On Zombies

Publishers Weekly finally gets in on the zombie genre. Better late than never, I guess.

“They’re coming to get you!”

That line is a direct quote from George Romero’s cult zombie film Night of the Living Dead, and it could very well become the mantra for booksellers throughout the country who recently have found themselves besieged by zombies—i.e., reanimated corpses with a voracious appetite for human flesh and brains—in novels, anthologies, nonfiction treatises, survival guides, advice books, graphic novels, romance primers and scholarly studies. Once an exclusive denizen of the horror genre, where it toiled in the shadow of the ghost, the werewolf and the overachieving vampire, the zombie has recently gone mainstream and if sales figures are any indication—more than 200,000 copies of Max Brooks’s zombie apocalypse novel World War Z have sold since its publication in 2007, while Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (a “posthumous collaboration” with Jane Austen in every sense of the word) has gone into its 16th printing and been translated into 17 languages since its release this April—readers seem to be… well, eating it up.

The prevalence of the zombie in media ranging from video games and comic books to movies and fiction for kids prompted Time magazine, in its April 9, 2009, issue, to proclaim “Zombies Are the New Vampire.” Whence this sudden paradigm shift at the top of the fantasy food chain?

“Zombies may have become so popular in the mainstream because they’re so basic they’re almost a blank slate,” says Don D’Auria, executive editor of the Leisure Books horror imprint. “You can read so much into them. They can be a satire on consumerism or a comment on any group-think mentality. Plus, they’re instantly recognizable. Even nonhorror fans know what a zombie is, at least on some level.”

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About Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

One comment

  1. The zombie-craze has been, um, crazy in comicbooks for the last 3-4 years. I wonder if comics is a good microcosm for spotting trends? If so I should start looking into space opera again…

    I’m also considering abandoning the current idea/book I’m working on and setting about creating an emo, zombie romance, YA novel. It can focus on the balance between lust and eating of brains. Artistic license will make the undead androgenously cute too.