Writing about Zombies + Book Giveaway!

10 Oct

by Savannah J. Foley

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(Cross-posted from my personal blog)

Is anyone else totally psyched that it’s October? That it’s any month in autumn, really? But October is dear to my heart, and I imagine it’s dear to many of yours for the same reason: Halloween, and all the scary stuff that goes along with it. If you follow my blog then you’ll know that I recently finished a YA zombie apocalypse novel. I’ve written before about how scared of zombies I am, but working with them has transformed my fears into enthusiasm. You could, these days, if you were so inclined, call me a Zombie Enthusiast. *Puts brain-splattered monocle into place*

One of the most enjoyable parts of working on this book has been planning out which types of zombies I want to use. For such a well-known genre, the monster itself has many variations: undead, alive, slow, fast, hungry, lusty, moaning, silent; the list goes on and on. And since it’s October, the month of horror, I thought I’d put together a short list of some of the more popular types of zombies, and the pro’s and con’s of each, in case some of you find yourself branching out into zombies as well. But first, a glossary!

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Zombie: A blanket term referring to the walking dead, or the undead (Romero zombies)

Infected: Sometimes used interchangeably with ‘zombie’, could be taken to mean someone who is about to become a zombie, or someone who has whatever causes zombieism and is acting like a zombie, but not technically dead yet.

Horde: Sometimes referred to as ‘The Horde’: a large group of zombies, typically attacking a building.

Incubation: The time it takes for someone who is infected, or zombie-capable, to become a full-out zombie.

Reanimation: Refers to the point in time when someone rises from the dead as a zombie (Romero). Usually takes place after incubation (WWZ, Resident Evil).

Turn: As in, ‘to turn.’ The point at which someone becomes full-on zombie, usually after reanimation, but not in the case of still-living infected, as in 28 Days Later.

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Type: Voodoo Zombie

Cause: Mostly dried pufferfish. And a little bit of voodoo.

Effect: Turns the infected into mindless slaves.

Characteristics: These are the original zombies. Still alive, still human, just mindless slaves of the voodoo master.

How It Spreads: Typically the voodooer would get the secret pufferfish recipe onto the skin of their victim. The toxins in the pufferfish slow down the victim’s life signs to the point where they are considered dead, and buried. Then the voodoo practitioner digs them out of their grave and presto! You’ve got yourself a zombie slave.

Side note: I own several dried pufferfish. You can read into that whatever you like.

Why are they scary: You get what you think is a bit of dust on your arm and then the next thing you know you’re rising out of the earth like a corpse and forced to do whatever it is some crazy voodoo witch wants you to do. You lose your personality, your sense of time, and your family thinks you’re dead. It’s basically a living nightmare.

Why they don’t make sense: This is a tricky one, since there are reports of this actually  happening. The only hard part of making this work is infecting the person in the first place, then convincing their family they’re actually dead. These days with autopsies and formaldehyde it’s highly unlikely this tactic would work.

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Type: Romero Zombies

Cause: Radiation.

Effect: The dead walk. All dead, even the recently buried (no infection; the zombieism is transferred simply by dying)

Characteristics: The goal of Romero zombies is to consume (that’s where the symbolism for consumerism came from, har har). These zombies are undead, and have low intelligence. Humans only.

How It Spreads: Through death, or biting. Incubation is at least 24 hours for bites.

Why are they scary: They want to literally eat you. Dead corpses have risen from the grave to sink their rotting teeth into your flesh. Terrifying.

Why they don’t make sense: So do they stop eating you after you die? Or do they keep eating you? If so, then why don’t they eat each other? Could you, hypothetically, turn, and then start eating them back? Or yourself?

Also, space radiation? Seriously?

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Type: Resident Evil Zombies

Cause: Science Experiment gone extremely wrong (T-Virus) (T for Totally Awesome?)

Effect: Turns the infected into walking corpses.

Characteristics: These zombies are also undead, and slow. Low intelligence. Incubation period of less than 24 hours. No real eating; these zombies exist only to spread the virus. Also spreads to non-humans.

How It Spreads: Biting. Originally the virus was airborne, though.

