Zombie Perspectives (with bonus Zombie Sex)

Had to get your attention somehow. I have no regrets! Anyway, my friend started it:

Someone wants to go there with me! Excellent XD

So this blog will be an overview of books that include books from a zombie’s perspective, or has a zombie-human romance (some books classed as zombie romances are human-human relations during a zombie apocalypse. If you want that, go look at Kylie Scott!). These summaries will be spoiler-free – it takes info from either the first chapter or the blurb. If we want to be technical, these are not all really capital-R Romances (as in genre), but rather contain romantic elements. If you have any suggestions for other books I should add here (or buy!), let me know!

Flesh (Flesh, #1)Skin (Flesh, #2)

Zombie Perspectives

There is a bit of overlap, so these are the non-relationship ones.
DustDust is centred around Jessie, a zombie. She has a nice little zombie gang and society going on. Their world starts to change when they notice new creatures in the woods, ones that blur the boundaries between living and dead even more than before.
Keywords: First Person POV, Zombie Perspective, Known in society, Apocalyptic, Infectious, Series

Dead Mann Walking (Hessius Mann #1)

This is sort of a noir story with a PI down on his luck – except the PI is a zombie. In this world, there is a ‘cure’ for death. In Mann’s case he was executed for his wife’s murder and later found to be innocent of the crime, so he was resurrected. There’s still a barrier between zombies and ‘livebloods’ in society, so he doesn’t get hired much.
Keywords: First Person POV, Zombie Perspective, Known in society, Series

Pay Me in Flesh (Mallory Caine, Zombie-at-Law, #1)Mallory Caine is an attorney and a zombie. She still needs flesh (especially brains) to survive after she died and was mysteriously resurrected by someone a year ago. Zombies and vampires aren’t known in society, so her dietary requirements, the true nature has to be hidden from everyone, including a certain persistent ex-boyfriend.
Keywords: First POV, Zombie Perspective, Urban Fantasy, Not known in society, Zombie Master, Series
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Zombie Romance &/Or Sex
Nightshifted (Edie Spence, #1)Edie is a nurse in County Hospital on the special shift – the one with vampires, weres, zombies. These creatures live under the radar of normal society, but they deserve proper medical attention too! And in the case of one handsome zombie, a bit of a different type of attention…
Keywords: First Person POV, Urban Fantasy, Not known in society, Series

Reaper's TouchThis one comes out Feb 10 from Carina Press. It is a post-apocalyptic steampunk Western with zombies … and some luvvins! It’s been much recommended to me by friends, but since I haven’t read it, here’s the blurb from GoodReads: Abby is a Ranger, part of an elite group who defend the border against Reapers—humans infected with a parasite that turns them into mindless cannibals. Rangers are immune to Reaper infection, and as one of the only female Rangers, Abby is expected to settle down and breed more Rangers—a fate she’s keen to avoid. When she’s ambushed on the plains, she’s ready to go out with guns blazing—until a mysterious, handsome cowboy rides to her rescue.

Keywords: Third Person POV, Zombie perspective, Zombie-human relationship, Paranormal Romance, Known in Society, Series, Infectious, Apocalyptic

Generation Dead (Generation Dead, #1)Teens across the country start waking up from their death. They are a bit fuzzy around the edges, but so is society – teens have always been seen as difficult, but the entire culture needs to adapt to these resurrected kids. Challenging the suspicions of society, Phoebe falls in love with a zombie (“differently biotic”) boy.
Keywords: Third Person POV, Zombie perspective, Zombie-human relationship, YA, Paranormal romance, Known in society, Series

Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies, #1)R is a zombie, who spends most of his days aimlessly walking around an airport or in his plane. One trip to town will change his life as he falls in love with a girl just trying to survive in the apocalypse. This book is different from the movie, and I’d argue it’s much better!
Keywords: First Person POV, Zombie perspective, YA, Paranormal romance, Known in society, Infectious, Apocalyptic, Zombie-human relationship

