Folks, I am busy as fuck this week. I have to write my “Best of Nashville” entries. I have to do some shit with “Frank” because of good news I’m not quite ready to share publicly. But I attribute my good news to the fact that you can sum “Frank” up thusly–“An evil scientist’s zombie henchman teaches a woman to drive a truck.” Who does not want to read that story? But there will be “Frank” stuff that needs my attention when it’s called for, since I thought the good news was going to be taking place next September, when really, it’s like you know, next week. That’s September, right? Almost, anyway.
And the library gave me every book known to the history of humanity over the weekend. Six books all came up as ready for me to take home all at once. I’m through The Haunting of Hill House, as you know. I blew through The Color of Night last night which was fantastic, but not as good as it aspires to be. I’ve never read a book before that failed into an excellent book. It’s just like you could tell the author was aiming for Pluto and landed on Mars. It’s not like landing on Mars isn’t an accomplishment in itself. Of course it is. But it’s obvious he was aiming for Pluto. So, that’s kind of a weird thing.
And next I’m going to start a book the title of which I can’t remember, something like “A Century of Junes” or “A Summer of Junes.” Somehow it’s about the ghosts of American folktales or something. It’s either going to suck or be awesome. But I may have to just return some of these books. I can’t get to them all.
I am, however, even more convinced that zombies and vampires are the same thing–except that vampires have better PR. Reanimated corpses that bite you to turn you into them, who want to consume you? I’m not fooled, popular culture. They’re the same damn thing. There’s probably some class issue here. Vampires can afford good PR. Zombies are stuck sending out their own press releases. And, sure, the people at MyEmma are helpful, but all they can do is help you send out your “ARRGGHH! Brains! Brains!” emails. They can’t spin “We want to eat your brains, but really, it’s hot. It’s like the best sex ever. Come closer.” for you, like the vampires’ PR team can.
There is a fun story in Blood Lite http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Lite-Anthology-Presented-Association/dp/1416567836 about how ghouls have shitty PR but that werewolves and vampires get all the good press.
I just read it a couple of weeks ago. You are right. Zombies don’t get the love.
Real zombies don’t eat brains. That’s an invention for the US market. Real zombies shuffle around and do the bidding of the person who raised them. Which, I dunno, may include eating brains, but I doubt it.
Yeah, Frank is a zombie in the Haitian tradition. But US zombies are just low-class vampires.
OK, now I want very, very much to see whether there are class and/or regional differences among people who prefer zombie stories and people who prefer vampire stories.
nm: ME TOO!!
Oh, and also ethnic. I left that out.
Who would know about such things?
I’d shoot an e-mail to Prof. Tracy Stephenson Shaffer (Communication Studies, LSU). She not only researches the shifting meaning of zombies in contemporary works (and writes plays about zombies) but she also has written on song-writing and authenticity. She’d totally be able to take a good swing at the question and would feel right at home in the virtual here.
There is also the Terrence Rafferty NYT think piece on zombie lit — 8/5/11– from which I pulled this paragraph:
“Why do we choose to fear this, and why now? The answers can be more unsettling than the stories themselves. In the case of zombie fiction, you have to wonder whether our 21st-century fascination with these hungry hordes has something to do with a general anxiety, particularly in the West, about the planet’s dwindling resources: a sense that there are too many people out there, with too many urgent needs, and that eventually these encroaching masses, dimly understood but somehow ominous in their collective appetites, will simply consume us. At this awful, pinched moment of history we look into the future and see a tsunami of want bearing down on us, darkening the sky. The zombie is clearly the right monster for this glum mood, but it’s a little disturbing to think that these nonhuman creatures, with their slack, gaping maws, might be serving as metaphors for actual people — undocumented immigrants, say, or the entire populations of developing nations — whose only offense, in most cases, is that their mouths and bellies demand to be filled.”
Here’s the link:
Bridgett, I think that’s really insightful,but I have to say, i wonder if the biggest joke on us is that we also would be among the zombie hordes for the folks with real power, who feel such anxiety about their inability to concoct jobs for us or shame us into ceasing to fuck or ceasing to be fat whatever. We must seem like a writhing mass, too, in search of nothing but consummations of all sorts.
Tangentially, I just came across a reference to an article by Caroline Walker Bynum, in which she suggests that the surge in popularity of werewolf stories starting in twelfth-century Europe might be connected to the colonial and missionary activities of the period. The proliferation of territories in flux between in-coming ethnic groups (Normans in England and Sicily, Germans in Eastern Europe, Romance-speakers in Andalusía, etc.) and the older inhabitants, and the concentrations on souls considered to be in flux between belief systems, made shape-shifting stories popular. And aren’t there werewolves in the sparkly vampire books?
It used to be that zombies were different than vampires, because vampires were faster, more articulate, and able to heal their wounds after drinking blood. However, “28 Days Later” pretty much took care of the speed distinction.
Are zombies really “non-human creatures” as the NYT piece mentions? I think it’d be more accurate to call them post-human creatures.
NM, ooo. That sounds interesting. There are werewolves in the sparkly vampire books and I believe–though I have not read them–that the werewolves are all Native America, which would fit with the souls in flux between belief systems.
I now wonder if that’s not part of what’s going on with True Blood, it being a comment on how everyone is in some kind of flux?
Bynum’s original stab at the topic is “Metamorphosis, or Gerald and the Werewolf” from Speculum, 1998 and available through JSTOR. She expands on it in Metamorphosis and Identity.