Cargo: A Tropfest 2013 finalist

This is such a heartbreaking film of a man trying to save his baby in the zombie apocalypse.

It needs to have this disclaimer on it:

Lie Down, Try Not to Cry, Cry A Lot
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The Resurgence of Zombie Narratives

A zombie episode of ABC’s Radio National Books and Arts Daily program was broadcast on Friday the 22nd of February 2013 with academic Sarah Juliet Lauro (@zombiescholar), the showrunner for the Walking Dead, Glen Mazzara (@GlenMazzara), zombie fanatic Chuck McKenzie (@notionsun) and horror author Robert Hood (@undeadhood). I was very happy to live-tweet the show for them!

Below is the storify, but you can also download the episode here.

  1. RT @RNBooksAndArts: Tomorrow’s show with @zombiescholar, @glenmazzara, @undeadhood and more presented by Zombie Cathcart http://pic.twitter.com/i8boiRrGuQ
  2. Today on @RNBooksAndArts 10am – the rise of the #zombie in pop culture, high art and political protests. ow.ly/hVPhp
  3. Welcome to the year of the zombie! But what has started this re-emergence in their popularity? #abcrn
  4. The original zombie was a pathetic being, & @zombiescholar research is into how it transformed into the monster of today #abcrn
  5. @zombiescholar says a theory of recent popularity is related to the dis-empowerment of people through the weak economy #abcrn
  6. @zombiescholar – The zombie is a convenient myth as to how we face the evils of humanity, without being so blunt about it #abcrn
  7. @zombiescholar – The zombie is a monster we can really put any form of social anxiety on top of, fear of economy, terrorism, war, etc #abcrn
  8. Zombies are always about slavery even our slavery to consume says @zombiescholar
  9. There’s a rebelliousness in zombies, the myth having coming from Haitian revolution. Not just slavery, but defiance of power #abcrn
  10. There is deeper meaning in cultural works than people usually give it credit for, and this works for zombies #abcrn
  11. Zombies entered movies because they weren’t copyrighted says @zombiescholar
  12. Micael with @glennmazzara, exec producer of The Walking Dead http://pic.twitter.com/rNjPWbwYrB
  13. Up now with @glenmazzara on #abcrn – showrunner for The Walking Dead (executive producer, head writer, working with directors, edits, etc)
  14. @glenmazzara is a promoter of the showrunner model. It’s about consistency of story and character growth #abcrn
  15. The Walking Dead is about the choices people make when there’s no one to rely on (govt, army etc) and how they survive #abcrn
  16. We’ve lost faith in big institutions. The Walking Dead taps into the idea that we don’t feel we can rely on them #abcrn
  17. @glenmazzara was always a horror fan: there’s something simple about zombies with less mythology than other monsters #abcrn
  18. The Walking Dead zombies are modeled on Romero’s zombies and try to stay true to the rules he created. #abcrn
  19. From Day Land of the Dead, the zombies are adapting, Glen says The Walking Dead zombies won’t quite go that way #abcrn
  20. The rage virus (28 Days Later) isn’t a real zombie, according to their rules. People love fast zombies, but TWD maintain slow zoms #abcrn
  21. The directors change for each episode, so containing the story and style is most important with an ongoing series #abcrn
  22. @RNBooksAndArts referring to The Omega Man – the book, I Am Legend, was actually great inspiration for Romero’s works #abcrn
  23. Best zombie books (Chuck): Mira Grant’s Feed series, Zone One by Colson Whitehead, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies #abcrn
  24. What’s your favourite zombie book? I rather love Generation Dead by Daniel Waters and Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion #abcrn
  25. Cross-genre books are the go now-a-days for zombies – zomliterary, zomromance, zomerotica… #abcrn
  26. Rob Hood: zombies don’t really have the mythological background that vampires do. #abcrn
  27. Rob writes both children’s fiction and zombies that are much more for adult readers #abcrn
  28. There are actually a few zombie books for children. I do want to read ‘That’s not your mommy anymore’ #abcrn
  29. Rob: End of the world scenarios are very popular at the moment, dealing with no social structure and dealing with other people #abcrn
  30. Is the zombie still the American myth? Rob: Italy loves zombies! Technically, walking dead have existed for a long time in tales #abcrn
  31. And that’s it for zombies at #abcrn ! Stay safe and keep up the cardio!
  32. There’s a range of Australian writers who meddle with zombies, check out some of them here: nyssaharkness.wordpress.com… (incl Chuck & Rob)
  33. Margaret Atwood’s serial zombies are here wattpad.com/story/2426517-t… She’s on Monday’s show