Dearly, Departed (Gone With the Respiration, #1)Set in post-apocalyptic neo-Victorian world, Nora Dearly is captured by the living dead. But these are the good guys, a military unit of zombies protecting her from the real monsters. She is determined to find out the truth of what is going on, and not even the handsome Bram can stop her from discovering the secrets of the dead.
Keywords: First Person POV, Zombie perspective, YA, Paranormal romance, Infectious, Zombie-human relationship, Series

I Kissed a Zombie, and I Liked ItAlley lives in a world of post-humans; vampires, werewolves, zombies and really isn’t impressed by their brooding emo attitude. She didn’t realise he was a zombie when she fell head over heels for Doug. How does one date the undead?
Keywords: First Person POV, YA, Paranormal romance, Zombie-human relationship,
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Extras

Breathers: A Zombie's LamentAndy wakes up from a tragic car accident that killed his wife … and himself. It’s hard to find anything to live for or do, he just lives in his parent’s basement (to the disgust of his father), and attends (useless) therapy and Undead Anonymous meetings where he meets the sexy Rita – a recent suicide.
Keywords: First POV, Zombie perspective, Known in society, Zombie-zombie relationship

My Life as a White Trash Zombie (White Trash Zombie, #1)

Angel Crawford’s life is nothing to envy, an alcoholic dad, a high school dropout, criminal record. Waking up after dying is a weird experience, and it only gets stranger when she finds a mysterious letter offering her a new job – at the county morgue. Complete with a new craving for brains, she has a second chance at life … sort of.
Keywords: First Person POV, Zombie perspective, Not known in society, Urban fantasy, Series

Die for Me (Revenants, #1)This book isn’t exactly zombies, but related – revenants (they use the term zombies as a joke). Kate has moved to Paris with her sister after the death of their parents, she is at a loss of how to deal with her life. Until she meets the handsome and mysterious Vincent, but being with him is not going to be easy. He has enemies, and being with him means that they are also now after Kate.
Keywords: First Person POV, Not known in society, YA, Paranormal romance, Series

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The Problem of Genre

I just read this post and the comments (omg comments that are actual discussion and not trolling! Weird!) on Pamela Regis’ The Natural History of the Romance Novel. It’s a book I have yet to get, but have been recommended it for my thesis because of its importance in romance scholarship. Since I haven’t read it, I can’t comment much on the book in general, but the author of the blog, Noah Berlatsky, brings up something of great interest to me: the problem of genre and its definitions and tropes.

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Regis refers to romance as having eight essential elements, which according to some, at once restricts the definition of romance to a set formula and chokes the potential for originality in the genre. Berlatsky is particularly critical of people who enforce the genre boundaries. He uses the example of an editor who sticks by the Essential Elements list to make authors change their stories to “better fit” the romance genre, thus influencing directly the limitations of how the genre is presented. Great literature is built on change, so he asks – do we actually need definitions?

Genres (and categories) are redefined all the time – they are “fuzzy and socially determined and always negotiated” (Berlatsky). Regis admitted in 2009 that her original definition including specific gender terms was excluding gay and bisexual romances, so the gendered terms turned into the neutral “protagonists”. There is also a problem in WHO defines the genre – genre is used most usefully by the publishing industry/process itself (including self-publishers). But readers are also important in the process (after all, that’s the whole point of publishing – to get the product to the consumers). The whole system of defining genres depends on each type of person invested in the genre. Look at the creation of the New Adult category.

Definitions are sort of useful in some ways. YA (a category, not a genre) is defined (by some) as “fictive texts which have an implied teenage audience; that is, books which either feature protagonists of a secondary school age (twelve to eighteen years), or, it is reasonable to suppose, would be read by those in this age group”. This is a rather loose descriptor, but fits quite well as it doesn’t impose rules. YA can be any genre. While YA is considered largely to be written in first person present tense, there is no rule saying it can’t be otherwise. There are trends and tropes, but they vary as well. Could a loose descriptor rather than a strict definition be the way to go?

