A History of Zombie Literature

I have been writing in the realm of zombies for about four years now, and I recently launched a zombie serial story about a zombie superhero.  The post I would like to share with you today was originally written to promote said story, and was posted on J. Joseph Wright’s website. This is a little mini-history of zombie literature, and I hope you enjoy it. 

 


The undead revolution has begun.

Whether you think zombies are scary or not, there is no denying that they are huge. Everytime it seems that zombies are dead as a trope, they return in full fledge and the public goes wild.  Video games are using them as guiltless kill enemy and movies are using them as metaphors or as horror devices. Due to their rabid popularity, the evolution of the zombies in both of these mediums is becoming better and better known. But what about literature?

It seems that zombies in literature are largely ignored, or thought to be directly related to the rise of zombies in film. This post will examine the history of zombies in literature.

Early Zombies- Or, Really freaking old Tropes

Zombie myths can be found in many cultures, the most famous being in West African Vodou legend. The earliest record of the zombies in literature comes from the Epic of Gilgamesh, written in the 7th century BC. They are mentioned in this passage:

 I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,

I will smash the door posts, and leave the doors flat down,

and will let the dead go up to eat the living!

And the dead will outnumber the living!

 Zombies are mentioned several places in the Bible, one of the oldest texts known to man, in both the old and new testament. My personal favourites comes from Ezekiel and Revelation (both verses taken directly from the Good News Bible):

Ezekiel 37:10: So I prophesized as I had been told. Breath entered the bodies, and they came to life and stood up. There were enough of them to form an army.

Revelation 11:11: After three and a half days a life-giving breath came from God and entered them and they stood up; and all who saw them were terrified.

The middle ages had it’s very own zombie. Their zombie was known as a Revenant, and was a soul returning from the dead to avenge a wrong committed against them in life. They typically appeared as a skeletal human corpse. So the revenant was the first Zombvenger, a trope which was further used in Ambrose Bierce’s “The Death of Halpin Frayser”

The earliest mentions of “zombies” began in 1791 from travel writers visiting Haiti after its independence. They did not become sensationalised until the 19th century, when travel writer William Seabrook wrote an account of Haitian zombies in the 1920’s. Accounts such as these inspired the original horror master, H.P Lovecraft, to write short stories such as “Cool Air”, “In the Vault”, and perhaps most famously, “The Reanimator” in the 1920’s and 30’s.

Zombies found their way to comic books in the 1940’s and 50’s with EC comics Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror and Weird Science.

Modern Zombies- Or, how literature and film inspired each other.

Modern zombie literature, which emerged as its own subgenre in the late 80’s, is directly linked to George A. Romero and the popularity of zombie films. This would begin modern zombie fiction’s direct link to film, and the trend of zombie film introducing and adding to the popularity of zombie literature.

Despite growing in popularity, zombies mainly stayed on the big screen after Night of the Living Dead. Two zombie fiction anthologies stand out from this period, Book of the Dead and Still Dead: Book of the Dead 2, edited by John Skipp and Craig Spektor and featuring notable horror authors such as Stephen King. Zombies became and remained an underground/counter culture phenomenon until around 2003, when The Walking Dead comic series was released and the undead started to get a little more attention, growing more with the release of Max Brook’s completely awesome Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z.  With these releases, zombies became a staple of the counter-culture and more and more zombie films were being made. Oh, how the tides had turned.

Video games began to catch on to the zombie bandwagon, introducing then as new enemies and pioneering the modern survival horror genre. However, zombies were still not at the level of mainstream popularity as another undead counterpart, the vampire. That was soon to change, with films such as 28 Days Later.

Now, the zombie is mainstream huge and hipsters like me get to say that they liked zombies before they were cool. The biggest zombie-related excitement these days is over The Walking Dead TV series, directly inspired by the comic books, and upcoming zombie films like World War Z, also directly inspired by literature.

Fan-Poetry: Megatron and Starscream

A little bit of Fan-Poetry

Nothing Gold Poetry.

starscream megatron 1

 

Megatron’s Poem to Starscream 

I will not cry.
Because I cannot.

I feel your mocking voice
Waiting
For any weakness
I will hold onto your poltergeist
Because it’s easier to grab
Than ash

But it’s not weak
To admit
I miss you.

