Scales = Makes Sense. After reading, I realized the significance of Scales...justice plays a major role in this novella.

We meet Verona when she is facing startling abuse. This sets the reader on edge and immediately makes us wonder why a young girl (mermaid) would be victim to such a crime. We then find out that not only is Verona beaten, she's about to be exiled. She will suffer her wounds, alone, and she might die. Why? Because her society sees her as less-than. Her tendency toward being emotional, being different, has made her an outcast. The scales are not tipping in her favor.

Verona, however, is not without those who feel for her plight. I won't get into the details as to avoid spoilers, but someone feels for Verona's situation and soon comes to help...sort of.

In addition to the story of Scales, we also get a preview of Salt. In Salt, we meet another character for whom the scales don't seem to be tipping in their favor. I really enjoyed the beginning of that novel as well.

Creeden is a gifted author. Her setting off the coast of Chincoteague was well-drawn. Verona was a likable and rateable character. The author pulls at your heart-strings from the first. I want more, Pauline!

Rating: 5 seashell bras! 

Excerpt:


TO KEEP FROM SCREAMING, I bite hard on my lip. The copper mixture of blood and saltwater mingles on my tongue. Mer claws rake against my back. The barnacles on the post to which I’m tied stab me in the chest. Pain sets my body on fire. Everything burns. I squeeze my eyes shut tight and keep my silence.
“Ugly.”
“Repugnant.”
“Unsightly.”
“Ignorant.”
“Bottom Feeder.”
Each word cuts as deep in my flesh as the physical wounds my clan inflicts. It can’t last long. I can endure this. As soon as the sharks catch scent of my blood they will come, and the Mer will scatter.
The world spins around me like a whirlpool. My breaths come quick and shallow, my heart pounds faster in my ears. Each second is an eternity, until I realize fresh wounds are not adding to the burning in my skin.
The elder’s sharp tongue whispers in my ear. “Now you will be measured.”
My wrists fall free of the post as he cuts the ties.
Exile. My Reckoning has begun.

About the Author

Pauline Creeden is an award-winning author, horse trainer, and overall book ninja. She becomes the main character in each of her stories, and because she has ADD, she will get bored if she pretends to be one person for too long. Her debut novel, Sanctuary, won 1st Place Christian YA Title 2013 Dante Rosetti Award and 2014 Gold Award for First Place YA Horror Novel.

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The Zombie Papers: The Hollow Men Rebooted, Part 3

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Click Here for Part 1

Click Here for Part 2



Richard Matheson wrote I am Legend in 1954.  The novel tells the story of Robert Neville.  Neville survives a bacterial pandemic which was the aftermath of a war.  His survival should be a good thing, but he soon discovers he is the last human survivor in a world now infected with vampire/zombie like creatures.  Matheson’s works envisions the zombie apocalypse as a moment where mankind dies but also a moment when a new race is born.  It is a rejection of the old in favor of something new.  Much like other writers at the time, Matheson’s work speaks to the fears about the new instruments of war.  Matheson wanted us to understand that humankind was actively pursuing its death instinct through the marriage of war and science.  Our ability to build and drop bombs that wiped out entire cities fundamentally changed the psyche of western society.  What happens when mankind harnesses the power to destroy the world?  For Matheson, humans could become the stuff of legend.
         


   It is not until 1968, however, that we have the first work that embraces the gothic machine of the zombie as we know it today.  George Romero borrowed the term zombie from Haitian voodoo practice.  George Romero’s use of the word is the first in western pop culture.  George Romero’s Living Dead Series presented a new kind of undead creature. Romero’s zombies were reanimated humans eating the flesh of the living.  And in particular, they craved brains.  Romero’s works, Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985) are generally cited as firsts in the zombie canon.  So what was it that inspired Romero to create his Living Dead Series



It is not insignificant that the creation of these works coincides with the Vietnam War and the rising tide of mindless materialism.  In the 1960s, the United States was engaged in an unpopular war and at home, there were public calls for peace and a rejection of barbarism.  In the 1978 Dawn of the Dead, the pandemic survivors shelter in a mall to which zombies are mindlessly drawn out of routine.  The setting could not be more symbolic.  The survivors hide in the bastion of consumerism while the unthinking undead are drawn siren-like toward the scene of the crime.  By 1985, when Day of the Dead was filmed, we were living in the material world of the “me” generation.  The United States had become a society basking in yet totally unfulfilled by its consumerist tendencies.  The zombies craved brains.  The government tried to pry the human back out zombies.  Zombies, and society, found reason delicious.  The human spirit struggled to preserve in an age of violence and consumerism.
“Night of the Comet,” a 1984 film, also features a world filled with Romero-esque zombies.  Two California valley girls survive a comet-evoked pandemic, and what is the first thing they do?  Go shopping.  The protagonist, Reggie, pronounces “the stores are open!”  The film then cuts to a shopping montage set to 80’s ballad, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cindi Lauper.  In the back-drop of this story, the “evil government” plots to use the organs of the healthy survivors to prolong their own lives.  Materialism and mistrust of the government, also themes in Romero’s work, run rampant in this cult classic.


While the undead have been lurking about in folklore since the ancient period and made their way into popular literature in the 1950s, recently there has been an explosion of zombie films, TV shows, graphic novels, video games, and literature.  Even the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has contributed to the zombie trend boasting a “Zombie Preparedness” plan on their website.  While the CDC has used the zombie apocalypse as a means for educating the masses on how to respond in the face of a pandemic, their contribution to the zombie phenomenon gives us a sense of just how pervasive zombies are in modern society.

            Like the vampire, every age has its zombie.  Contemporary zombies consume.  While there is some variation as to why the zombie apocalypse happens, from medical treatments gone array, to pandemic flu strains, to environmental factors, one thing modern zombie writers agree on is the function of the zombie.  Zombies want to eat the living. 

In the next installment of The Zombie Papers, we'll discuss contemporary zombies and what they say about us!
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