Dungeons and Dragons: The Zombie Edition

**This was posted earlier, but as it went live, WordPress lost all the content and backups of it. -_- **

Okay, not the most original of all tabletop gaming, but my sister and I will be co-authoring a zombie apocalypse game! We decided we wanted to play one, but our DM has given over the story building to us (we are brilliantly creative, however not so good at numbers, so DM is investigating different systems we could use).

This is very exciting and fun. After a few days of research, tomorrow we’re going to Skype and argue which is the best way to go – alien zombies, terrorist zombies, panacea created zombies. Part of it will be creating the encounters, as constant hordes of shufflers would be particularly boring, and the NPCs. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of length in zombie stories (The Walking Dead flailed with its little plot arms in S2 and parts of S3). With the links below, I found quite a few L4D adventures and discussions. The range of zombies in L4D is brilliant, although I will be scarred forever by hunter/witch love fan fiction.

I want to go non-magic. A few fireballs would deal with even a moderate sized horde. Another issue, depending on the system the DM helps us find, is classes. Everyone would want to be a cleric for turn undead. Or modern, everyone wants to be from the army or group of survivalists with all the skills they could possibly need. The best zombie podcast, We’re Alive, has a few soldiers, but florists, janitors, psychologists, lawyers too. How to make those people useful will be part of the challenge for the players.

So we’ll be exploring zombies and tabletop gaming in this experiment, and for the meantime to entertain you, here’s some of the sites I’ve found useful so far.

 

Links:

General Suggestions/Tips/Ideas

7 Tips for a Zombie Campaign
Zombie survival flowchart
How to run killer zombie campaigns

Other zombie/similar games:

Forum discussion on L4D campaign
L4D Adventure (using 4e)L4D Monsters
Zombie RPG/DnD Style Game
Zombie rules (modern variant)
Blood and Brains – Zombie Hunters ($$)

Human cruelty

One of the clearest themes in horror, and other genres besides, is pointing out human cruelty. The desire to stay alive in a zombie apocalypse leads some people to sacrifice others so they can live (usually rich and rude jerks we don’t care about living anyway). One of my favourite Twilight Zone episodes is The Shelter, where people do ask ‘Why should your family live while mine dies?’

In Zombies, Vampires and Philosophy, Leah Murray refers to Thomas Hobbes claim that life in a “state of nature”, without government or authority, is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” . Murray extends this to the zombie apocalypse, looking at Romero’s Dead series. In thinking about recent battlegrounds, you could go further and apply this to jerks on the inernet – with anonymity and seeming no authority or law, people are free to call you whatever negative terms they can think of (although I do think ‘baddie’ is a stupid term).

Hiding away food, weapons, information is fairly common – especially outside of horror. But there are other examples of human cruelty that is not against each other. Cruelty against weak/helpless zombies is common, usually red necks picking them off, blowing them up, stringing them up and using them as target practise. Admittedly, this could just be a reflection of what could be our cruelty to each other if we had anarchy.

There’s nothing in the world I love like a person who likes and is kind to animals, especially my cat. There are quite a few heroes in the zombpocalypse who still look after animals and share meager stores with them (non-zombiepocalypses too!). Human cruelty is seen in so many ways and with varying levels of severity. Some see horse jumping as cruelty. Dog fights are definitely cruel. I forget where it’s from, whether academic or fiction, but I remember a saying that our civilisations worth is based upon how we treat our smallest, our weakest.

