The Zombie Research Society has declared May to be Zombie Awareness month. You can purchase your grey ribbon here to show your support for the cause. You all know that zombie awareness is an issue I feel very strongly about, so tell your friends – don’t get eaten when the horde arrives, remember the motto of the ZRS: “What you don’t know can eat you!”.
Archive for zombies
I’m skeptical about mash-ups. I know Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has been immensely popular, it even has a sequel: Dawn of the Dreadfuls. Not to mention the spate of other mash-ups that followed in its wake: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim; Alice in Zombieland; The War of the Worlds Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies; The Undead World of Oz; Emma and the Werewolves; Mansfield Park and Mummies; Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters; Android Karenina; Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers….
But I just can’t help but lament the lack of new, original stories in an era of remakes, reloads and sequels – not to mention the fact that while the mash-ups obey the letter of copyright law I’m not convinced they’re really in the spirit of the law… though I must admit to a fascination with Android Karenina…
Anyway, I digress…
In an effort to come to grips with the whole mash-up thing I thought I’d have a go at the genre – but using nursery rhymes.
Mary Had A Little Zombie
Mary had a little zombie, little zombie, little zombie,
Mary had a little zombie, its flesh was grey as stone.
And everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary went,
Everywhere that Mary went the blood was soon to flow.
It followed her to school one day, school one day, school one day,
It followed her to school one day – breaking quarantine.
It made the children run away, run away, run away.
It made the children run away, to protect their brains.
Any nursery rhymes you’d like to see invaded by zombies (or vampires, werewolves or other nasty bitey thing?) Let me know for future Friday Fictions!
What’s your take on the mash-up phenomenon?
Zombies are big at the moment (I mean popular – the idea of giant-sized zombies is too terrible for words!). So much so that the Cordite Poetry Review has dedicated their recent edition to zombie poetry: Zombie 2.0.
Normally for Friday fiction I’d give you something new of mine, but since I’ve got two poems published in this edition (Zombies are People Too, and Dead Things Come To Those Who Wait) I though I’d cheat a little and let you enjoy the whole delicious feast of zombie morsels to your heart’s (or brain’s) content. Don’t forget to chew!
So far we’ve discussed hiding out when the zombies come, and making sure you have the weapons and supplies you need on hand to ensure your survival. But this is only going to be effective in the short-term. It’s quite possible that the zombies are here to stay (or at the very least it will take the military-industrial-scientific-complex a while to sort things out). What are you going to do in the meantime? Your supplies won’t last forever, cabin-fever is a very real danger, and you will need to start looking at things from a longer-term perspective. Many of us have lost the skills needed to survive independently. Here are some things you will need to consider in order to wait out the zombies.
Growing your own food.
Tinned supplies are finite. It is probably still not safe to venture out to raid the local shops. A better option is to try to set up your own little self-sufficient garden. This might mean considering moving locations to that house down the road with the lovely backyard (and disposing of the rotting corpses of Mr and Mrs Smith who used to live there). It’s also a good idea to have a stockpile of seeds and fertiliser as part of your supply kit, and to start on this project before things with the tinned food get really desperate (carrots don’t grow overnight). If your previous experience with gardening can be reduced to the occasional ill-fated potted parsley and laughing yourself silly watching Costa’s Garden Odyssey, you might like to consider learning a few things now, while it’s still safe to do so.
Making your own clothes.
If you managed to stay in your own home, this might not be a real problem for some time, but if you shifted locations or were forced to go on the run it can become a critical issue very quickly: fighting zombies is a messy business! Fabric can be scrounged from bed sheets, curtains, upholstered furniture, or by combining other clothes (or if you’re really organised you might store a few meters as part of your supplies for just this purpose), but you will need to know what to do with it. Some tips:
* Measure, measure, and measure again. Then cut.
* The stronger the better. You’re probably hand-sewing so use double thread and go over things like armpits and crotches a few times.
* You can roll up sleeves and legs to make a winter garment a summer one – but this doesn’t work in reverse. Make things that are as versatile as possible.
* Learn and practice now – before zombies have ripped up everything you own. Most community colleges, adult education centres and fabric stores run basic sewing classes. They will probably work on the assumption you will use a sewing machine but the skills in tailoring, fitting and procedure are just as relevant to hand sewing.
Extend your education.
