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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Zombie Hype and Trash Fiction (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Zombie Hype and Trash Fiction
s_merrell
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I cannot stand the zombie hype.

Look, I don't mean to be offensive, but I have to say: Zombies are overrated. They're overused, overdone, overhyped, and gross. Zombies are trash. I do not take them seriously. If you're going to put them in fiction, they can't just be brain eating zombies or whatever. Make them original. Otherwise, I really cannot stand them.

There's just something pulpy or filthy about that sort of thing. I don't approve of trashy fiction. I don't know what it is about that sort of fiction that appeals to people. Much like the vampire thing going around--what's up with that? Do people actually enjoy the scummy underside of humanity? Why are people attracted to filthy things?

Call me a romantic or an idealist or a stick in the mud, but I look to fantasy and science fiction to uplift, to expand my horizons, to look deeper and farther into my imagination and into the world--not to see just how antisocial and rebellious I can be.

Where do you stand on this issue? Discuss.

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Owasm
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I generally agree, but I did succumb to the Zombie hype and have e-pubbed a zombie adaptation on a James Joyce short story on Amazon - Zombies of Clay. It is a bit in the zombie POV which makes it a little unique. I do have warnings that reading the story is not for the faint of heart.
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LDWriter2
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I usually avoid them but I must say that I've written two zombie stories. One is quirky for me but the other is serious-- I happened to read a couple of zombie tales I had to crit and ended up being inspired.

I may enter the first one in the On The Premises latest contest.

But as a rule I don't read them and don't write them. Oh, I made the second story part of a series I want to do.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Zombies are trash. I do not take them seriously.
If you read Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, you'd might learn to be more sensitive when you talk about Zombies. Oh, and by the way, they're not "un-dead", they're "differently alive".

quote:
I look to fantasy and science fiction to uplift, to expand my horizons,
Well, I won't pass judgment on where a reader looks for uplift, except to say that *everybody* should be somewhat careful about turning to sources of easy inspiration and uplift, whether they be drugs, political ideology or literature. I'm not saying you can't find inspiration in literature, I'm saying be very careful, because writers can make anything true that they want to -- in their books. The standards for truth are higher in the real world, or they should be.

And I'd say a writer who sets out to instruct and uplift ought to be darn sure he's got his own moral and intellectual house in order.

Me, I'm a satirist. For me as pride goeth before the fall, dignity paradeth before the bannana peel. But I do have a credo, which is that I'll go for the cheap laugh every time, but I won't go for the cheap shot. That's not sublime morality, that's basic decency. And because we can't get by with just bucket-of-whitewash-down-the-pants humor, I do have to put forth a little effort now and then.

As a satirist, nothing would delight me more than somebody finding inspiration and uplift in a good zombie story. Why? Because I think it's laughably naive to look for inspiration where everybody else is, and dangerously naive to look for inspiration from people who've set themselves up in the business of *selling* it.

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Natej11
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I enjoy post-apocalyptic media. It's one of my favorite genres. But the problem with zombie movies is they are ALL DONE HORRIBLY. I have yet to see a zombie movie that hasn't been super lame. The only ones that were even decent were the first "Resident Evil" and "28 Days Later", and those might've just been because of the novelty of them being some of the first zombie movies I'd seen.

That said, Walking Dead is all right, but you notice that it's best when there aren't actually any zombies in the episode. Which in the later season seems to happen more and more often, as if the writers have figured that out too.

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MartinV
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I find Resident Evil laughable. If anyone else enjoys it, I can understand that too.

With every genre it's about emotional attachment. Some people like something, others completely different things. Tell me what genre you like and I will know more about you than if we chatted for an hour.

Emotional attachment is also the reason why person A is offended when person B says they do not like the genre person A loves. It's as if someone would say your children are ugly. The result is the same; civilized people are willing to go into a fistfight.

I like some genres, not others, but I'm tolerable to them all because I know some people enjoy them. I don't need to know why they enjoy them, I just know that by insulting them I wouldn't gain anything. So I simply say "It's not really my thing."

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Osiris
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quote:
Originally posted by s_merrell:
If you're going to put them in fiction, they can't just be brain eating zombies or whatever.

