Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fingerman on the Allure of the Undead

Bob Fingerman, author of Pariah, discusses the appeal of everyone's favorite brain-eaters over at Tor.com. Excerpts:
I've been asked many times over the years, "Why zombies? What's the fascination?" Usually I think the question is aimed squarely at me and my longtime interest/obsession with these undead entities, but it's also a fair question for anyone. Why zombies? What's the appeal? I think it all boils down to the fact that they're the underdog of the monster world. They play into our neuroses and self-doubt. There's nothing sexy or appealing about them. Lots of people fantasize about being other horror mainstays: vampires, of course. Werewolves. But zombies? No. I've never met anyone who said, "Yeah, man, a zombie is what I'd like to be. They're so cool." ...

Zombies, à la Romero [and
his gory films], are us. That's what makes them resonate. We don't wish we were them because we already are, sort of. Zombies had no choice in becoming zombies. It just happened via bad luck. A stray bite and pow: you're infected and there's no cure.
Read the whole thing. Fingerman has a point in mentioning how the zombie trope sheds light on the human condition. But I think lumbering hordes of undead allow us a glimpse into another (very ugly) reality -- that of societal collapse. I call south Florida my home, and every once in a while a hurricane will sweep through, knocking out essential services. Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma battered us in 2005, the latter taking down the power for nigh on two weeks and providing a tiny taste of anarchy. I remember an argument breaking out between shoppers at the local grocery store over one of the last jugs of bottled water, the conflict escalating exponentially, the arguers coming close to blows within seconds. That severing of society's bonds is what zombie horror allows us to explore and to imagine how we would survive it on a grand scale.

(Picture: CC 2007 by
JamesCalder)

4 comments:

Unknown said...

Relevant.

C. N. Nevets said...

It's interesting to describe zombies as underdogs in that way because, if you believe Wade Davis, the zombies of Haitian voodoo are essentially used by priests to maintain the social order by (a) punishing someone who got out of line, and (b) reinforcing why the rest of the people should be scared and obey. While the zombies are psychotic, Davis suggested the fear of them was more truly about becoming one than become the source of brain food for one.

In that light, zombies really are the underdogs. The darkness that is feared, but also sympathized with from a distance.

Loren Eaton said...

SC,

Will read, sir. Unfortunately, I'm out of town right now and poaching WiFi wherever I can get it.

Loren Eaton said...

Nevets,

Fingerman acutally mentions those old-school, voodoo zombies in his article.