Cabin fever is one of the most dangerous issues in a protracted zombie scenario. Bored, grumpy, purposeless humans rapidly become depressed, unpleasant, dangerous humans. Try and see this for the opportunity that it is: you don’t have to go to work, you have no bills to pay, weren’t there always things you wanted to learn? If you have books, great. You can try to get some if it is safe to do so, but if not, talk to your companions – what can they teach you to do? What can you learn from others to make you a zombie-all-rounder: weapons, first aid, carpentry, cooking, gardening, sewing? If you have access to paper and pens, try to record your knowledge for others (or for future generations – you might be here for a very, very long time…).
What do you most need to learn? Vote in the gobbets poll!
Survival is one thing. Living is another. You can build a community, learn to be self-sufficient, and work together – or you can sit in a corner rocking back and forth until you get eaten. The choice is yours.
So far in our series on Zombie Action Plans we have discussed where to go in the event of a zombie outbreak and what weapons you need to protect yourself and your companions. In this instalment we are going to cover the range of supplies you are going to need to see you through the situation, if not comfortably then at least safely.
The supplies you need are many and varied. It’s a good idea to think about where you are going, or if you are staying put before you start putting your extended zombie kit together. If you are defending your home you have more options as you can stockpile whatever you like, but if you plan to be on the move you will need to have a portable kit and a way of transporting it to your preferred location. Even if you are ‘bunking in’ it’s a good idea to prepare a portable pack with essentials in case your stronghold is breached and you need to make a quick getaway – you don’t want to find yourself in the situation where all your supplies are in the shed, and so are the zombies!
So, grab your favourite backpack, clear some room in the kitchen cupboards and lets go shopping!
Food and Water
You probably have no electricity. This means you have no oven, no fridge and no blenders, toasters, kettles etc. It’s a good idea to get a portable camp stove and those fantastic 47-in-1 utensils but in the first instance go for things that don’t require preparation.
The food you choose must have a long shelf life (note: nothing is actually non-perishable in spite of what the charity drives tell you. You will need to look at labels periodically and use up your food store and replace it. It’s no good stockpiling only to have the zombies attack and you realise everything canned is actually off as well).
Instant foods are the way to go – things like tinned soups, stews, beans, fruits and veges etc, army rations, nuts, seeds, jerky, dried fruits, chocolate (I’m not kidding – it’s high in energy and long-life), biscuits, chips, powdered milk, and juice concentrates. Be creative but be sensible. It should be high in protein, high in fats and sugar, and cover as many of the major vitamin groups as you can. You also need as much bottled water as you can store /carry.
Also consider a good multivitamin, iron supplements (fresh greens and red meat are going to become a bit hard to come by), calcium supplements (ditto re- access to dairy but you may have some luck with long-life soy products), and maybe those sports supplements like gatorade powder.
Lastly, don’t forget things like can openers (now wouldn’t that be embarrassing!), cutlery and some picnic plastic plates and cups (not essential but useful).
Remember there is probably no cure for the zombie virus. The medical supplies are for regular, everyday human stuff (colds, scrapes, machete training accidents, you know, the usual). A good first aid kit should have the basics (and is a good thing to put in your backpack) but you probably also want to stockpile: painkillers, antibiotics, antiseptic, bandages, hygiene items, flu tablets, and caffeine tablets (a sleepy human can rapidly become a dead human). Don’t forget if you or a member of your crew needs medication or health equipment of some kind (asthmatics, diabetics I’m looking at you now) stockpile whatever you need. You don’t want to be stuck planning a pharmacy raid for insulin.
Start with a good swiss army knife, an even better regular knife, a torch, spare batteries and electrical tape. You’d be amazed the amount of things these can fix. If you’re staying at home then a big supply of nails, wood for boarding up entrances and a hammer and saw are also essential. Also remember stuff you might need to take care of your weapons, so a sharpening stone, gun oil, and of course as much spare ammo as you can get your hands on.
I wouldn’t worry about the allen keys – zombies don’t shop at Ikea.
I know what you’re thinking: “zombies are attacking for goodness sake and you want me to worry about my leisure hours!” but just watch the movies. Bored humans rapidly become stupid humans. They get cabin fever and do dumb things that get themselves and everyone else killed. Pack a deck of cards, some travel board games, a notepad and pen. Books are great if you’re staying in, but are a bit heavy to lug around. No, you can’t just surf the net or read ebooks – you might have managed a back-up generator for electricity, but using it to power your ipod is probably not a good resourcing choice.
