Rusty Fischer: 3 Reasons We’ll Always Have Zombies
Not so long ago, when I was just starting out writing paranormal YA novels – we’re talking less than five years ago – I was hard-pressed to find a zombie novel on the YA shelves of my local Books-a-Million.
In fact, one of the reasons I decided to make my first paranormal YA novel a zombie book was because, at the time, the field looked pretty wide open. I can even remember writing something like “zombies are the underdogs of today’s YA fiction landscape” in my original query letter for Zombies Don’t Cry!
I’d get laughed at if I wrote that today. Now, there are zombies everywhere, and not just in YA. From The Walking Dead to Rot & Ruin to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to World War Z, zombies are the new vampires. But will it last?
I think so, and here are three reasons why:
- People are fascinated with death: What’s part and parcel of zombie mythology is death. They equal death. Or living death, take your pick. They’re like a virus on legs; murder with a mouth. And it’s both attractive and scary, like mountain climbing without a rope or cliff diving. When zombies are around, death come with them, and creatively… that’s really compelling because there is always, always danger in a zombie story. Even my ‘good’ zombies have the power to turn friends and family with a single bite, and that offers a lot of creative possibilities that, say, my contemporary romance YA novels don’t offer.
- We all (think we) want to live forever: What’s most compelling, to me, about zombies is that immortal aspect. Everyone explores the ancient vampire myth, the guy who looks like Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt but is hundreds of years old. We haven’t really seen that in zombies, yet. At least, not that I’ve seen. And in YA I try to steer clear of it because it’s major ick to think of a 50-year-old zombie hanging out with, and hitting on, my mostly teenage main characters! But even just being seventeen forever, if you’ve just become a zombie, say, while in detention, has a lot of creative potential for both zombie writers and readers that I think will be played out for decades to come in the paranormal genre.
- Zombies are still underdogs: I don’t care how hard we try, and I try really hard, it’s difficult to make a zombie character mainstream, let alone a sex symbol or heartthrob. Think about vampires; Hollywood always treats them so sexily, even the most violent, evil vamps. The closest we’ve gotten in the zombie world, I think, is ‘R’ from the Warm Bodies movie, and even that’s probably a stretch for lots of people. And even now, years after Zombies Don’t Cry came out, I still read reviews that say, “This is the first zombie book I’ve ever read.” How many people can say that about vampire books, ghost stories or even werewolf/shifter tales?
Agree? Disagree? Am I on the right track or totally off the wall about how long the living dead will be living on our bookstore shelves? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the future of the zombie genre, especially if you’re a zombie, but even if you’re not!
Rusty Fischer is the author of over a dozen zombie novels, including Zombies Don’t Cry, Zombies Don’t Forgive, The Girl Who Could Talk to Zombies and Panty Raid at Zombie High. Visit Rusty Fischer at his blog to learn more and read tons of free zombie articles, stories and poems just like this one!