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Zombies and Why They Won't Go Away

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Zombie Librarian Themed BookmarkZombie Librarian Themed BookmarkAbout a month ago, I was having a conversation with a colleague about the then upcoming film, World War Z. Our discussion turned to pop culture's fascination with zombies. Zombies have shuffled their way into books, films, comics, music, T.V., video games, etc., and it appears that nothing can stop the spread of zombie content. From million dollar franchises to low budget films, from tongue-in-cheek titles to serious drama, zombies are seemingly everywhere. This was not always the case. As my colleague Rosa demonstrated in her 2010 blog post "The Zombie Comeback", zombies have grown significantly in popularity in recent years and they show no sign of slowing down.

From its origin in voodoo folklore, the zombie archetype has developed over the years into a shambling, virus infected, reanimated corpse that hungers for human flesh and turns its victims into one of the undead. What is it about this creature that has captivated our imaginations in such a way that the zombie has become a pop culture icon? And why now?

Several articles complied in Better Off Dead: The Evolution of the Zombie as Post-Human may provide some insight. Kevin Boon in his article posits that "The increased appeal of the zombie in the later twentieth century is linked to the mythology's ability to stir existential anxieties about our own mortality within the larger context of cultural attitudes about the self" (p. 50) while Deborah Christie in her article explains "This is what the zombie incarnates: our discomfort with that boundary space that exists in us all, that objectness of our inherent material makeup whereby we transition from human to post-(as in no longer)-human." (p. 71)

Whatever the reason, zombiecons, zombie races, zombie walks for charity, zombie pub crawls and zombie preparedness groups make it obvious that zombies are more popular than ever and are here to stay. David Flint in Zombie Holocaust: How the Living Dead Devoured Pop Culture concludes that "while other monsters have faded, the zombie seems as relevant as ever—perhaps even more so, given the increasingly uncertain world we live in, where the idea of humanity being wiped out by a biological, nuclear or chemical attack seems ever more feasible—an apocalypse is at the back of everyone's mind." (Flint 2009, p. 224)

If this is too unpleasant a sentiment to end on, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Zombies asks us to look on the bright side. The author explains, "So what is it about zombies? Simply put, they are us—stripped of identity, conscience, intelligence, and all other attributes that makes us humans... well, human. They are the worst case scenario, the one thing that makes things seem not so bad. Because no matter how bad the world may seem, zombies offer us a bright side. After all, things could be worse... the world could be overrun with flesh-eating undead so chin up, and be thankful." (Brown 2010, inside of front cover)

What do you think? What is it about these shambling, undead creatures that is so compelling? And furthermore, what does this fascination say about ourselves? Below, I've complied a list of all things zombie to help you consider the question. Most of these titles can be found at The New York Public Library.

Novels and Short Stories

Becker, Robin, M. Brains: a Zombie Memoir. (Eos, 2010)

Bell, Alden. The Reapers Are the Angels. (Henry Holt and Co. 2010)

Brooks, Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. (Three Rivers Press, 2011)

Brown, Ryan. Play Dead. (Gallery Books, 2010) - A Novel featuring a High School football team of undead players returning to compete for the district championship.

Esmont, William. Elements of the Undead Series.

  • Fire. (William Esmont, 2011)
  • Air(William Esmont, 2011)
  • Earth(William Esmont, 2012)

Grant, Mira. Feed. (Orbit, 2010)

Kirkman, Robert. The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor. (Thomas Dunne Books, 2011) - Spin off novel of The Walking Dead which details the rise of the serious most despised villain.

Kirkman, Robert. The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury. (St Martin's Press, 2012) - A follow up to Rise of the Governor which follows the journal of Walking Dead character Lilly Caul.

Maberry, Jonathan.

Moody, David.

Pauls, Chris. Deck Z: The Titanic. Unsinkable, Undead. (Chronicle Books, 2012) - "Imagine being trapped aboard the doomed Titanic on an icy Atlantic... with the walking dead." —Hachette Book Group.

Petersen, Jesse. Married with Zombies. (Orbit, 2010)

Priest, Cherie. Boneshaker. (Tor, 2009) A Steampunk novel with Zombies!

Rowland, Diana. My Life as A White Trash Zombie. (DAW Books, 2011)

Rowland, Diana. Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues. (DAW Books, 2012)

The Living Dead. (Night Shade Books, 2008) - A collection of short stories about zombies. Includes contributions by Clive Barker, Laurell K. Hamilton, Stephen King, and Neil Gaiman.

