m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

Zombies Ain't So Bad

I played Zombie Fluxx for the first time last night, and it got me thinking about zombies and horror again. So I will attempt to explain their appeal.

My usual branch of horror is a subgenre deader than the Western: supernatural fiction along the lines of Charles Williams. Like much horror it can easily be classified away into other genres—magical realism for him and Chesterton, science fantasy for Canopus in Argos, thrillers for all the Da Vinci Code variants—but I still think of it as horror for its supernatural content, no matter how unhorrifying an individual instance of supernatural fiction may be. The Search Committee, on the other hand, is horrifying in its own way but is religious fiction devoid of supernatural content and so not horror-the-genre.

Speaking of the unhorrifying, zombies ain’t so bad. They move slowly and are easily dismembered. Except for the occasional encounter with an infected friend or relative, they’re shambling, clichéd, and laughable. They deserve a silly card game like Zombie Fluxx and then some.

Zombies undwell at the fringes of horror. Despite the alleged voodoo involved in their rise from the dead, their amoral hunger and curious infectiousness make them more akin to science fiction—albeit gory science fiction. Their overwhelming force (we don’t nearly outnumber the dead yet) and inevitable victory make their subgenre not some faddish undead horror specialty but the well-worn corner of sci-fi devoted to post-apocalyptic fiction. Zombies are the radioactive cloud heading for Australia. Zombies are smallpox. Zombies, if you can see past the superficial rot, are the end of the world.