Why are they scary: Have you seen Resident Evil? Walking corpses that don’t care if you shoot them or break their legs are scary.  End of story.

Why they don’t make sense: A virus that originally spread through the air ducts? But doesn’t go airborne afterwards? Also, if you’ve seen the later movies, you know how the virus managed to mutate and turn its hosts into squid-humans, which is just ridiculous. Plus there are ‘bosses’, but that’s because this movie was based on a computer game. I don’t really like computer/video game zombies because the nature of the game demands ‘bosses’. Some zombies mutate into really weird, oddly specific types, and that just bugs me because it wouldn’t happen ‘in real life.’

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Type: 28 Days Later Zombies

Cause: PETA  Tree-Hugging Activists Another science experiment gone wrong (The Rage Virus)

Effect: Turns the infected into violent monsters that want to attack any uninfected.

Characteristics: These zombies are ‘fast’, and can be moderately intelligent. They’re still considered alive. Eyes typically become red or yellow, and the infected vomits blood. Some people may have a genetic immunity to the virus, but can be ‘carriers’ of it and pass it to others.

How It Spreads:  Fluid transfer, whether saliva, blood, or bloody vomit. There is no incubation  period for this one; the virus goes into effect almost immediately.

Why are they scary: In the first Romero film, one of the characters is able to repel a zombie simply by pushing her back weakly. These zombies are not like that. They will hunt you down, can probably outrun you, and attack you like a boxing linebacker. Plus, any hint of contamination and you’re a goner.

Why they don’t make sense: First of all a virus could not possibly spread that quickly. Secondly I don’t buy into the whole ‘rage’ thing. Finally, did you see 28 Weeks Later? The same zombie followed them around the whole time! Totally illogical!

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Type: World War Z Zombies

Cause: Unknown, some type of creature in a river in China. Not known whether this is a virus, a bacteria, or something else.

Effect: The infected become walking corpses that seek to pass on the infection. 

Characteristics: These zombies are slow, both physically and mentally. They are attracted to noise, and usually moan themselves. They can last for years at a time, growing progressively more raggedy. These zombies fail to blink, so their eyes quickly become milky with scratches on the retina. They are attracted to all forms of life, but the infection itself does not cross species.

How It Spreads: These zombies pass the infection mostly through biting, but in one notable case the infection was transferred through a heart transplant, so clearly it’s fluids-related. There is a 72-hour or more incubation period, after which the infected dies and ‘reanimates’.

Why are they scary: These are the zombies that took over the world. The incubation period is so long that infected were able to fly all over the world, spreading the infection rapidly.

Why they don’t make sense: These zombies are very well done, in my opinion, but the constant moaning means they wouldn’t be able to hear their prey a lot of the time. However, the author uses this to his advantage because the moan activates other zombies nearby, so if you encounter one sooner or later more are going to show up. Plus they can keep moving after being frozen and dethawing, which violates the rules about how cells work.

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So, what have we learned? It makes more sense for zombies to exist solely to ‘reproduce’ by passing on the infection. Shorter and longer incubation periods are ideal for fast transmittal over a large areas. Dim-witted zombies are more common, and good in horde situations, but smarter ones can be used very effectively to create scarier situations. A zombie who can figure out how to pick your locks? No one would survive the zombie apocalypse.

Here are the specs I chose for my zombies, pulling features from my favorite canons:

Type: Savannah Zombies (Woo!)

Cause: Bacterial in nature, originated in Asia before spreading to the US through Hawaii.

Effect: The infected become living and undead zombies seeking to spread their infection.

Characteristics: The bacteria works like a hive mind, taking over the human body and using it as a host to the infection. After a two-day incubation period during which the human becomes more ill, the infected turn when the bacteria population reaches a breaking point and takes control of the human. ‘Fresh’ zombies are intelligent and speech-capable. Once the human within has died the zombie loses its intelligence and begins the moan. These zombies are fast in the early stages, but get slower. In late stages the bacteria consumes the body completely and it has a harder time moving. Growths burst from the skin. The bacteria makes the infected run at a high temperature, even when deceased, and gives their blood and skin a greenish hue.

How It Spreads: This infection spreads through biting, but could conceivably spread through other fluids.

