"Why would you write about zombies?"
Whenever I tell someone I'm a zombie/horror writer, I get this question. What would make a reasonably sane looking woman want to write about zombies? Married mother of two, respected in her profession, field trip chaperon, and cookie baker, why do you have zombies in your head, lady? Zombies have a lot to say about us. Layla and Cricket are my avatars as I brave the why of the zombie trend. But there is also a philosophical answer to "why zombies?" The Zombie Papers seeks to address that answer...
The Hollow Men Rebooted;
We are The Walking Dead
“Don’t open. Dead inside,” a warning spray-painted on a hospital door in the pilot episode of The Walking Dead, neatly summarizes the theme and symbolic significance of the zombie movement in contemporary popular culture. Zombies no longer hunger for brains. Zombies no longer amble to the mall. A comet doesn’t transform us into the undead. When T.S. Eliot wrote, “this is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper” (97-98) he was not talking about a zombie apocalypse, but he was talking about agonizing emptiness and loss. The zombie trend in popular culture addresses this same symbolic significance. The zombie apocalypse results in catastrophic loss: mankind dies. The emptiness, deadness, we feel as a result of living in a disconnected, desensitized, othered society causes us to suffer zombie-like famish. How do zombies feed their insatiable hunger? They consume—everything—and so do we. Zombies, in the mindless pursuit of oral satisfaction, come to serve as a symbol for deep sense of emptiness and loss felt in contemporary western society.
Zombies amble in mindless pursuit of something or someone to consume. Today’s iterations of zombies would have Sigmund Freud chewing on his cigar as he choked back an “I told you so.” Zombies today are a metaphor for every psychological and social ill Freud envisioned: a physical incarnate of the death instinct and with a focus on oral consumption as its pleasure principal, discontent with civilization ending in its destruction, and the all-out reign of the id—if you hope to survive the zombie apocalypse. Contemporary zombies consume everything: fingers, entrails, limbs, and even the occasional chicken. They are no longer the connoisseurs of human anatomy the way they were in the 1970s and 80s. Rarely, and poignantly, do contemporary zombies have a preference for brains. These days, zombies will consume anything. The zombies’ oral fixation is a post-mortem instinctual pursuit of satisfaction. As Freud notes, “the purpose of life is simply the programme (sic) of the pleasure principle” (25). Through oral consumption, zombies seek satisfaction. Few zombies have sex, thank goodness, but Freud notes in his Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis that the “oral instinct becomes auto-erotic” (408). A zombies’ oral urge, however, is never satisfied. What does it say about us that in our undead form we still seek to satisfy ourselves through consumption? As a result of the zombie apocalypse, mankind becomes a mindless eating machine. Zombies, and their endless drive to consume, are a reflection of the social problems of modern life. In western cultures, we consume our way through food and goods, our environment, and our interpersonal relationships, all the while being over-exposed to violence. It’s no wonder we feel “dead inside.” We don’t need a zombie apocalypse. We are a zombie apocalypse.