Whitehead, Colson. Zone One. (Doubleday, 2011)

Zombies: Encounters With the Hungry Dead. (Black Dog & Leventhal/Tess Press, 2009)

Zombie Parodies

Borchert, Don. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Undead. (Tor, 2010)

Goldsher, Alan. Paul Is Undead - The British Zombie Invasion. (Gallery Books, 2010)

Grahame-Smith, Seth. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Quirk Books, 2009) - "The Classic Regency Romance—Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem"

McCann, Jim. A Zombies Christmas CarolIn Sequential Art: Being An Undead Story of Christmas. (Marvel Worldwide, 2011)

Roberts, Adam (Adam Charles). I Am Scrooge: a Zombie Story for Christmas. (Gollancz, 2012)

Showalter, Gena. Alice in Zombieland. (Harlequin, 2012)

Spradlin, Michael P. It's Beginning to Look A Lot like Zombies! A Book of Zombie Christmas Carols. (HarperCollins, 2009)

Spradlin, Michael P. Every Zombie Eats Somebody Sometime: A Book of Zombie Love Songs. (Harper, 2010)

Zombie Romance

Hungry for Your Love : an Anthology of Zombie Romance. (St. Martin's Griffin, 2010)

Marion, Isaac. Warm Bodies: A Novel. (Emily Bestler BooksAtria, 2012)

MacAlister, Katie; et al. My Zombie Valentine. (Leisure Books, 2010)

Selzer, Adam. I Kissed a Zombie, and I Liked It. (Delacorte Press, 2010) - Four romatic short stories involving the undead.

Sinclair, Linnea. The Down Home Zombie Blues. (Bantam Books, 2007)

Comics and Graphic Novels

Grahame-Smith, Seth. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Graphic Novel. (DelRey, 2010)

Kirkman, Robert. The Walking Dead. (Image Comics. 2003-)

Marvel Zombies. (Marvel Comics, 2005-)

Night of the Living Dead. (Avatar Press, 2011-2012)

Peach-Pit (Group). Zombie-loan. (Yen Press, 2007-)

Ralph, Brian. Daybreak. (Drawn & Quarterly, 2011)

Tsang, Evonne. Love Him to Pieces: Or My Date Is Dead Weight or He Only Loves Me for My Brains.(Graphic Universe, 2011)

Spears, Rick. Dead West. (Gigantic Graphic Novels, 2005) - A Western and Zombie mashup.

Zombie Tales Omnibus: Outbreak. (BOOM! Studios, 2011)

For Kids and Teens

DiPucchio, Kelly S. Zombie in Love. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011)

Ghoulstone, Rotterly. Undead Ed. (Razorbill, 2012)

Holt, K. A. Brains for Lunch: A Zombie Novel in Haiku?! illustrated by Gahan Wilson.(Roaring Brook Press, 2010)

McDonald, Megan. Stink and the Midnight Zombie Walk. (Candlewick Press, 2012)

Messina, Lynn. The Girl's Guide to Dating Zombies. (Potatoworks Press. 2012)

Murphy, David P. Zombies for Zombies. The Play and Werk Buk: the World's Bestselling Inactivity Guide for the Living Dead. (Sourcebooks, 2010)

Ryan, Carrie. The Forest of Hands and Teeth. (Delacorte Press, 2010)

Shan, Darren. Zom-B Underground. (Little, Brown and Company, 2013)

Shan, Darren. Zom-B City. (Little, Brown and Company, 2013)

Stine, R. L. Zombie Town. (Amazon Pub, 2001)

Stine, R. L. Why I Quit Zombie School. (Scholastic, 2011)

Van Lowe, Ehrich. Never Slow Dance with A Zombie. (Tor, 2009)

Zombies Vs. Unicorns. (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010) - Twelve short stories by a variety of authors seek to answer the question of whether zombies are better than unicorns.

Survival Guides and How to Books

Austin, John, So Now You're A Zombie A Handbook for the Newly Undead. (Chicago Review Press, 2010)

Brooks, Max. The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead. (Three Rivers Press, 2003)

DuBrallier, Max. Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?. (Gallery Books, 2011)

Durick, Rod. Filming the Undead: How to Make Your Own Zombie Movie. (Barron's, 2011)

Ma, Roger. The Zombie Combat Manual. (Berkley Books, 2010)

McGhoul, J.D. and Pat Kilbane. The Brain Eater's Bible: Sound Advice for the Newly Reanimated Zombie. (St. Martin's Griffin, 2012)

Nguyen, Duy. Zombigami: Paper Folding for the Living Dead. (Sterling Children's Books, 2011)

Valentino, Serena. How To Be a Zombie: The Essential Guide for Anyone Who Craves Brains. (Candlewick Press, 2010)

Reference works, Histories and Criticisms

Brown, Nathan Robert. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Zombies. (Alpha, 2010)

Dendle, Peter. The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia. (Mcfarland, 2011)

Drezner, Daniel W. Theories of International Politics and Zombies. (Princeton University Press, 2011) - looks at how well-known theories from international relations might be applied to a war with zombies.

Kay, Glenn. Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide. (Chicago Review Press, 2012)

Russell, Jamie. Book of the Dead: The Complete History of Zombie Cinema. (FAB, 2005)

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