Why are they scary: In the beginning stages the zombies are able to express their hungers and pursue characters with intelligence. In later stages they are essentially decomposing corpses badly mutilated with infection and continuing to move. I don’t know about you, but that certainly gets my adrenaline going.

For more zombie goodness, here’s an article about how the zombie apocalypse could actually happen (including brain parasites, hooray!).

And to balance it out, here’s an article about why the zombie apocalypse could never happen.

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How do you like your brains: What are your favorite types of zombies? Alternately, what do you find really unrealistic about the zombie genre?

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And, of course, because I’m a zombiephile and I want to spread the awesomeness of this genre, I’m going to give away a copy of my favorite zombie book to one lucky commenter. That’s right, you could win your very own copy of World War Z!

True, it’s not a new release, though it is being turned into a movie (OMGSQUEE), but it’s the most emotionally compelling zombie book I’ve ever read, and is also told in the format of oral biography. The awesomeness abounds.

To Enter:

Do nothing but comment. 🙂 Unfortunately, I am going to have to restrict this to readers in the US only. Commenting closes on Wednesday!

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Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Her website and blog is at www.savannahjfoley.com. She is currently working with her agent to sell a sleeping beauty retelling about a girl who wakes up after a hundred years with no memory of her former life. You can read excerpts from her stories here.

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34 Responses to “Writing about Zombies + Book Giveaway!”

  1. KimberlyFDR October 10, 2011 at 8:12 AM #

    I recently got an idea about a zombie novel. I used not to be that enamored with them, but I’ve been reading more and more short story collections geared towards the genre and they’re growing on me 😉

    • savannahjfoley October 10, 2011 at 9:20 AM #

      I tried for a few minutes to make a joke about zombies and eating (something about sinking their teeth into you, or maybe something about contagion?) but it’s just not coming together. Pretend I said something hilarious anyway. 😉

      • lilylicious October 11, 2011 at 12:24 AM #

        Zombie book ideas infecting your brainssssssss?

  2. Sydney October 10, 2011 at 8:56 AM #

    Oh oh, I want to enter! Sign me up! 😀

  3. Lori Lee October 10, 2011 at 9:47 AM #

    Whoa, I’m such a zombie wussy but I love reading about them lol. Movies, not so much, but books yes!

  4. B October 10, 2011 at 9:53 AM #

    There is some misinformation about the Vodou (Voodoo being the Hollywood bastardization) zombie. In fact, this is where the term zombie itself comes from. Vodou is a real religion from Haiti and North Africa and zombies are reanimated corpses (so, no, Voodoo zombies are not mind controlled alive people, unless we’re talking strictly Hollywood). There is no infection, it’s a type of sorcery.

    The zombies you are talking about are not at all tied to this zombie really, but just thought I should mention it since Vodou is far too often misrepresented in Western media, and this is one of the biggest ways.

    • savannahjfoley October 10, 2011 at 10:44 AM #

      Interesting; I have never heard this version. All of the media I’ve ever read has been about pufferfish and faking deaths and living slaves. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Rachel Brooks October 10, 2011 at 9:56 AM #

    One thing I find unrealistic about some zombie books and movies is how long the main characters survive. (I know they have to continually triumph for the sake of the story, otherwise it would be a one chapter novel or five minute movie LOL). I think if zombies actually took over, it would be pretty hard to survive. I like my brain in my head, but I think they’d overpower me…bummer!

    Thanks for the giveaway! I like Max’s last name… 😉

    • savannahjfoley October 10, 2011 at 10:43 AM #

      Hehe. Yeah I’m pretty sure I’d be one of the first people dead during the zombie apocalypse. Too much curiosity, not enough weapons-carrying.

  6. Jennifer K Jovus October 10, 2011 at 10:00 AM #

    This is the best zombie education there is!I had not realized how many differenty types of zombies there are.

    Jennifer K Jovus
    kjovus at gmail dot com

  7. etripp83 October 10, 2011 at 10:24 AM #

    I love zombies, but I’ve only recently started reading books about them. Feed by Mira Grant is good and so is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Weirdly enough, I haven’t read World War Z, but I have heard many good things! I look forward to seeing your book on the shelf someday!