Ok, so you’re starting to get some idea. Take this quiz to find out how your survival chances are progressing – and what areas you need to improve on. Post your scores and let us all know if you think you’re going to make it!
I don’t care that you don’t want to fight zombies. This is the apocalypse. You don’t have to go around hunting them for fun but you do need to be able to protect yourself and your companions. Waving a white flag at a zombie is not an option. They don’t take prisoners – they’ll just eat the flag and then you for dessert. So, you’re going to need a long range weapon and some options for close quarters combat when it’s unavoidable.
Long range weapons are typically guns and bows. Handguns generally don’t have the range (but one for closer quarters is fine) so you’re probably looking for a rifle or shotgun. Sure, machine guns look cool in the movies, but they’re difficult to use, even harder to get hold of, and replacement ammo isn’t going to be easy to find. In an Australian situation look for a good roo-shooter- easy to get, easy to use and lots of spare parts available. Of course if you’re considering firearms you will need to obtain a licence – do this in advance! Alternatively, archery equipment is easier to come by and has fewer regulatory requirements. However there can be more skill involved in getting a head-shot just right, and time spent nocking a new arrow might be problematic. It depends on your skill and comfort level – personally I think you should have both!
Almost anything can be a close-quarters-weapon in an emergency, but you’re better off choosing something you’re comfortable with, that is easy to carry, and that is effective for brain destruction (it’s no good stabbing them repeatedly with a knife that isn’t long, strong or sharp enough to get to the brains. Brains are key.)
Whatever weapons you choose it is essential that they are not just for show – you have to know how to use them. The only way to do this is to train frequently (and take lessons if you need to) – it will keep you fit in the meantime and one day may just save your life.
Max Brooks’ manual The Zombie Survival Guide has some good information on weapons for those unfamiliar with them, or you can check out the info at the Zombie Hub.
Share with us all: what weapons you will be carrying when the zombies attack?
Since we’ve been talking about zombies a bit lately here at Gobbets, I thought it was time for a reminder about Zombie Action Plans (Z.A.Ps).
What do you mean you don’t have a Z.A.P?! Do you want to be eaten alive by zombies?? No? Then this is for you!
A good Z.A.P takes plenty of time, consideration, discussion and revision. You need to gradually acquire materials, hold practice runs and update for changing circumstances. Since we can’t cover all of this in a short post, I’ll be breaking it down into key areas, and posting installments every few days. The aim here is to cover the basic things you need to think about when starting to put a Z.A.P together, but you can use the resources listed at the end of each post to develop your knowledge further.
Today we will be considering the first step in any good Z.A.P: Where will you go?
You need a defensible position, one that will enable you to access food and water, and to stop the zombies from getting in. It’s also good if it has the potential to be a longer-term solution (can you grow food, collect rainwater, house more people, does it make a good base for raiding or foraging parties?) You may be able to set up your own home to be zombie-apocalypse friendly, but many homes are simply not suitable due to location, construction, or design (too many windows, easily knocked-down materials, too big to enforce a perimeter etc). In that case a friend or family member’s house may be more suitable. Actually it’s generally a good idea to talk with others and make a combined plan because not only is there safety in numbers but you can pool resources.
In any private dwelling you will need to stockpile supplies (more about this later), secure the entrances and consider mobility (if you have to leave for some reason, for example if the location becomes compromised), can you get to transport?
Of course your defensible location needn’t be a private home. Shopping Centres, schools, hospitals and offices all have potential as defensible locations but just remember that others in the area may have the same plan – and as any zombie film watcher knows – other humans can be just as much trouble as the zombies themselves. It’s better if you have some connection to these places: think about your office, your kid’s school etc – at least you stand a better chance of knowing the lay of the land and the usual suspects.
Some commentators advocate retiring to a nearby army base (if there is one). While this may be beneficial in terms of protection and resources there are also significant disadvantages in terms of freedom of choice and control over your own fate. Definitely watch 28 Days Later before committing to this option.
Recommended reading: Max Brooks’ manual The Zombie Survival Guide, Chapter 3 On the Defense (p64-93)
Take some time to consider your options. Help other readers out by commenting and telling us where you plan to go in the even of the zombie apocalypse…
Next Z.A.P topic: Weapons.
