Spooky Reads: Zombie Fatigue

Kit Steinkellner

Staff Writer

Kit Steinkellner is a playwright, screenwriter, and creative writing teacher. She also writes about books and reading  at Books Are My Boyfriends. Follow her onTwitter: @BooksAreMyBFs

I used to like zombies, I really did.

When I saw 28 Days Later (almost ten years ago now) I thought to myself “Wow, a monster movie where you think it’s the zombies that are the monsters but in the end, SURPRISE TWIST IT’S ACTUALLY THE HUMANS THAT ARE THE MONSTERS! Mind sufficiently blown!”

When I saw Sean of the Dead three years later I thought to myself “Wow, a movie that is equal parts horror and comedy! Genre bending! Madness and insanity! Mind reblown!”

I started to wane a little bit when Zombieland rolled around two years ago. It was well written, well cast, well made. But I couldn’t help feeling a little bit like I had basically seen the horror-comedy zombie mash-up years earlier, and was now being served slightly sloppy seconds.

(Yes, I know these are all films, patience, bibliophiles, I’m getting to the books.)

I never actually read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but applauded the spirit of invention behind the mash-up. Sense and Sensibility with Sea Monsters, not so much. Though I would be down for Anna Karenina and Aliens or War and Peace (with Velociraptors). I deeply feel we need more extraterrestrials and prehistoric creatures in our literary mash-up world.

Same thing with World War Z, never read it, absolutely appreciated the ingenuity behind the concept.

So I was okay with zombies at this point. We weren’t kissing under the bleachers high school sweethearts anymore, but we were like, at least still acquaintances that would have a super pleasant three and a half minute conversation if we ran into one another in line at Starbucks.

Then I read The Walking Dead: Compendium One and I was done with zombies. Everyone went whoa-crazy over this comic book (and the subsequent AMC series). But I call shenanigans. The basic plot is the same as the basic plot of every single zombie story ever. Some terrible rabies-like virus breaks out, transforming ninety-five percent of the planet into staggering, bite-y, mouth breathers, and the remaining uninfected humans must band together to survive for as long as they can. The Walking Dead is a serialized story, so basically what happens is horrible events keep happening and happening and characters you like keep dying and dying and the misery keeps getting more and more miserable and it never, ever, ever stops.

I don’t think this is good writing. I actually think it’s “fake good writing.” Good writing is problem solving. And if you just keep throwing problems at your characters without really solving anything, I’m not going to call you a literary genius. I’m going to call you a literary lazy-bones.

Even had it not been for the Endless Plague of Suffering that is The Walking Dead fatigue, I would still be zombie-exhausted. I feel like this monster is just about as overdone in the current zeitgeist as vampires. For some reason, vampire fiction is mocked from here ‘til doomsday while zombies emerge as the Teflon Horror Genre. F*** that noise. You know what zombie fiction is? It’s nerds fantasizing about a world where all the dudes that beat them up and girls that didn’t want to date them have been reduced to the sub-human, and because of all those comic books those nerds read, they alone have the knowledge to stand against the army of the living undead. It’s Dork Porn. Which is okay. You of the nerdsie persuasion get to have your literary equivalent of Hustler. I’m not taking that away from you. Let’s just call it what it is.

Which leaves me with the problem of Colson Whitehead’s Zone One.

I’ve had an ARC of this sucker sitting on my bookshelf since Book Expo America this past spring. It’s by Colson F***ing Whitehead. It’s the ab-fab book podcast Bookrageous’ first Book Club Pick. It’s gotten scads of lovely reviews on GoodReads I should have read this months ago. And here I am, Halloween just around the corner, and I can’t get past page two because that’s how Zombie Prejudiced I am.

This, of course, could not be more obviously my own personal and subjective opinion. Zombies have been popular since people in Haiti made up voodoo. The rest of the world seems to be all about the Adventures of the Undead. I just can’t get myself on the same page as the rest of the world. When it comes to zombies, I’m resigned to be that cranky old man yelling from his porch “Hey, you Reanimated Corpses, get off my lawn!”