    • savannahjfoley October 10, 2011 at 10:42 AM #

      It’s so excellent, seriously. Hope you get a chance to read it one day!

  8. Will Strong October 10, 2011 at 10:32 AM #

    You forgot to mention pre-Romero zombies, like in “White Zombie”. Can’t wait to see WWZ. The book was great. Wish I could re-read it, but lost my copy PCSing to my current base.

    • savannahjfoley October 10, 2011 at 10:42 AM #

      I never professed to be an expert; haven’t heard of “White Zombie.” Will definitely check out, thanks!

  9. donnagalanti October 10, 2011 at 10:37 AM #

    This is great stuff…I need my Zombie guide as reading Rot & Ruin now by Jonathan Maberry. My first zombie book. Thanks for the fun post. Good luck with your book too!

    • savannahjfoley October 10, 2011 at 10:45 AM #

      I read the short story version of that book in the short story collection Z. It was pretty good; I love the moral grappling that zombie stories bring out. Hope you enjoy it!

  10. Christa October 10, 2011 at 10:55 AM #

    Zombies are one of the scariest horror elements to me… how do you kill them? You can stake a vampire, shoot a werewolf with silver, but zombies? They just keep coming! I can’t watch horror movies about zombies… but I do love zombie books! Weird, right? : )
    Thanks for the awesome post… I’m going to keep it forever. : )
    And, of course, thanks for the giveaway! I’ve had this book on my wishlist for about a year, but still haven’t bought it… why not? I have no idea! Maybe I can win it instead. ::crosses fingers::

    • savannahjfoley October 10, 2011 at 11:06 AM #

      That’s my fear with zombies, too! There’s no stopping them!

  11. Cindy October 10, 2011 at 12:19 PM #

    You know, I suffer from the same zombie phobia after watching 28 Days Later! I ended up trying to watch and read everything I could to “assuage” the fear but unfortunately it didn’t work out because I’m stiiill paranoid about them!! People poke fun of me for being freaked out but still watch zombie movies religiously!

    I normally never comment, but after I saw your enthusiasm I KNEW I had to recommend it: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. It’s a YA zombie novel, and I told Kat to read it (I’m one of Kat’s childhood friends…hence how I knew about this website in the first place) but it’s quite interesting!

    • savannahjfoley October 10, 2011 at 2:29 PM #

      Same thing with me! Can’t get enough but oddly still afraid! I will definitely check out your book rec!

  12. Marina October 10, 2011 at 12:21 PM #

    Amazing post Savannah! I’ve never known that zombies can be so varied, and was truthfully, maybe like you, always kind of scared of the genre. Probably because they’re more realistic than, say vampires. But this has awakened my curiosity and perhaps I’ll give the zombies a try … (hopefully won’t turn into one!)

    • savannahjfoley October 10, 2011 at 2:30 PM #

      Lol, definitely check them out some more!

  13. Janice Gable Bashman October 10, 2011 at 12:28 PM #

    Fun post Savannah – glad you turned your fear into fun…and a book.

  14. Jessi October 10, 2011 at 2:23 PM #

    I’m not interested in owning World War Z since I’ve already read it but I wanted to give people my 2 cents about zombies.
    With slow ones, WWZ type, it seems very unlikely they could manage to take over the world. I think, like in WWZ, they could possibly manage to take over large cities, and even overwhelm a military used to using certain tactics. Once the zombies tried going into more rural states where there is a high population of hunters, they’d get killed off like the dodo because rural areas have a very high percentage of hunters, and the number of firearms probably outnumbers the number of humans.(Meaning that even if half the population is turned zombie, the other half will have enough ammunition to kill them.) It seems that most authors, and movie makers forget about this fact. People in rural areas, who hunt smart, fast creatures like coyotes would probably start having competitions to see who could shoot the most stupid, slow moving zombies.(There are plenty of ten year old kids in my part of the country who could become full time zombie slayers.) Humans have done a pretty good job of controlling the population of smart animals that try to hide from humans which leads me to believe that a slow creature trying to approach a human will not last long. Even if they traveled in hoards, chances are people could use vehicles, or horses, to stay ahead of the hoard until they lead them off a cliff or into a river.
    Smarter, fast moving zombies would have a better chance of survival, since they’d at least know that approaching a group of well-armed hunters across a field would be a very bad idea but humans have devoted thousands of years to learning to kill each other. The poor zombie wouldn’t have much of a chance.
    I still like the occasional zombie book, but I have trouble believing most of the situations could happen. Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick is the one case where I think the “zombies” were pretty believable. The main reason I find these believable is because they all became “zombies” near the same time after their brains were fried by some kind of EMP so they appeared very fast, rather than spreading like a virus. (Since the EMP also took down the power grid and killed a fair amount of people, it also gave normal humans something else to worry about so the “zombies” didn’t all get killed instantly.) I don’t really know if they fit the zombie category since they’re not undead, and I don’t think they can spread by biting people. They’re also very intelligent compared to animals so they’d have a decent chance of surviving. (If I ever write anything with zombies, I’ll be giving them enough intelligence to work together like lions or wolves so they can actually be a threat.)