What are they?
Zombies are essentially reanimated corpses. Once they reanimate their hunger for human flesh is usually overwhelming so they attack and eat the living.
What do they look like?
They look like the walking corpses that they are, which means that whatever killed them, whatever their level of decomposition (which often continues even after reanimation), and whatever injury they subsequently receive, they walk around with it. In addition, their desire for human flesh means they usually end up covered in blood and gore. They often sustain injuries from human attacks but, because they are difficult to kill, they keep going with horrific injuries that would have killed a normal human.
Because of the injuries and decomposition, some kinds of zombies can have difficulty moving about, limping around, slowly and lacking coordination. These are generally referred to as ‘slow zombies’. The other kind, ‘fast zombies’, look the same but retain human speed and agility without the inhibitions of fear of injury.
How do people become zombies?
Originally zombies were created by voodoo practitioners, bokor, who had the power to bring the dead back to life, though claims have been made that the people were never actually dead, instead they had been administered a combination of drugs, usually a small dose of tetrodotoxin (the poison found in pufferfish) along with a psychotropic substance in order to produce a death-like dissociative state. However these ‘zombies’ do not eat flesh (they were mainly used as slave labour) and are uncommon today.
Modern zombies are usually the product of a viral outbreak that causes ‘death’ initially, but then reanimates the nervous centres to create a moving corpse, hungry for human flesh. Because the virus is highly contagious, it can be spread through blood and saliva, meaning that victims are driven to ‘bite’ others, who then become zombies as well, infecting others in turn. Outbreaks spread rapidly and if left unchecked can claim entire populations in a very short period (see this academic study of the epidemiological patterns of an outbreak of the zombie virus).
Can only humans be zombies?
Though humans are by far the most commonly affected by zombie viruses, other mammals have been known to fall victim as well. In the case of animal zombies, similar infection mechanisms apply, with the virus sometimes able to spread from species to species.
Is there a cure?
It depends on the virus that causes the outbreak. Some have a companion ‘antivirus’ that if administered in time can either prevent infection or reverse the spread of infection prior to the final ‘zombie’ stage. Usually there is no cure once the person has ‘turned’. Some work has been done on ‘rehabilitating’ victims, with the aim of helping them to be useful members of society. This has had mixed success and appears to hinge on the ability to control the desire for human flesh in some way. In many cases the ‘rehabilitation’ is really a coded form of exploitation and should be considered with a healthy scepticism.
What should I do if a zombie is after me?
Run away if you can. ‘Slow zombies’ can be easy to outrun and outmanouvre and you want to avoid being bitten at all costs. ‘Fast zombies’ are a different story. It is unlikely you will be able to outrun them so your best bet is to take up residence in a defensible position (if you have a Zombie Action Plan, now is the time to activate it – if you don’t – you should! Gobbets will run a feature on making a Z.A.P in the near future). You must kill any zombie that threatens you.
To kill a zombie you must destroy their brain. Shooting is a good method since it allows you to keep at a greater distance, but shooting arrows, or if close quarters are unavoidable edged weapons or repeated bludgeoning to the head will get the job done.
What do I do if I get bitten in the process?
The virus acts quickly, sometimes over a period of just a few hours. If you are aware of an antivirus you need to get to it as soon as possible. But do not assume there is a cure. If you cannot obtain an antivirus in a timely fashion you must take action to isolate yourself from others because once you turn into a zombie you will no longer be able to control your actions and you will attack your companions. In general death is a preferable option to becoming a zombie, and if you stay with others they will in all likelihood be forced to kill you to protect themselves.
I want more information!
Max Brooks’ book “The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead” (2004) is widely considered essential reading.
For reports of outbreaks in other areas, they way they have progressed and been dealt with, see:
Shaun of the Dead
George Romero’s ‘… of the Dead’ series
The Resident Evil series
28 Days Later and its sequel 28 Weeks Later
Any tips or sources we should be aware of? Comment and add to the Gobbets database!
Well ‘zombie in a tutu’ was the winner of the Friday Fiction poll – and your wish is my command!
Carla had been hungry for as long as she could remember. Her long, lean legs stretched out in front of her and she sat, staring at them absently. While the other kids at school munched on chips and drank bottles of softdrink, Carla would nibble halfheartedly on an apple. They thought she wanted to. They thought she looked down on them. But oh how she envied their chocolates and burgers from the tuckshop, the smell of the greasy meat and melted cheese filling her nostrils with the wonderful savoury scent of fat, making her want it so badly that she had to walk away from them.