Yes! I did write a zombie story (my only fiction sale, actually, with a prequel and sequel planned) but I did it as a reaction to the plague of 'brain eating zombie' stories out there. So my zombies are only zombie-like in appearance. They're mental functions are unchanged, which gives some interesting possibilities for internal conflict. The story is satire, and does poke a little fun at the traditional zombie tropes.

I found that this was the only way I could write a zombie story. I set out to write the prequel, which is an 'origins story' of the zombie plague, but one of the troubles I had with it is I didn't think I could write this one as humor.

I would say this though: a zombie or vampire story can expand your horizons, if done right. Have you read FLEDGLING by Octavia Butler? I think she does vampires well.

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extrinsic
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Zombies, vampires, werewolves: revenants. Paranormal cultural zeitgeist, zombies represent escalating overpopulation pressures and technology's depersonalization pressures on human relationships. Zombies are a metaphor. Not trash, misunderstood foundations, artlessly executed spectacle at one exterme, artfully executed metaphor at another extreme and all points in between, like any other genre.
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Robert Nowall
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I heard a lot about "Night of the Living Dead," but, I gotta say, when I finally saw the thing, I was disappointed in the living dead themselves. They just didn't come across as "dead" to me---they were too "living." Too lively.

Now, of late, there's been a lot of zombie stuff floating around---I read several webcomics filled with them---and I've been wondering about the phenomenon of zombie-mania, and what it may be a symptom of in the Decline of the West...

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Foste
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Trash can be enjoyable.

I don't consider myself above a good flick with a lot shambling brain eaters with a limited vocabulary.

[ March 24, 2012, 11:49 AM: Message edited by: Foste ]

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babooher
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I believe we all know what they say about one man's trash...it can still be sold on Craigslist.
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aspirit
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The Bubonic Plague. Aids. Bird flu. Swine flu (H1N1). I always figured it was the fear of pandemics, combined with the prevalence of zombifying drugs (like cocaine and methamphetamine), that lead to the widespread appeal of zombies. People are fascinated by what scares them.

I've always been more afraid of my own mortality than what other people might turn into, which might explain why vampires appeal more to me. That, and vampires frequently use sex appeal to capture their prey--which is more than could be said about the creepy old men I knew as a child. Anyway, vampires are often more intelligent, elegant, and graceful than other monsters. They may possess admirable traits, in addition to being disgusting and horrifying.

Some people prefer zombies' slow and stupid trudge toward their victims. It makes their fans feel more in control of what scares them, I think. For me, that makes zombies embarrassing as an opponent.

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Foste
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quote:
Originally posted by babooher:
I believe we all know what they say about one man's trash...it can still be sold on Craigslist.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcYppAs6ZdI

True. [Smile]

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Foste
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quote:
Originally posted by aspirit:


Some people prefer zombies' slow and stupid trudge toward their victims. It makes their fans feel more in control of what scares them, I think. For me, that makes zombies embarrassing as an opponent.

I dare you to play Super Ghouls and Ghosts and say that again! [Wink] [Razz]
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MartinV
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I had an idea of writing a zombie story in the time of the great European plague in 1349.
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Crank
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quote:
aspirit: Some people prefer zombies' slow and stupid trudge toward their victims.
...and, from the other room, I can hear my sons playing Call of Duty: Black Ops, and having a blast shooting their zombie opponents to bits. Of course, it is this slow and stupid trudging trait that makes zombies such a great choice for fighting, whether watching someone else doing the fighting in the movies, or grabbing a controller and doing the shooting yourself via PlayStation 3.

Personally, I never really cared for zombie fiction. While I'm at it, I've also had more than my fill of vampire and werewolf stories. I'm OK with a good wizard / magic story, and I actually came up with an idea for one, but I'm having troubles putting it together...and I suspect these complications stem from the fact that I'm too much of a technologist at heart. But, imagine if I could change my approach and my perspective just long enough to put together an original wizard story...! I might go celebrate by playing Black Ops. [Big Grin]

S!

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extrinsic
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And what do wizards represent in the cultural zeitgeist? Mystical, visionary scientists working with natural materials. Contrarily, imagine what it's like for a technologically challenged villager who's unaware such is possible when a Predator unmanned arial drone launches from on high a Hellfire missile at his home. Thunder and lightning called from the heavens by wizards.

