As much as I love the zombie apocalypse genre, it has one glaring major flaw: in a world where horror movies, and specifically zombie movies, exist a zombie apocalypse isn’t likely to happen. If you were to ask ten random people on the street how to kill a zombie, nine and a half of them will probably know how – aim for the head, destroy the brain, etc. This, in fact, is one of the things I tend to hate most about various zombie stories. The movie Scream was fantastic because it subverted the genre of horror films by allowing its character to know about horror films when the norm is for people to wander around in the dark by themselves even after discovering that other people have been killed while wandering around in the dark by themselves.
Unwillingness to Kill
The primary crutch that most zombie stories rely on is the reluctance of people to kill other people, especially friends and family members. I’m fairly certain most of my friends and family are aware that if they become infected, I might keep them around as long as they are useful but once they turn I’m going to put a spike through their brain. And while I know there are people out there who would be all protective of their recently dead loved ones, I think the education provided by the cautionary tales of zombie films would be enough to make that rare.
Of course, the real obstacle is a well prepared military. If the world were to suddenly have pockets of zombies crop up, squads of the National Guard (assuming they aren’t in the Middle East) would be dispatched to deal with the situation. At the very least they would round-up and contain the undead while researchers worked on possible solutions. In fact, the real threat here is political, as people in Washington jockey for position concerning the rights of Undead Americans and slow down the response and effectiveness of those trained to deal with situations of a violent nature.
Spread of Infection
Depending on the source, another hill for a zombie apocalypse to shamble over is the nature of the infection. Traditionally, after the initial turning of corpses or people into flesh-eating monsters, the zombification spreads through bite. In most stories, the initial cause is a localized accident, either a chemical spill or natural event. From there and moving to a pass-through-bite scenario, suddenly it seems kind of silly that an apocalypse is even possible. An event of that sort should take a couple of hours to clean up, maybe a day.
Other stories are more ambitious and use either a specific global event (pass through the tail of a comet) or just go with a generic “the dead started getting up everywhere, all at once, and we don’t know why” nebulous unknown source. This, at least, has potential. If you get dozens, hundreds or even thousands of locations with zombies simultaneously, you begin to plausibly stress the available response resources. You also gain the ability to have pockets of infection go unnoticed and get out of control.
How Would I Do It*
I’ve thought about it a lot. Obviously, I mean, the title of my blog is “Aim for the Head” and the logo is a zombie. And as the title of this post says, it has to happen fast. In my version, the infection that causes the zombies happens in stages. The first is a virus, the most contagious ever seen. It’s airborne, it’s in the water, passed by contact and blood. It is literally everywhere, and it kills 10% of those infected. Literally a decimation of the world population. However, those who don’t die appear to be immune to further infection. That fact, combined with the contagion level of the virus, leads to the decision to stop trying to stop it and instead simply to allow everyone to get infected, killing one out of ten people but leaving the remaining nine immune.
Years later, when people are finally beginning to forget the horror of the Decimation Virus, people start dropping dead. It’s just like before, people panic that the Decimation is back, everything goes nuts, and in the confusion, people don’t notice right away that the people who died aren’t staying dead. Within hours, approximately one tenth of the world’s population is one of the walking dead, and that percentage is rising.
The point is, it has to be everywhere, all at once, with relatively high-speed in order to outstrip the ability to respond, so that bolting the front door and staying inside is the smartest decision that too many people will not make. It has to happen fast.
* If you decide to steal this idea, let me know, perhaps we can collaborate, or maybe we can settle on you just giving me some credit.
I’m going to start the review of Scott Sigler’s Infected by simply saying that I enjoyed it. I probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone with a weak stomach as parts of the book are fairly graphic in detailing damage to the human body, but it is a good read. The book follows two main threads. The first thread is about a typical team of government folks tracking down the source of a possible virus that might be a terrorist weapon. The second thread follows one of the people who is infected with what the government is trying to track down.
You might want to stop reading here as I’m about to go all spoilery. Yep, spoilers from this point. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Perry Dawsey is the name of the infected man. A former football player and survivor of a childhood of abuse at his father’s hands have made him a tough son of a bitch, which is how he manages to make it through so many of the things that happen to him… or rather, that he does to himself. The virus is this book is actually an alien life form. Microscopic seeds land on a person, and given the right mix of temperature and moisture and other conditions, they can dig in and start their work. Dawsey gets covered in these spores, it is never said how, and eight of them manage to begin their work. These spores are like machines, they read DNA and adapt and begin building the structures they need do their work. Dawsey’s spores are on his forehead (though that one dies off early), his right shin, his left thigh, his chest (near the collar bone), his back (high, right over the spine), his ass cheek, his forearm and his testicle. As the story progresses, and as the spores develop into rashes, then bizarre orange scaly skin, then to blue triangles beneath the surface that start talking to him as they awaken, Dawsey takes them out, one by one. Tearing one out, then another, stabbing, burning and more. All of which Sigler describes in fantastic detail. Did I mention there was one on his balls? Reading it was uncomfortable to say the least. Unsettling. And yet, the story drew me in as Dawsey persevered, almost thrived on survival.
The other half of the book, about the team trying to find and fight this new threat, is well written, but fairly standard for this type of book. That isn’t to say it’s bad, it’s just… unsurprising. The only real breath of fresh air here is that the tale lacks a fresh young recruit who shows up the older members. And this is a good thing. The story doesn’t need it.
In the end, I’m satisfied with the book and looking forward to reading the sequel in the future.
What if there was a virus that somehow affected only people who had gone through puberty and killed them, all over the world? That is the stage that is set for the TV show Jeremiah. Don’t bother looking for it in your local listings, it ran on Showtime from 2002 to 2004. The first season ran 20 episodes and the second season ran for 15, and I enjoyed every single one of them.
The major saving grace of this show is that they avoided mutants and monsters, it is just about people. The show begins fifteen years after a virus killed off all the adults, making the oldest people on Earth around thirty years old or so. The world is in disarray. Since kids generally don’t know how to run complex machines everything eventually stopped, and not many kids know how to grow crops so starvation was a big problem. They learned to fend for themselves. And now, fifteen years later, towns run by bullies have solidified and barter cultures have arisen, and some kids have even spent time reading books instead of burning them trying to regain the knowledge they lost in “the Big Death”.
I was worried, of course, as I always am when watching shows that were cancelled that it would end poorly. But Jeremiah managed to tell two seasons worth of stories and even end well. So, if you are a Netflix user and you own an Xbox 360 with a Live Gold subscription, I highly recommend throwing this show into your instant queue and giving it a shot.
I picked up the DVD for 28 Days Later… last week and watched it a couple nights ago.
I had heard good things about this film, but actually seeing it I was blown away by the simplicity of the look and feel of the film, it just draws you in.
If you don’t know, the story is about a man who has been in a coma who wakes up 28 days after a bizarre virus has been unleashed in England. The virus infects people and makes them “rage”, forgetting everything else except an unbridalled hatred for everyone they see.
I think the best part of the DVD though is they include the original ending, the alternate ending, an extended version of the alternate ending, and an ending they never filmed. That last one is really the coolest part as the writer an director show the story boards and read the script explaining what would have happened if they had filmed it. Most importantly though is the point where the description pauses and the director states something like “and right here is why we didn’t use this ending, its very cool, and I really liked it, but this one point right here just isn’t possible, it goes against things we’ve already established in the film.”
Definately worth the money to pick it up.