    • savannahjfoley October 10, 2011 at 2:32 PM #

      I think the reason the slower zombies were able to multiply without much backlash in WWZ is because people were in denial that it was actually happening. And of course with 28 Days Later the fast, quickly-spreading virus left armed forces reeling and unable to deal with the onslaught. But in general I do agree with you; in today’s world it would be difficult for a zombie uprising to happen.

  15. gloria October 10, 2011 at 9:43 PM #

    aaah the pictures! /hides fjksdf but aaaa i love this categorizing of zombies! ♥ and how entertaining you write them all! tropes, ftw! ♥ v. v. educational, esp since i sadly haven’t immersed myself in the world of zombies much up to now! thuus, entering in the contest to try and win an oral history of the zombie warrrr to further education myself!

  16. Liz October 10, 2011 at 10:22 PM #

    OMG ZOMBIES!! THATS WAT IM TALKIN ABOUT!!! BRING OUT THE GORE!
    lolz! 😀

  17. Zoe G October 11, 2011 at 11:48 AM #

    I remember seeing this post over on your blog and I LOVED it! Especially since I’m getting some prewriting together on a zombie-related novel of my own. It’s interesting to keep in mind all the different “types” of zombies that are out there, and it’s especially sweet to see it all compiled in one place.

    Ps- are you super stoked for the Walking Dead premiere? It’s right around the corner!

  18. Aimee Green (@aimeegreen) October 11, 2011 at 12:47 PM #

    Oh man, is it just me, or are zombies the new vampires? 🙂 WHICH I LOVE!

  19. Gabby K October 11, 2011 at 11:34 PM #

    I’m not that into zombies, though I did enjoy Zombieland and I’m somewhat fond of the Resident Evil films. I got into the Walking Dead for a while, but after the horse got eaten I stopped watching (I hate it when animals die in movies, but not so much when humans do. Weird?)

    I think the only zombie book I’ve ever read was the Forest of Hands and Teeth. It was so horribly depressing that I’m a little reluctant to get into another zombie book, but WWZ is sounding okay, I guess, so I’m willing to give it a try. 🙂

  20. Janijon October 12, 2011 at 12:02 AM #

    Awesome post! Thanks for hosting the drawing!

    Cheers,
    Jane

  21. Shannon Lovell October 12, 2011 at 12:49 PM #

    Love it! Love Zombies. For some reason I just can’t get enough of all the different variations. World War Z is actually one I haven’t gotten to read but really want to (esp with movie coming weeee!). The YA book Z had an interesting take on its zombie origin. Check it out sometime! Thanks for the contest!!

  22. NeverLanding October 14, 2011 at 5:45 PM #

    Though I’m too late to enter, I love zombies. I read this just in time for the Walking Dead to premiere on AMC tomorrow (I don’t know if you’ve seen it but its awesome)! I find myself in front of the television every time there’s a new episode, peeking through my fingers, excited and unnaturally scared considered how much I like watching it. And then every time their over I spend a good ten minutes reevaluating my zombie-apocolaspe-survival-plan.

    The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks is being made into a movie too, I think. Its coming out in 2014 though.

    Great topic! I honestly think this should be a major in college. I’d be on it in a heartbeat. 🙂

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