Zombies – Dead or Alive?!
Well, that is the question . . . I often hear mutterings that zombies have had their day. And yet, like the veritable horde they are, they just keep on coming. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is now heading for the big screen. M. R. Carey’s clever novel, The Girl With All The Gifts, has been shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award. And the Zombie Apocalypse! mosaic novels, created by Stephen Jones, have put a new twist on zombie lore with their multiple authors and modes of storytelling.
It isn’t long since I had an invitation from Steve, asking not if I’d like to write a section of one of those novels, but a whole one. I must admit, it gave me pause. I don’t write zombie stuff, do I? Or I didn’t think I did, at least apart from a short story which was published in Zombie Apocalypse! Endgame. But the thing that wouldn’t lie down (to torture the pun a little bit further), was the thought: God, that would be FUN.
Zombies! Furthermore, zombies attacking a Mexican holiday resort! Not only would I get to have some shamelessly pulpy enjoyment, I’d get to do it in a novel set overseas, something I’d been thinking about for some time. In other words, or word – woohoo!
And you know what – isn’t that why zombies won’t die? They have endless iterations, and the very fact of their numbers just means they have to be approached with a knowing wink and a smile. I’m not sure I’d have approached the project with quite as big a grin on my face if it wasn’t for movies like Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland. Yes, the trope has been around for a long time, but doesn’t that mean we get to play with it a little more?
And yet, I think there’s a more serious reason why zombies still appeal. They aren’t some radioactive swamp-grown monster we don’t understand; they’re not unknowable aliens. Zombies are us. They’re our mothers and brothers and sisters and fathers and friends, but hungrier, and without pity or mercy or any conception of sitting down and giving up. That, for me, is what makes them scary (besides the snapping teeth and penchant for brains). In times when we have to worry about the spectre of Alzheimer’s, the idea of loved ones forgetting us, or of forgetting ourselves, is a genuine fear; one that is perhaps more relevant and terrifying than ever. But then, perhaps future generations will find their own things to fear in zombies, extending their lives just a little bit further; because they are the human monster.
And so there are hopefully some heartfelt moments in Zombie Apocalypse! Acapulcalypse Now, as well as scares and indeed a few giggles. It’s been a rollercoaster ride to write, and I can honestly say that it was even more fun than I’d imagined it would be. So live on, the zombie – I hope the sun isn’t going down on you just yet.
Alison Littlewood is the author of A Cold Season, published by Jo Fletcher Books. The novel was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club, where it was described as “perfect reading for a dark winter’s night.” Her sequel, A Cold Silence, has just been published, along with Zombie Apocalypse! Acapulcalypse Now.
Alison’s short stories have been picked for Best British Horror 2015, The Best Horror of the Year and The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror anthologies, as well as The Best British Fantasy 2013 and The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 10. She also won the 2014 Shirley Jackson Award for Short Fiction with her story The Dog’s Home, published in The Spectral Book of Horror Stories.
Alison lives with her partner Fergus in Yorkshire, England, in a house of creaking doors and crooked walls. You can talk to her on twitter @Ali__L and visit her at www.alisonlittlewood.co.uk.
Zombie Apocalypse: Acapulcalypse Now by Alison Littlewood is out now from Robinson, £8.99. Keep up with the latest genre news with the new issue of SciFiNow.