Imagine also the first person to tame fire and bring fire's proxy reality of daylight to the nighttime. Wizard. Witch maybe. Shaman for sure.

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aspirit
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quote:
Originally posted by MartinV:
I had an idea of writing a zombie story in the time of the great European plague in 1349.

Post it when it's written.

That reminds me: Has anyone seen fiction based on the Order of Saint Lazarus' military involvement? My SCA friends joke that leper knights constituted the only real zombie army.

Although, militaries throughout history have looked for ways to use mindless violence. There's an emergency drug that U.S. soldiers are supposed to carry in their helmets for when (as I understand it) they need to charge into fire. If they're alive a couple minutes later, they're supposed to take the second part of the drug to stabilize their system. I've thought of a story concept regarding this: a soldier who uses the drug(s) suffers unintended consequences. The specific story idea I'll leave up to someone else. (Someone who takes better notes and remembers where they file them.)

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extrinsic
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Here's a link to a promoter's take on military combat stimulant usage. I don't know of a specific military stimulant antidote policy, but sedatives counteract stimulants. Codeine and opioid-based substances work though combining drugs has long-term health impacts on cardiopulmonary function. Narcan is an effective antagonist antidote for sedatives.

http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj08/fal08/caldwell.html

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LDWriter2
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Oops, forgot I also have zombies in two novels. They are more like servants though not feral creatures of the Darkness. I used them because of their cultural idiomness. I figured some readers would like them in the story.


But at the same time as in most types of stories they can be used in trash. Bloody horror tales meant to titillate that is. There are zombie tales that aren't that but that is what they seem to be known for.

Actually I'm not sure when the brain eating came about. I recall the first zombies were servants. Wild Wile West and a couple even before that showed them more a servants. Voodoo witch doctors used them. Then all of a sudden they were out by themselves eating brains.

It may have been that other movie. Not "Night of the Living Dead" which I think is the one with the zombie cops but the one where the heros are trapped in a basement and end up probably getting burned up in the end.

I'm not the only writer using then this way Laura Resnick(?) has a well done book about someone using zombies.

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Denevius
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the zombie fad kinda snuck up on me, too. i guess it was popular in the 80s, then fell out of popularity during the 90s and early 2000s, but now they seem to be everywhere again. i don't get the interest, honestly. i agree with extrinsic that zombies are a metaphor for something that the populace is relating to at the moment. i'm just not sure what that metaphor is.

i've always seen zombies as kind of a boring, unimaginative monsters, and i've never written one in anything i've done. like, ever. it really just never occurred to me. and it's been pretty rare that i've read zombies in fantasy fiction. off the top of my head, nothing comes to mind, though i guess when i read "Ravenloft" back in high school, there might have been zombies somewhere.

yeah, i kinda look forward to the end of the zombie craze for another decade or so. personally, i find it a bit stupid.

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Robert Nowall
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Belatedly, I remember that I've written a number of stories involving what's sometimes called "corpse labor"---you know, brain-dead bodies revived and animated by either remote control or some kind of robotic programming that makes 'em move around. That kind of thing appealed to me.

However, I largely lifted the basic idea from some early work by George Railroad Martin, and, in my quest to be original, I've discarded it in recent years...though I've done two with a slightly different spin on it lately, that are up on my website.

Either way, they're not quite the living dead zombies as we know and love them...say, a variation on a theme.

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Osiris
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
the zombie fad kinda snuck up on me, too. i guess it was popular in the 80s, then fell out of popularity during the 90s and early 2000s,

I suspect the popularity of zombies has to do with the tough economic times. In some ways, literature mirrors the times in which we live. The human protagonists do many of the things we all do in real life when times are tough: we horde resources and see threats coming at us from all sides. It is no surprise that their was a zombie craze in the 1980s, that was the last time the USA had been in a deep recession. The economy started to improve in 1983 and I suspect people started feeling better about their prospects and zombie lit fell out of favor. I think these trends hold true for any kind of post-apocalyptic story, not just the zombie ones.
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angel011
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I can't discuss the zombie hype because I haven't read anything written during this latest hype, except for a story or two I found likable. Oh, and Stephen King's "Cell", which I also liked.

I do have "Raising Stony Mayhall" by Daryl Gregory and "My Life as A White Trash Zombie" by Diana Rowland on my TBR list, though, and I've heard both were great.

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Denevius
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that's an interesting take on it, osiris.

i guess most zombie fiction is apocalyptic, and that could definitely be the draw. people in the western world have been feeling quite bleak about their prospects, and whether it's deserved or not, the sentiment is fairly prevalent. and protagonists in zombie movies are generally up against insurmountable odds, yet despite the odds, when you think of most of these movies, someone manages to survive and thrive despite it all, like in "28 Days Later", or "Zombieland". i haven't seen "Dawn of the Dead" (1978 version) in ages, but after just reading the plot on wikipedia, i see even then the protagonists survived.

maybe my outlook on life is a bit sunnier which is why this craze isn't a draw for me. once again, it just all seems quite silly to me.

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Merlion-Emrys
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Hmm…you say you don’t want to be offensive, but you seem to be making a pretty good effort toward being just that. You're free to express your opinion of course, but you seem to be going well beyond expressing your personal dislike of zombie fiction and into the realm of condemning it as objectively worthless and passing near-moral judgements on anyone who enjoys or finds meaning in it or in other "filthy things" or the various forms of "trashy fiction" that you "don't approve" of.

I find it interesting that you also use "pulpy" in the same sentence as "filthy." Many of us here love, and write, in the "pulp" sub-genre or story type in a variety of forms and flavors. Several of my favorite writers...some of whom are relatively well respected...are considered "pulp" writers, often among other things. Indeed "pulp" was at one time all but synonymous with all forms of science fiction, fantasy and horror...even the "uplifting" forms that you do approve of.


quote:
Do people actually enjoy the scummy underside of humanity?
Yes. Some do. Indeed, that's a relatively large part of why many aspects of the "scummy underside" exist...because there is a desire or market for it. Many many many many people...I'd hazard to say darn near everyone...feels that desire or attraction to at least some small extent at some point in their life, and fiction offers a very safe way to explore that a little. I'm assuming you have a similar prejudice and antipathy towards all forms of horror fiction, but there is a reason why it's so popular...it lets you engage your dark side a little without any risk, as well as often helping to express and/or gain catharsis from fears and anxieties.


quote:
Why are people attracted to filthy things?
Because they are part of us. And part of the world. Like it or not, at least in our current state of being, you can't have one without the other. And to a large extent the more that people (like you, various censorship groups, and my mother) try to label them as bad, taboo, wrong and forbidden, the more many people will be attracted to them, if for no other reason than that they have been so labeled.


quote:
Call me a romantic or an idealist or a stick in the mud, but I look to fantasy and science fiction to uplift, to expand my horizons, to look deeper and farther into my imagination and into the world
But only in to the clean, nice, classically "pretty" parts of the world, it seems. As I say above, the things you call "filth" and "trash" are very much a part of the world as well, and they run quite deep. This looking further into the world and imagination is exactly what I seek as well, and is what draws me just as strongly...if not more so...too the darker sides, to the underbelly to the "negative" yin side of things, for it is often the harder part to understand.

Much of what you condemn does expand horizons, just not in directions that you want yours expanded. And that’s fine, but don’t condemn it or those who are interested in omni-directional expansion.

I too general, often seek to be uplifted by art in all forms. But even the things you dismiss as “trash” and “filth” can be uplifting, for one or both of two reasons. One, because sometimes something bad can uplift you by reminding you how good you have it and how lucky you are. Second…I am uplifted by beauty. And one can find beauty in, and create beauty from anything. Even darkness. Even filth. Even despair in some cases. I love the works of authors like H.P. Lovecraft and Simon Logan which though they are dark and it seems should be depressing have a fantastic beauty drawn from their completeness and from the joy of their creators in the making of them.


quote:
not to see just how antisocial
I'm not sure I understand what you mean by antisocial. Regardless, it indicates to me a lack of understanding of the intentions behind stories you would condemn and devalue. As has been said already, its generally felt that many "zombie apocalypse" movies and stories are reactions too and reflections upon various societal troubles.
The fear of economic collapse. Of pandemic illness disaster. And I have to think that sometimes, for some of the folks that tell these stories, the zombies may also be a metaphor for how much of our population often seems rather "zombified": conformist, unthinking, singleminded.
Though he is a teller of stories you'd probably class as "filth" you'd probably benefit from certain parts of Stephen King's non-fiction book, "Danse Macabre", wherein among other things he discusses considerably the relationship between horror and "conservatism." Many horror stories are, fundamentally, "moral" tales and in many ways quite "conservative." They may depict the awful but they typically seek a return to the status quo.


quote:
and rebellious I can be.
So, rebellion in your view is automatically bad? Despite the fact you live in a country that came about as a result of rebellion? Various human rights movements, such as women's suffrage, were/are rebellions. Again I'm not exactly sure what you're referring to or what you mean in this context but the indication of rebellion as inherently a bad thing is...strange.
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s_merrell
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Forgive me. A part of it was my moralist side coming out. Yes, I do believe that there is something degrading about dark fiction. No, I don't believe that you have to go to a horrific extent to imply or express the capacity of humanity to embrace darkness. I avoid thrash metal and the Saw franchise for the same reasons. It's excessive--it's beyond what is necessary--and to me, it's sickening.

Outside of the context of personal moral beliefs, some of my preferences are probably pretty absurd. You mention the Revolutionary War. I approve of that and its place in history. I do not approve of the French Revolution. They're both rebellions. What's the difference? It's the moral standpoint. One was held to establish a country built on some sort of moral grounding--and the other was held so as to decimate the ruling class. There's a difference there.

Rebellion as I mentioned it means deviating from the norms of society--not just intentionally, but violently. Splattering yourself with fake blood and walking around downtown is gross to me. It does not appeal. It deters. Maybe that sort of thing appeals to you. To me it is an aesthetic compromise and represents a love for the gross, which may imply deeper problems. But you find such things beautiful. I can't see how grotesqueness is beautiful. Compelling, possibly, but not beautiful. It's a paradigm that's essentially against everything I stand for.

I don't mean to pass judgment on you. I do pass judgment on things that may appeal to you aesthetically. That sort of thing is allowed, you know. And you're allowed to challenge my opinions, as you already have.

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redux
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So, just so I understand...

THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME by Richard Connell or A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess would be "trashy fiction" because they explore the "scummy underside of humanity?"

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LDWriter2
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Actually I think there have been a couple of posts on both sides that have been strongly worded, more strongly than necessarily.

But to answer the last question. For me it depends on how deep they explore the scummy side. I'm not going to see or read "Hunger Games" because I don't want to see kids killing each other and evidently from those who have read the series, the ending is not too satisfying either.

If I'm missing out on great writing or some symbolic exploration of the human condition so be it.

And I usually don't see monsters of any type as being symbolic of anything. Just something scary to give a thrill.

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Denevius
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at the risk of getting a warning from kathleen, dude! merlion-emrys, are you this uptight in real life? you're quite the downer on this website. just relax, man, have a glass of wine, or a beer, before you sit down to compose some of your replies. it might mellow you out some.

cheers, and a genuine well-wishes! seems like you need it.

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Foste
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Which exact part is uptight? He is simply presenting an intellectual argument.
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rcmann
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I can't really complain about someone using the word 'trash', since I have used it myself. Albeit I was speaking with nostalgic affection for the pulp magazines, rather than trying to claim any sense of superiority, moral or creative.

If I understand you then, s_merrell, you would perhaps agree with Shakesspeare's contemporaries who sneered at him for 'pandering to the depraved tastes of the groundlings'? I believe that's how it was written, although it has been many years since I read the reference and, frankly, I never bothered to pay attention to the identity of the critic who made the remark. I doubt very many people outside of a university English department gives a rodent's backside for them or their opinions either.

But nobody could argue that old Bill, aka The Immortal Bard, was pretty trashy and fond of getting down and dirty on the underside of life. His writing was full of bloody murder, and treachery, and adultery, and conspiracy, and pedophilia (Juliette was 14, Romeo was 16. By modern standards that makes him a sexual predator). In fact, Shakespeare was as ruthless with his characters and anybody I can think of. Even his poetry had meat in it, which is something that is never present anymore. At least, I can't recall any poetry that reads, to me, like it was written by anyone with teeth that was younger than 200 years old.

I like poetry that has teeth, as opposed to modern poetry which, in my opinion, merely bites.

I don't write zombies, but I would have no problem with doing so if a story would benefit from inserting a few. I do occasionally insert werewolves and vampires, but they are almost never more than bit players who are in supporting roles.

People have always told stories about monsters. From the cyclops in the Odyssey, to ghosts stories around a campfire. Are you saying that a boy scout jamboree is trashy?

Human nature craves the stimulation of monster stories. Why? I dunno. I have theories like everyone else. Maybe it is the heritage of all those millennia huddled around our paleolithic campfires. Maybe we just like to be reassured that good will always triumph. Maybe we get a thrill from real evil, because most of us live in an artificial womb nowadays, and very few people know what it is to face death head on. Who knows?

But there's nothing wrong with any of it that I can see. If you don't like it, don't read it.

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s_merrell
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I don't mind presenting the scummy underside of humanity. I do mind when it's taken to excessive depths. Lovecraft is compelling, but disturbing. I can't tolerate most of what Stephen King writes. I don't watch horror because I don't care for the nightmares that follow. No, I wouldn't read A Clockwork Orange. There's no interest there.

But great fiction often has a compelling and genuinely dangerous villain or opposing, negative force. That's often necessary. But as soon as the story itself--the climax, the victory--seems to be championing the darker side of life, instead of its redemption or removal, that's when I want out.

I'd say that the cyclops is scary but Odysseus still comes home. Our fascination with evil is hardwired into us, I'm sure--but not the advocacy of it. That comes to the moral question.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
at the risk of getting a warning from kathleen, dude! merlion-emrys, are you this uptight in real life? you're quite the downer on this website. just relax, man, have a glass of wine, or a beer, before you sit down to compose some of your replies. it might mellow you out some.

cheers, and a genuine well-wishes! seems like you need it.

Now why in the world would you even THINK of risking getting a warning from me?

You know, it's one thing to express your opinion about certain kinds of stories, but it's another to express your opinion about another participant on this forum.

The latter is strictly against the rules of this forum, understand?

I think this topic may have worn out its welcome.

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babooher
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If you're killing this thread, remember the double-tap.
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Merlion-Emrys
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There are a lot more things I'd like to say here, but I am only going to say one of them.

I think we'd all do well to remember that a not-inconsiderable portion of the population does or would consider ALL OF US varying degrees of "weird," "deviant," "sick," "foolish" and/or part of the "scummy underbelly" due to our love of and participation in all or any form of speculative or fantastic fiction, be it science fiction, fantasy, horror or anything that involves non-human characters and creatures, magic and/or "weird science" and such. There are those who'd find the likes of Yoda "grotesque." Many see people like us as, at best, people who are immature and "live in a fantasy world" and especially for those of us who partake of even the least items of dark or horror fiction as people who may have "deeper problems" and at worst as "devil worshipers" or "sickos."

Also, I'd mention, s_merrell, you say that that youre problem is mainly with stuff that glorifies the "darker aspects" of life, but, putting aside the fact that your definition of that darker side is probably a lot broader than mine, most of the zombie movies I've seen (not a large number) or heard of don't really fall into this category. They may be bleak or unhopeful but I don't know of any of them that present the zombies as heroes or zombiefication as a desirable state of being. And again as I've said, much horror is actually quite "morally conservative" and seeks to undo the evil and return "normality." Most of Stephen King's work, indeed, is in this category...most of his stories end hopefully and have definitely drawn lines of good and evil. Indeed, much of Stephen King's output isn't even really horror, to me...it just gets put on that shelf cause he wrote it. Now there is stuff that does, to some extent, celebrate or at least take a more neutral look at many "darker" aspects of things but again...not all those things are bad. Just because it is aesthetically unpleasing to you doesn't make it immoral and indeed, although I do believe there are definitely wrong things, there are many different views on morality as well.


A lot of it comes down to your point of view.

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MattLeo
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Well, if before diving into the whole virtue-ethics debate here, there's a more pressing literary issue to address: the limited shelf-life of popularized horror memes.

Horror is a distinct from simple *fear*. The philosopher Noël Carroll explained the fascination of horror this way. The reason we are horrified by something like blood is that our minds aren't sure whether to categorize it as something living or non-living. That explains why our attention is therefore drawn to something horrific while at the same time we're repulsed by it: our minds are driven to solve the puzzle.

This explains why revenants like zombies or vampires are horrific, *until we get too familiar with them*. If you work cleaning up accident scenes, pretty soon you'll see blood as an inanimate liquid and it will lose its horror. If you read enough vampire stories you'll start regarding vampires as alive; stripped of their horror they'll have to start a second career as fanged fairies.

Now I'll address the virtue-ethics issue. The notion that liking horror demonstrates some kind of character flaw is bound up with the mistaken belief that horror fans relish the repulsive for its own sake. *Writers* make this mistake as well, producing dull, lurid prose as a result. A great writer can conjure horror from a coat hanging on a peg, or a water stain on a ceiling.

The problem with horror is that, more than most genres, it demands very good writing to be any good at all. Horror requires *novel* psychological insight. When a mediocre horror writer copies a great one, the result is a dull and vulgar travesty. A horror fan might enjoy such a work because it elicits the pleasures of superior works, but mediocre horror holds no attraction for the average reader.

As for zombie stories, I've never read one but I'll take a shot at arguing from first principles. Unlike vampires, zombies don't have an obvious second career once familiarity strips their horror away. This is an opportunity for some writer to make his mark. If I were writing a zombie story, I'd consider targeting guilt over social injustice. Zombies are people who are supposed to be buried, but won't stay buried. I'd pick some group that's been thrown away; maybe the Chinese workers who built your iPhone; or child soldiers in a blood-diamond conflict, *and bring them back*. And I'd do research in the cultural roots of the zombie meme to strip away the pop culture accretions to reveal again its authentic weirdness. I suspect that it's impossible to write a *good* zombie story at this point, but quite feasible to write a great one.

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babooher
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Mattleo wrote "... you'll start regarding vampires as alive; stripped of their horror they'll have to start a second career as fanged fairies." I thought this funny because I've been reading the Scar by China Miéville and one of the main characters is a vampire who left his home where vampires are little more than junkies begging for their fix. He also writes about zombie factories and all of this in an amazing steampunk world called Bas-Lag. I would not classify the story as a zombie novel, but I thought it creepy how you talked about something that resonates so much with what I'm reading.

Creepy

PS I would like to mention that this thread won't die.

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LDWriter2
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Without getting into anymore discussion of ethics and whose words are to strong I will say that I was reading a blurb about "The Walking Dead" TV show today.

It seemed to fit what we were speaking about.

According to the Producer, or what ever you call the guy who came up with the idea and is working with it-- the show isn't about zombies. It has a zombie "backdrop" but the show is about what happens to the people and how they react to the situation they are in.

For me, from what was said previously about the show, it's still too bloody for me and I can see how it might be considered "trash" a dark tale, or horror - the "backdrop" is just to realistic and a big part of the show- but evidently from what I just said it isn't suppose to either of those.

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extrinsic
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Zombi genre was insprired by a Haitian creole mythology. A zombi is created by a bokor, a witch doctor, from a dead person, reanimated under the bokor's control. Zombi mythology predates its use in Western drama, back to precolonial African origins.

Zombi novels and movies came into public entertainments prior to Night of the Living Dead, 1968. Over time, the zombi mythology has expanded, been reinvented, reimagined, and is in ongoing innovation. What zombies represent has shifted away from individual, personal psychological horror toward mass visceral horror. That's filmmaking's strength, visual spectacle. Not spectacle in a negative sense, just spectacle is what it is, visually and aurally dramatic.

Vampire and werewolf genre have also shifted of late from their origins. From visceral and psychological horrors of human parasitism to sympathetic antiheroes. They remain representative of human parasitism but determine heroically nobly to act less parasitically. The message is becoming a little mixed. Mixed messages are ideal for a new kind of literature emerging where right and wrong, good and evil are no longer absolutely black and white, night and day unequivocally one or another. Many shades of gray twilight witching hours in real-world scenarios, why not in fictional scenarios.

What's next for zombi? Sympathetic individual zombies of the mythology's origins? Increasing visceral horror? Visual spectacle can only go so far, thus visceral horror is self-limiting. Enough with the big game hunts already. Escalating psychological horror is one way zombi can go. Challenging to write, though. Personal psychological horror is the direction The Walking Dead is going. A tantalizing teaser at this season's finale ending. A mythically hooded human wielding a samurai sword trailing two armless zombie bodyguards on choker chains rescues one of the ensemble cast members. Shades of a bokor there.

Zombie mythology has infinite room for reinvention. The metaphor must adapt or become irrelevant, in order to remain fresh and original and entertaining for audiences. But can zombi be art? High art? High brow art? Perhaps; perhaps not. No matter. There's an audience or two for zombie that says it is high art. Everyone else is outsiide the conversation and thus irrelevant to the zombi conversation.

Trash fiction? Shades of John Gardner's The Art of Fiction biases there. I guess there's room for all kinds in this post Postmodern world. C'est la vie d'ecriture.

[ March 27, 2012, 12:51 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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babooher
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Remember, zombie-lit takes brains.
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snapper
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Brains. Mmmmm.
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Foste
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*cocks shotgun*
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Zippo44
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Well then, why not a vampire zombie hybrid that consumes intelligence along with the gray matter and becomes “Supernaturally Intelligent”; thereby taking over the world. Although how we can be intellectually dominated by a being that smells that funky is a mystery…
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MattLeo
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quote:
Well then, why not a vampire zombie hybrid that consumes intelligence along with the gray matter and becomes “Supernaturally Intelligent”; thereby taking over the world.
I can spot a flaw in the plan: intelligence has far less practical application than generally supposed.

Of course that assumes you define "practical" as "leading to the accumulation of useless quantities of wealth or the acquisition of dictatorial powers."

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extrinsic
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In a peculiar and fascinating way, cultural zeitgeist is a prevailing principle for whether a premise, like zombi-vampire flies or sinks. Zombi through African culture, vampire through Eastern Eurpoe culture, both applicable to contemporary Western culture, but what does a blend represent metaphorically that's tangible, bridgeable, and accessible?

Zombies craving brains is parasitic, socially parasitic. Maybe there's some essence of life in living brains that zombi wants but doesn't satisfy. What does that represent metaphorically? A craving for meaningful interpersonal relationships perhaps. Zombi no have own social life. Zombi want social life. Zombi take social life from brains. Zombi not satisfied. Life anymore isn't meaningful enough because technology destroys meaningful interpersonal relationships.

Themes: The individual and nature, People are destroying nature and themselves with uncontrolled technology; Alienation, Modern culture is defective because it doesn't provide group ties which in primitive cultures makes alienation virtually impossible. ("Themes." San Jose State University. Web.)

[ March 27, 2012, 04:56 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Zippo44
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"I can spot a flaw in the plan: intelligence has far less practical application than generally supposed."

As anyone who socializes with members of Mensa knows only too well. So given that real-world limitation; the hypothetical zombie suuuuuper-genius would most likely wind up in an IT department somewhere writing code and going essentially unnoticed despite his personal hygiene and dietary issues.

And who wants to read THAT story?

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Tiergan
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I love zombies. Sure some are pulpy, and a lot are campy, but like a B rated movie they have their way. the real challenge is that zombie story that scares you, makes you understand what zombie's really are, and where they come from.
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LDWriter2
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Zippo

I don't know, depends on who does it, that story could be done very well.

I've read stories kinda related.

In fact come to think of it I have one kind a related.


And I wasn't referring to myself in that second line.

But extrinsic is right about where they come from. In my post about the Wild Wild West I was referring to those type of zombies. But as I said they changed somewhere along the way.

Oh, if you want a lesson on zombies and bokor's read Luara Resnick's "Unsympathetic Magic". Nice light hearted UF with a collage course worth of lessons.

[ March 28, 2012, 11:15 PM: Message edited by: LDWriter2 ]

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Robert Nowall
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Meant to ask..."extrinsic," why "zombi" instead of "zombie?" The latter is the usual form in English, though the former is a variant...I think the word derives from Haitian French, but am not sure...
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