She dreamed every night of food, of grabbing great handfuls of their lunches and running away to stuff herself behind the tennis courts. But then she’d wake to her muesli and fresh juice and stare down at those thin legs, the flat tummy and slender, almost bony hips and know that it was worth it. She’d get to dance the lead again this year.
Carla shifted awkwardly, smoothing her tutu under her legs. She was starving. The hunger just got worse and worse. She didn’t just miss food – she craved it, her mouth filling with sour spit at the thought. Her hunger had become a burning hole in her shrunken stomach, her throat constricting with her need. When she couldn’t stand it any longer – when the gaping hole in her stomach threatened to devour her entirely, Carla rose slowly, carefully to her feet and made her way to the corner where she’d left it after her breakfast earlier that morning.
“Look at me now, Mrs Glodny!” Carla thought smugly, drawing out the anticipation of her lunch. The cold blue eyes of her dance teacher stared back at her, fixed forever in that disapproving glare. Carla knelt beside her meal reverentially, giving thanks in her own way for the gift she had been given. Drawing the scent deep into her lungs, she grabbed a handful of Mrs Glodny’s innards and started shoving the gobbets of flesh into her mouth ecstatically. She had been hungry for as long as she could remember but only now was she finally free to satisfy her hunger. Becoming a zombie was more fulfilling than she ever could have imagined.
Being a big fan of Black House Comics’ The Dark Detective: Sherlock Holmes series, when I heard they were publishing a series of pulp-style novellas based in a world where the zombie horde has taken over I was ecstatic. A fantastic little Australian publishing house working in my current favourite genre – what could be better?
Well the excitement dulled somewhat as I traipsed all over the place looking for somewhere to buy Killable Hours, the first in the series. Until just a few weeks ago when their much awaited online store opened the only place you could buy Black House publications was from newsagents. And not very many newsagents had heard of them. So when I finally found it – 2 states later – I devoured it eagerly, like a zombie with a fresh, juicy hunk of thigh, only to be left – well – unsatisfied.
Clay Blakehills’ Killable Hours is set inside a law firm in Melbourne, just as the zombie outbreak is occurring. One of the lawyers brings his brand new virus to a team meeting and viola! instant zombies. Leaving aside for the moment that lawyers are more commonly associated with bloodsucking vampires than flesh-eating zombies, the pun in the title (on the phrase ‘billable hours’ – sheesh!) is cute, and the notion of zombie corporate lawyers has a lot of potential, but unfortunately it just isn’t realised here. There is a lot of action, but it tends to be of the: I killed a zombie, I nearly got killed by a zombie, I killed a zombie, Oh Dear! Look out! There are zombies! variety – which quickly becomes quite dull if the characterisation isn’t up to scratch. The protagonist is likeable and heroic just not very interesting, and that tends to sum up the whole book. There’s nothing wrong with it – but for someone who likes a bit of concept in their horror it’s just a bit blah. (Mind you – not everyone agrees with me – see this review at Scaryminds). That’s not to say there aren’t some good moments – a Senior Partner overcoming his shellshock to take to the zombies with a nine-iron is good fun – and the occasional updates from outside media and blogs that the characters find are creatively employed, but I was just a bit underwhelmed.
Enter Gravesend. Determined to give the series a second try, and encouraged by the fact I could just buy the new title online, my copy of Jason Fischer’s Gravesend arrived on Friday. I’d eaten it all up by Saturday and still wanted more – but this time in the very best of ways. Set in a small English town where a ragtag group of survivors have barricaded themselves in to wait out the apocalypse, Gravesend centres around teenager Tamsyn, and her fellow inmates as they struggle to establish a system of order and a new way of seeing the world in the wake of the destruction. In the best tradition of zombie horror (see Romero’s films or the terrifying 28 Days Later) the real monsters in this story are the humans themselves, and the core battle is not between the survivors and the zombies but between hope and resignation. Insightful social commentary, realistic characters and still enough gore to make it a zombie story, Gravesend was a real pleasure.
I was hesitant before – but now I can’t wait for the next in the series. I’ll just have to chew over some old meals while I’m waiting.