IMHO, Genres (and categories) shouldn’t be used to limit new creations – society itself depends on creativity and change to grow (and society is always in a state of flux). As much as I’m not a fan of Deleuze, he referred to art as being its own form of philosophy, capable of true freedom from the strict rules of reality and able to bend the laws of time and space. I rather like that!

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Various Examples & Random Thoughts

  • Does romance require a Happily Ever After (HEA)? Where is the line between a Romance or a book containing romantic elements? (I’m having this very problem in creating criteria for my thesis)
  • Does the reliance of some fantasy writers on Joseph Campbell’s Heroes Journey restrict creativity? (E.g. This is not only used in writing books, it’s also used in analysing movies (thanks Ross for reminding me!). I have also read somewhere that George Lucas relied on it heavily for Star Wars.)
  • Some criticise YA for being too bleak and state that children’s/YA literature should always have a happy, or at least an ambiguous, ending, to inspire hope in the young readers – should this be an excuse?
  • Sometimes with popular books, they can cross genres/categories. If particularly popular, this will require a change in marketing and cover design (e.g. Harry Potter as the most obvious, Allison Croggon’s Pellinor). Some books might not be found if categorised in the wrong genre (meta-data=super important!).

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*Note: Funnily enough on the same day, I saw a link to an article about someone who went through and analysed the genres/categories on Netflix.

** Urge to go on about narrow definitions of monsters that lead to exclusion, but I’ll leave that for another blog. Until then, there is this blog about why sparkly vampires don’t suck as much as you think

Review: Thyla and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Both reviews originally posted on A Writer Goes On A Journey
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Thyla by Kate GordonThyla by Kate Gordon (Australian Author)

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

In Tasmania, a wild and damaged creature is found in the bush: a girl with no memory but for her name. As Tessa starts recovering from her injuries, she is placed in a boarding school by a kind policewoman who lost her own daughter, Cat, in the bush. Tessa knows there is something more to her and Cat’s story, and while she is afraid to find out why she has huge slashes across her back, she made a promise.

In a world of carbon copy YA paranormal, Thyla is truly unique. It’s written in the style of part diary, part letter, where Tessa is describing to Connolly, the policewoman who found her, about her memories and day to day life. Having her write to “you” instantly draws you into the story.

Tessa is a broken girl, and your heart goes out to her. She is truly wild and her knowledge has strange gaps like it, like not knowing what waffles are and her memories of what a school is are very old-fashioned. She’s a strange girl, but fiercely loyal to Connolly and her promise to find out what happened to Cat.

As is usual with books, you try to fill in the gaps yourself based upon your past experiences with other books in a similar genre. With Thyla, you won’t get any of it right. Gordon is an intricate master of plotting and story development. One thing in particular is that there aren’t that many YA paranormal novels set in Australia, and rather than just being the scenery, Gordon weaves the history and culture of Australia into the story.

Thyla is a brilliant young adult novel where you’ll be left itching for more, although once you begin it, you probably won’t thank the author for keeping you up all night to finish it!

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PPZPride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

My Rating: 4.6/5

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains. Thus is the Bennet’s existence in Regency England, surrounded by unmentionables, yet still being harassed by Mrs Bennet to go to balls and meet a rich husband. Of course, real ladies never say the ‘Z’ word. Far from being able to afford ninjas brought in from Japan, Mr Bennet has made sure his girl’s education includes the deadly arts that they may be able to protect themselves from the dreadful menace.

What was surely near the beginning of the fad of the Massics (Monsters in Classics), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies stands out as a tremendous story, with the zombies so closely weaved into the original Austen text and world. Graeme-Smith stayed true to Regency England and Austen’s characters, with the added flair of zombies (sorry, Unmentionables!), including the class system.

