Tag Archives: zombie

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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Book Recommendation: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

12 Jun

by Savannah J. Foley

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I typically like monsters, but there is one breed of monster that absolutely terrifies me, and always will (keep reading to see what it is!)

My coping mechanism for fear is to understand the being or cause behind the fear. We cannot hate that which we understand, right? In a weird sort of Stockholm Syndrome, I transform my fear of monsters into an admiration for them, thus losing the fear. The logic here is that if you’re fangirling over something you won’t be afraid of it. I’ve successfully used this method with the Alien, Predator, Pennywise the Clown, Baba Yaga, vampires, witches, ghosts, Bigfoot, etc. But there’s one monster I can never get the hang of, and as such they terrify me more than any others: zombies.

My fear of them has led me to seek out zombie fiction and art in an effort to understand them and move to a more fangirl state of mind. However, there’s not much you can use to humanize zombies. Their very nature leaves them without emotion, ie humanity. With every other monster there is a possibility that they will feel sorry for you, respect you, or one day form a partnership/friendship with you. But with zombies there’s no empathy, absolutely none. As such I cannot understand them, cannot fangirl over them, and will be forever petrified of them.

I don’t fear rapists, burglars, or tornados; when I’m home alone at night it is always zombies that makes me turn the lights on.

So when I first read the concept behind The Forest of Hands and Teeth, I knew it would only take me so long to seek it out and confront my fear again. And maybe it’s just me and my weirdness about zombies, but I hungered for this book much as a zombie might hunger for flesh… As soon as I started reading it I could barely put it down, and physically itched to pick it back up again.

Here’s an excellent summary, taken from the book’s Amazon page:

The book begins seven generations after the Return, an undead plague that has ended civilization as we know it. Of course, a zombie outbreak usually means shotguns and mall looting–the very essence of freedom. But more than a century on from the Return, the malls have already been looted, and shotguns are a distant memory. The novel’s heroine, Mary, lives in a village surrounded by one last vestige of industrial technology: a chain-link fence, beyond which is a vast forest full of shambling, eternally ravenous undead–the forest of hands and teeth. No villager ever goes outside this fence, unless they want to die. (And given this bleak scenario, some do.)

Mary’s world is bounded not only by the fence but by the archaic traditions of her people, which are enforced by a religious order called the Sisterhood. Marriages, childbirth, death, every stage of life must be controlled to sustain the village’s precarious existence. Even the houses are circumscribed–literally–with passages of scripture carved into every entrance to remind the inhabitants of the rules that sustain human life amid the horrors of the forest.

After so long an isolation, the village is beginning to forget. Some doubt that there really was a time before the Return, with giant cities and wondrous technologies. Others believe that nothing at all exists beyond the forest of hands and teeth. And nobody but Mary and her slightly mad mother believes in something called “the ocean,” a huge and unbounded space beyond the reach of the undead.

Mary is the sort of teenager who dreams of bigger things. Not just the ocean, but epic romance and adventure beyond the fence, maybe even other villages somewhere out there, safe behind their own fences. She believes that answers can be found to questions like, What made the Return happen? And what was it like before?

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is filled with so much humanity, a stark contrast between the soulless attack corpses that thwart our main characters with every turn: A romance forbidden by the village’s laws as well as the bounds of friendship; dreams of the impossible slashed to pieces by fire, the Sisterhood, zombie attack, starvation, and in-fighting; family loyalty corrupted by deep loss; and the need to be true to one’s self curbed by duty.

Every character had multiple layers, and surprised me with their realism, given that this was obviously a very fictional book. I felt that the author had an impressive grasp of her character’s abilities and private goals, and let those reveal themselves through many physical and emotional challenges.

The plot was pleasantly unpredictable, not in a meandering or disjointed way, but in the way that life often goes awry. I had no idea where this book was going to end up, and I loved it! The physical and emotional journey of the characters was truly a journey, and I was along for the ride as much as they were. I know I keep mentioning the realism, but I was just so impressed by the plot twists that didn’t scream ‘I’m a shocking plot twist!’, yet were also completely unpredictable.

As I said above, I could hardly stand to put this book down, and I don’t feel that way about many books. I can’t think of anything that stood out to me as poorly done, or something I would have done different. I loved everything; the title, the characters, the set up of the village, and the terrifying, constant presence of The Forest and the Unconsecrated within.

For zombie fans (or in my case, zombie-phobes), this book will be your new favorite. I wish someone had told me about it sooner, or physically made me go and buy it even after I heard about it. This is one of those ‘RUN, don’t walk, to the bookstore’ kind of books.

Buy it. I PROMISE you’ll love it.

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For more zombie fiction, try the following (I recommend all these personally):

World War Z by Max Brooks (another all-time favorite book)

Monster Island (Available for free online! But be careful; it’s super addictive!)

RANT by Chuck Palahniuk (rabies outbreak similar to zombies)

Cell by Stephen King

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Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Antebellum (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress. She has written five novels, owns her own freelance writing company, and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Antebellum is currently out on submissions. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal.