I dream about zombies, I see zombies everywhere, I worry about how I’ll get away from them when I’m in the woods, a town, our static caravan. I am obsessed with zombies.
Last year it was trees. Much healthier! I read about trees, I read stories with trees in, stories set in woods, I learnt the names of trees, myths about the trees, I studied every tree I came across, collected examples of leaves and even climbed them, looking up at how far my son was getting. I was treester, a dendrophile, a nemophilist. I was writing a children’s story about two trees going on an adventure across the world, meeting other trees and the kids that climb them.
Now I am in the middle of a zombie story where the zombies turn into Men (whatever they were in life) and the zombie plague was started by a group of women wishing to wipe out men. It was going to be for 10-12 year olds and then the gender politics came in and it’s had to go Young Adult.
So I started to read zombie novels and watch zombie films (not 18’s though, I’m not ready for that level of gore yet. I have a feeling they aren’t 18’s for the extra sex involved, well maybe…)
But what have I got out of all this research? (well I’m only up to three books and six films so far, so I need a bit more to feel like an expert.)
The films are funny or action. They don’t have the adventure or the human study of apocalyptic life, like the books have. But in both I see that the zombies are often on the periphery of the story. They make everything happen in the first place and turn up to kick the story forward but the real stories are how the humans cope and function between each other in this changed world. It’s what’s most interesting. The Day of the Triffids is pretty much a zombie story in that respect. A wonderful book that has every reaction to the changed world that you can imagine and the differing levels of success in how they live. But ultimately it is those that retain their humanity that survive the longest. Perhaps not all of them, but as a collective they survive.
I had a shock of guilt as I drove away from my son’s school last week. I saw an old woman hobbling along and thought she looked like a zombie. I felt terrible at my gruesome association of her elderly status and hindered movement with that of a zombie, but it did make me realise what I wanted to change in my novel. I wanted to escape from the zombie appearing to be like a piss take of the physically or mentally disabled. And if not that, then they appear to be straight out of some kind of asylum. The weakest in society rise up to destroy the most powerful! That’s one way to look at it. Or you can see it as the weakest in society being portrayed as bad, mindless, surplus to requirement and in need of massacring. Starts to feel like Nazi Germany.
This realisation I could just ignore, and probably would have if it hadn’t given me a great opportunity. My zombies turn into Men. They look more like them after they turn, even if they aren’t men to start with (Women and children are harder to turn. They need to be bitten a few times rather than just touched) so why not make them walk like men? So my zombies walk with a wide strut, arms flapping like the young men I do impressions of to make the family laugh when out walking the dog.
They stand around like Teddy Boys, crouched over something secret and they make loud noises out of proportion to their surroundings. I could go further with all this and probably will, but I’m pleased right now that it makes sense and eases a little guilt.
Chapter 7 done. Ten thousand words. Yes! Bring on Shaun of the Dead.