The charm and unique romance of the original story, and the ever-dashing Mr Darcy, is kept complete, and the emergence of the zombies is added spice to the original classic tale. There’s always the risk that in using an original text or myth, straying too far will make readers point out the discrepancies, and staying too close within the confines of the original text will be damned for being too gentle. Seth Grahame-Smith both respects Austen’s works and doesn’t let the original interfere with the parody.

This parody is delightfully difficult to dislike, even for those who previously kept away from Austen like a plague. Pride and Prejudice is improved all the more for the dreadfuls, the balls are more engaging, the merest cough a fearful sign, and still Mrs Bennet is in the background bemoaning that her daughters shall never be wed if they continue to disregard womanly modesty by slaying zombies left, right and centre.

Review: Burnt Snow by Van Badham

Burnt SnowBurnt Snow by Van Badham

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sophie is the new girl at school, with a strange and overbearing mother, trying to manage the bitchy popular group and a strange boy who catches her eye. As she reaches towards him, the strangest things begin to happen and Sophie starts to think that it’s not just Brody that is the danger.

As typical as this short summary sounds, the book is nothing what you expect. It is really well-written and a lot more twisted than I could ever explain without spoiling the book. It is quite a hefty read for a YA single volume, just about 700 pages. The plot flirts with danger for the most part before it reveals its secrets. I don’t mind that it took a long time for Sophie to discover more about the world, some books plots just have a switch flicked and suddenly the world changes, this gradual development is much deeper and more emotional for the reader.

Sophie is not the typical YA main character either. Her family is quite more complicated than it appears as well. While she does have her flaws and weakness, she is not a Mary-Sue whose only flaw is she cares too much. Badham has done a brilliant job in creating a character and a love that does not follow the typical simpering love story of most YA. We actually get to see the character grow, beyond just the plot and love interest but actually maturing in herself.

Badham also plays with her references, which I loved. At a costume party, most want to go as vampires with sparkles, to which there is the groaning and rolling of eyes. She doesn’t coddle her characters either, although I did feel a particular situation involving Sophie’s new friends acting out of sorts (for good reason) was dealt with a little too easy.

Again, as is the problem with a lot of good books, is the wait for the next book (although it does not say it anywhere on the cover, it is actually to be part of a trilogy). There’s no doubt in my mind that I will chase after White Rain as soon as it appears (although it says in the book and on multiple websites that it’s coming in 2011, I did manage to find a post on the Facebook as late as Sept 2012 that said it was coming soon). With some minor flaws, Burnt Snow is a strong book that stands out in a genre awash with simplistic plots and even simpler characters.

View all my reviews

ZomRom is misunderstood

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about zombie romance, particularly with the upcoming movie of the brilliant Warm Bodies. People read the synopsis and think they know all the depths of a zombie romance. But there are elements of classic zombie texts in zombie romance too, and compared to vampires, zombies make way better boyfriends!

 

Brilliant artist Matt Busch recreated some of the best movie posters into zombie posters with his Hollywood is Dead series. Click on the picture for his website.

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Vampires are undead too

If anyone mentions necrophilia with zombies only, remind them that vampires are corpses too. Sex is not an essential part of a romance story, and if you really want to think about it, how do vampires get aroused when they have no blood to … stiffen. These zombie romances are young adult books, not erotica (although I’m sure there is some out there!). They are about first kisses and dates to the movies, not horny and sex-obsessed (which most vampires seem to be – True Blood, I kissed a zombie and I liked it.)

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Zombies – the gentle lover

Vampires are dominating creatures in any text, they usually have super human strength, mind reading or controlling abilities and other powers that put them at a distinct advantage over humans. Vampires take advantage of this in many texts, or even use human-like manipulation and psychological warfare, constantly reminding the humans how useless they are, how small, how insignificant, how defenceless against the vampires.