Racism and Sexism

Despite all the various undead from myths around the world of physical beings rising from the grave, it’s generally accepted that it is from the Haitian Voodoo that we developed our media monster of the zombie. Zombie fiction is often defined as post-colonial – “a term for a collection of … strategies used to examine the culture of former colonies of the European empires and their relation to the rest of the world … [and] share many assumptions: they question the salutary effects of the empire … and raise such issues as racism and exploitation” (Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory: Approaches, Scholars, Terms By Irene Rima Makaryk).

In particularly the older zombie movies based around Voodoo, the natives are seen as superstitious to the extreme (which the white characters of the film dismiss as primitive) and are entirely unable to help themselves from the threat without outside (white) help. Just having watched Zombi 2 (Aka Zombie, and a billion other names) by Fulci, this Italian movie from the 70s replays that same role. Abhorrent as it is to us now, some of the actors in these early films were in black-face makeup. White Zombie is one of them, a story about a zombie master using black zombies as slaves in his mill, the threat of which is to frighten and control the population, but it all changes when he concocts a zombie potion for a white woman for a man who is not her to-be-husband to take over her. When the man no longer desires her without the sparkle and life in her eyes, the zombie master takes her for himself.

Romero is regarded highly for breaking away from this. His zombies do not relate to voodoo and ‘black’ magic, but are of unknown origin. The hero in the Night of the Living Dead is African American. Chosen because he was the best actor the producers knew and not for the colour of his skin (huzzah!), this was a big change for cinema and a shock to 1968. Romero’s follow up film, Dawn of the Dead had a deliberate scene of racial intolerance, where a community of apartment dwellers (mostly African American, Hispanic and Puerto Rican) are protecting their beloved ones who are now zombies. They are attacked by a SWAT team, mostly white, who firing off shots and racist insults with little regard (Check out American Zombie Gothic by Kyle Bishop for more).

Racism is in gaming too, with a lot of anger directed towards the makers of Resident Evil 5 in which a white hero kills all the infected whom are all black, being in an African village. There is of course, corners of defense for this (although reading the comments on some sites about it make me personally angry for people suggesting that there are no race issues anymore since Barack Obama came to office. *headdesk*)

~

There’s the old stereotype of horror films that if a person with dark skin is in the movie, he will be one of the first to die. And if there is a girl, she will have weak ankles, trip over and be taken over by the monster.

Already having mentioned White Zombie about the control of a white woman, women in particularly early movies are pretty weak. They sometimes don’t even fight back (although a fight between a woman and a zombie in Zombi 2 has a particularly gory scene which I almost had to turn away from). In the 70s and 80s, there’s also a lot of female nakedness in zombie movies (so many breasts everywhere!). There’s rape scenes, too,  in a few of the zombie movies. which are really very disturbing (and would be a tirgger for many who have been sexually harrassed or raped themselves).

Fran in Dawn of the Dead, while the men were casually talking about if she should abort her baby, with her not even included in the discussion, provides the only voice of reason that they should move on rather than stay in the mall. Despite her home-making and cooking their little apartment they create, she is the only one pro-active, wanting to learn both to defend herself and learn to fly the helicopter. Fran isn’t the best example, but she is far from the weak and almost comatose Barbra from Night of the Living Dead. In Day of the Dead, Sarah is strong and smart and capable, but looked down upon by the military men who threaten her with death and rape.

Alice from the Resident Evil movies is the ultimate weapon against zombies. She’s not willing to sit by and let it all happen. While not all women in zombie stories are as familiar with weapons and fighting, they still provide much more assistance to the group’s survival. There’s a number of women in the We’re Alive podcast (which I love to undeath!), both strong and not so strong. It would be hard mentally for any person to adapt to zombies and pure survival after such a rich existence as we have now – and that’s the point of most of the zombie stories.

~

While society (despite what those silly comments on that gaming site said) still struggle with racial and gender issues, our fiction will reflect the same and especially in horror where our deepest desires and anxieties lay, and yet we can only deal with them by percieving the monster. The monster makes it seem that it’s not so close, not so near, but equality, as survival, is worth fighting for. And however strange it seems, this desire for equality is what is reflected in zombie romance brazenly!

As always, I’m still learning about these topics, but find it fascinating how we deal with these issues in horror and with zombies.