I’m a little bummed that I’ve kind of reached the saturation point on my ability to consume zombie fiction. I’ve jumped from “I love zombies!” to “I hate your zombies; your zombies are not pure enough for my discerning zombie tastes.”
So that sucks.
The trouble, most definitely, is that there’s a wealth of terrible zombie content out there. It would seem as though such films are easy to make, or at least cheap, because they’ve flooded Netflix. For a while, I could watch all them to see what they were like, but it’s really rare to come across anything that’s not well-worn territory at this point.
This is particularly rough for me because I really enjoy good zombie fiction. Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead title has been really great so far, pushing the brand of quality story seen in the graphic novel of the same name, but the question there is, really — how often is that game about zombies? Not very often, really. The world is overrun by the vicious undead, but the story is rarely directly concerns dealing with them. They’re hazards and obstacles, but they take up very little screen time. The story is mostly about the humans as they fall apart under the pressure of their new world.
That has a lot to do with the weaknesses of the zombie genre as it currently stands. Zombies are not a means to their own end, and when they’re treated as such, they’re sort of boring. Rotting corpses that eat stuff aren’t just played out, they’re a trope that is incredibly well-established and repetitive.
Everyone uses basically the same zombie rules, and every zombie movie story works in basically the same way. While there’s something to having the fiction function in a predictable way, having all the stories include the same basics gets old. Every zombie story you see or read has the same core, and so it’s rare that a zombie story is surprising.
Vampire fiction provides a good parallel situation for the dilemma. Lots of vampire stories of late have altered the rules, played with the fiction, and twisted the tropes just enough to make them fresh but familiar — especially now that vampires as a genre have become so popular. Zombie fiction can and should take a page from that development, lest it become so irritating that it falls out of favor with the public.
That’s where I am right now. I have a few zombie stories both written and in the brain that I’d like to get to at some point. It may be too late, though, and it may just be an exercise is providing myself with the zombie stories I want to read. Meantime, I’m seeking out what fresh takes on the genre I can get, like <em>Boneshaker</em> by Cherie Priest and <em>This Dark Earth</em> by John Horner Jacobs. I read the former and enjoyed it (it’s a steam punk alternate history story) and have heard good things about the latter.
Any good zombie story suggestions? Special emphasis on stuff that’s off the beaten path — although I tend to stay away from stories in which zombies are characters and not, well, zombies.