Zombies in romance texts are much more gentle. They are not forceful, never mash their mouths against a woman against her will. They are seen are weak one on one, only powerful in hordes, and it could be this that makes them softer. They are content with basic touches, of hands, hair, hugs.

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Humans, best served warm

There’s a few ways that zombie romances get around the whole cannibalism thing. Some zombies just exist as corpses, not requiring any food. Some use medication to control their urges. Some just have self-control. Authors do come up with interesting ways to control their zombies.  There are ways of controlling vampires too, but as they are dominating creatures, they usually find ways around the control. In most texts, without food, the vampire will perish or enter a type of coma. Even in zombie-as-enemy texts, zombies don’t need food. They crave to consume, but can last a long time without food.

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Conciousness is essential

Zombie romance is not the only texts that include zombies with self awareness. Many zombie-as-enemy texts have self-conciousness as well, even in Romero’s work, so it doesn’t go against the lore of the zombie (if there is really any lore, Romero is the definition). Self-awareness is important in their journey. While vampires can choose to become vampires, zombies are always the victim.

 

Happy Zom-pocalypse!

I had an awesome birthday party with friends and family at the archery range (Australia has a lot of gun laws, and bows are quieter) and then watched the extended (and original) Dawn of the Dead.

Allison and I got a bullseye at the same time!

And of course, I got a lot of zombie related presents! Or book vouchers, which I turned into zombie related presents. So even if reading about my birthday is boring, here’s a list of the books I’ve gotten.

Kyle William Bishop has written a huge amount of intelligent and insightful zombie articles, and this book is one I’ve been dying to get for ages. He is very well referenced in a lot of other articles and theses. This book goes through the entire evolution of the zombie from it’s start in voodoo, and of course, throughout the Romero era. In particular, I’ve been looking forward to a chapter called ‘Humanizing the Living Dead’.

Fred Botting is a staple of any gothic or horror related article or thesis. He wrote the hugely referenced book The Gothic in 1996, but I chose this one as it was published in 2010 and relates to horror and science fiction with looks into cyberspace, posthuman machines and inhuman technology. I might end up getting The Gothic as well, but this one was on sale.

Considering the influences of vampires on zombie lore (e.g. the use of bite = infection/change, and famously, I am Legend was a huge influence on Romero and is often confused for a zombie novel), this looks awesome. Reading academic reviews of it, it isn’t the most in-depth or detailed, particularly for those who are highly read in the subjects already, but considering I’m just starting out my research, it will be useful.

A non-zombie book! *le gasp* I’m hoping that this book will be helpful in establishing cultural and societal anxieties, and how humanity adapted. This will also be related to another thesis idea I have (with science fiction texts) and hope to explore in a masters or doctors thesis. I do absolutely love (and am very amused at) how much the sex industry contributes to technology.

Now for fiction! Dust looks fascinating, as it’s one of the few books which looks at zombies from the zombies point of view (also seen in Warm Bodies, or Life as a White Trash Zombie). This looks at life as a posthuman, and while humans are scared of zombies, what is it that can scare the monster? One of the biggest problems with zombies is that they are really hard to make into sympathetic characters (but it can be done!), so I’m looking forward to seeing how Turner deals with this.

This just looks fantastic to me. Society has devolved back to Victorian customs (love the clothing!) and while there are evil zombies, there are SAS-like squads of good zombies. One thing that drives me nuts about fantasy is that so many reviewers relate every fantasy back to Tolkien (even if they’ve never read Tolkien … ><), and what makes me start foaming at the mouth about zom-rom is that people who don’t know better just say it’s a rip off of Twilight. I’ve already ranted about this before, but in looking at reviews of this book, I saw the same thing again. That’s more a problem with the whole Cult of the Amateur. For me, I can’t wait to read this!