I can scream
Because I know you did
And I will scream
Because you no longer can.

And Silence broke us apart.

Is it too late to say

I love you.

Is it too late to say

Goodbye?

(written 2011)

Based on this clip:

 

 

images (4)

Starscream’s Poem to Megatron 

You held my hand as we watched my brothers bleed to death

You held my heart and beat me with my loyalty

I’ve never hated anyone this much

So I’m going to pretend what I feel is love

 

You’ll see him in me, eventually

I’ll pull my punches and let that kill you

 

(written 2014)

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The Future of Poetry: An Interview.

Nothing Gold Poetry.

Then at the same time, I think subconsciously people have come to distrust language and what it can do—the main problem of post-War literature: how to use language to convey a meaning when it’s been absolutely and irrevocably abused to almost successfully destroy whole groups of people. What do we do with that? Moving forward in time, we’re watching more and more of the manipulation that goes into things like political speeches, memes, articles about nutrition or lifestyle (an example that comes to mind is the title of the article “Lay off the Almond Milk, You Ignorant Hipsters”) and even kids’ shows (we’re told at the beginning of “Ni-Hao, Kai-Lan,” for example, exactly what our kids are going to learn in this show—emotional intelligence, or problem-solving). We’re so cognizant (and yet at the same time very incognizant, of course) of language and its uses in controlling or teaching us. And…

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Flashback: Why I’m not commenting on your blog

Originally posted in May, 2013

 

You know the feeling.

You’ve just finished crafting that wonderful, informative, thought-provoking post for your blog, or possibly a guest blog. You are sure that people are going to enjoy it and will have much to say about it.

No comments.

Wait another day. No comments.

Check back again a month later. One comment- and it’s spam.

It’s not a nice feeling. I find it “throw things” level frustrating. Then, I realised something.

 

I’m  not commenting on blogs either.

 

I thought to myself, I bet other people aren’t either. I could feel a post idea coming on, so I looked at some of my favourite blog posts from my favourite bloggers and tried to figure out why I, and perhaps, you, weren’t commenting on them. Here are two reasons.

1)      You’ve said it all

If someone is following your blog, it’s usually because they think you’re awesome. They listen to what you have to say and they generally like it. So you keep putting out great posts to feed their need. Unfortunately, your posts are so awesome that there’s nothing to say back. You’ve handled the argument and the counter argument. I speak for myself, and I feel kind of lame just saying “Great post!” I bet there’s a few of you out there who do too.

So, what to do about it? For the commenters, well, that’s easy; instead of great post, say what you liked about it. Then the great post production can become even more tailored to the audience and it’s helpful to know that you’re doing alright. For the bloggers- maybe ask an open ended question at the end. Make it open to debate. Ask for opinions. Of course, you run the risk of number 2…

2)      They disagree with you and don’t want to start a shit fight

Contrary to popular belief, the entire internet is not populated by trolls. Some people don’t want to get into a long winded, swear heavy, subtly condescending argument with someone they don’t know, or in the blogger’s case, someone they kind of know. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even the aforementioned trolls, and those opinions differ from others. Even if it’s something like, arguing against your opinion that all stories should be character focused or your opinion on semi-colons, if I have a differing opinion I’m staying out of it. Of course, bloggers shouldn’t shy away from opinion pieces because they make blogs interesting. Commenters, you can say you disagree. The blogger (probably) won’t jump down your throat and start a fight. If you disagree, it shows them that you’re paying attention, and they like that. Just don’t be a dick about it.

 

Are there any more reasons that you’re not commenting on blog posts? I challenge you to comment on this one with your reasons! 

 

Insert creative sign-off here, 

Kelsey J. Mills

Instinct.

From my poetry blog.

Nothing Gold Poetry.

I hear people say
That we are instinct
Nothing else

Like instinct is a taxi driver from hell
Taking us where we pay it to go

I look into the eyes
Of murderer,
The rapist,
The scum of humanity’s constructs
If I believe they run on instinct
There’s not much hope for the rest of us

I think
Instinct is just an excuse
So we don’t have to figure out
What really makes us tick
And chime.

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