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The Zombie Apocalypse or How I Wasted An Education

November 8, 2011

Why do I love the zombie genre?

Let’s start with a history lesson. Many people believe the
birth of the “zombie apocalypse” genre started with the 1954 novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. I believe
the genre is actually older than that, although probably not recognized as a
genre until recently.

And whose bright idea was it to classify the zombie apocalypse
genre as a sub-genre of horror? I always thought the whole zombie thing was
more sci fi than horror, or maybe sci fi horror?

It seems the book editors cannot agree either as looking at
some of the zombie books in my personal collection, they run the gamut from
straight horror, to fiction, to sci fi horror and what I believe is the male
equivalent of Harlequin Romances, the “men’s adventure” genre. Sounds like
marketing BS to me!

For those of us that have studied history and ancient civilizations,
we see that the zombie horror idea goes back much further than 1954. The 1950’s
was a great time for the horror genre and certainly saw such fertile minds as
Matheson write interesting books, even though Matheson’s ghouls were vampires
in his book, not zombies.

And if we go way
back let’s not forget Ishtar’s threats in The Epic of Gilgamesh, where the Sumerian goddess threatens to open
the gates of the underworld letting the dead out to feast on the living.

Many credit George
A. Romero for starting the zombie genre. I believe Romero did not start the
zombie genre but certainly brought it the forefront, codified it, and kicked
off the current “zombie craze.”

Early movies
(many of which are real turkeys) such as Plan
9 From Outer Space
(1959), and I
Walked With a Zombie
(1943), and the classic White Zombie (1934) with a young Bela Lugosi featured zombies much
earlier than Romero.

Time credits the
1929 novel The Magic Island by W.B.
Seabrook for adding the word zombie to the English language. Seabrook’s book
dealt with Haitian zombies and Voodoo, not the more recent strain of zombies
created by plague.

I believe the birth of the whole zombie genre goes back to
the 1920’s and 30 with the writings of H.P Lovecraft, H.G. Wells, Edgar Allan Poe,
Ambrose Bierce, and whom I think is
the mother of the whole zombie genre, Mary Shelley with her excellent Victorian
horror novel Frankenstein (1818).

If some of these authors
are unfamiliar to you, and you desire to write good zombie fiction, may I suggest
a trip to a good local library?

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2 Comments
  1. I suppose I shuold be saying It’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by six or eaten by one or more zombies and with just cause in mind I was implying urban zombie VIOLENT interference with our right to pursue happiness .

    • I agree with you.

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