Literary history of the undead

It’s been mentioned in a few articles I’ve read lately, but zombies are special in that they weren’t established in literature before heading to the silver screen. They aren’t European or Gothic monsters. Although undead have been around forever in various myths and stories, academics (e.g Kyle William Bishop) agree that zombies really came into Western thought through Haiti. There are European and Gothic undead, or works which seem to be related to the modern zombie (e.g Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Edgar Allen Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher or Masque of the Red Death – a personal fave), and you can see reflections of the vampire in modern zombie myth as well (particularly with the influence of I am Legend by Richard Matheson on Romero. Some mistake I am Legend for a zombie story).

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The earliest texts that mention zombies are actually non-fiction, such as William Seabrook’s The Magic Island. Zora Neale Hurston wrote Tell my horse about her experiences through Haiti and Jamaica and voodoo, including a zombie incident in Haiti. Black Baghdad and Cannibal Cousins by John H Craige tell of Voodoo rituals and cannibalism.

As discussed in the first podcast of Zombies – The Living Dead in Literature (by the University of Alabama), zombies came around the time of the beginnings of cinema, and while there were plays and dramas of these zombies, the cinematic zombies could essentially rip off the earlier versions by claiming they are all based on non-fiction texts, bypassing copyright and ownership law. This is the case with the first movie White Zombie. The producer of the 1929 stage play ‘Zombie’ attempted to sue those in charge of White Zombie for similarities and failed.

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For fiction, there are quite a few short stories which did include the Haitian voodoo zonbi (there’s a lot of different spellings to indicate the original Haitian zonbi, nzambi, etc to it’s modern myth counterpart, the zombie)  include Salt is not for Slaves by G W Hutter (salt will cause the zombi to become concious of their state) , The House in the Magnolias by August Derleth (A woman from Haiti is run out of the country for enslaving zombis, only to go to America and continue her black magic there), Song of the Slaves by Manly Wade Wellman (with an American as the bad guy rather than a Haitian or African). A lot of essays mention H P Lovecraft’s Herbert West – Re-animator series in the 1920’s (Movie version: Jeffrey Combs, for the freaking win!), but this story is more about science than voodoo, and doesn’t use the term zombie. Lovecraft wrote in letters that it was intended as a parody of Frankenstein.

The novels (which are damned hard to find) came a little later, more around the time of the zombie movies, such as The Whistling Ancestors by Richard Goddard (a story of evil racist megalomaniacs), You Can’t Hang the Dead by Leslie Carroll (I can’t find a copy of this at all or enough information to share, except that it’s a zombie story) and A Grave Must Be Deep by Theodore Roscoe (a voodoo mystery!). Voodoo was particularly popular with crime writers at the time.

Which story first uses the word zombie is contested. Most essays agree that it’s William Seabrook’s travelogue (1929), but some other essays say that it’s from ‘The Country of the Comers-Back’ by Lacfcadio Hearn (1889), and yet another essay says that the term actually was first published in French with Le Zombi du Grand Perou, ou la comtesse de Cocagne by Pierre-Corneille Bloessebois.

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It’s fascinating to read about ‘original’ voodoo zombies, compared to the modern. The old are a mix of racism and post-colonial literature, most having been published after the Haitian Revolution and the burst of literature of zombies and voodoo is through the years of the US occupation of Haiti. Zombies, either possessed corpses or the living who were poisoned with a concoction to mimic death and then enslaved, are products of sorcery and magic. I can only think of a few modern examples of this use of magic (beware Native American burial grounds!).

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Recommended Reading:

White Zombie by Kieran M Murphy in Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, VOl 15, no 1

The Zombie Media Monster and its Evolution as a Sign and Historical Allegory by Ryan Lizardi, Masters Thesis

The Story of Zombi in Haiti by Louis P Mars in Man, vol 45

The Modern Zombie: Living Death in the Technological Age by Sarah Juliet Lauro, PHD thesis

Zombies Before Romero by Tony Chestor, article for the UK World Horror Convention in 2010 (found here)