Today we have a guest post and a giveaway! Please welcome Scott Baker, author of Rotter World.
Zombies – the New Vampires?
When I asked Rea if there was anything in particular she wanted me to write about for this guest blog, she offered the topic of whether zombies are the new vampires. Since I’ve written extensively in both subgenres, I jumped at the chance. However, I don’t think you can say that zombies are the “new” vampires. That implies that the gut-munching living dead are replacing the blood-sucking undead as the dominant monster in the culture, which is far from the truth. They’re distinctly separate subgenres with widely different fan bases.
I’ve heard many people contend that vampires frighten us because they are manifestations of our fear of death. Although that explains why the undead remain a favorite for providing chills, their appeal goes much deeper. Vampires symbolize our desire to abandon our inhibitions and give in to our darker side, whether it’s lust or an innate nature for violence. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was popular because the central character exhibited an unbridled sensuality that presented a sharp contrast to the staid Victorian values of the time. Even the very act of turning his victims into the undead was ensconced in eroticism since nothing is more intimate than sucking on the victim’s neck. (Okay, it’s not the most intimate place you can bite someone, but I’m leaving x-rated vampirism out of this discussion.)
Whenever I ask my female friends who their favorite Dracula is, almost unanimously they replay Frank Langella, arguably the most sensual portrayal ever. Even the brooding vampires lived past lives of debauchery for which they are now remorseful, most notably Angel from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Despite his regrets, when Angel is deprived of his soul during the second season, he quickly reverted back to evil Angelus and easily out-vamps Spike and Drusilla as bad asses. With some notable exceptions, such as Nosferatu and 30 Days of Night, vampires in their human form are almost always portrayed as sexually appealing figures who engage in every type of perversion imaginable. It’s part of the fun of being a vampire.
Vampires and their mythos have also proved very adaptable to interpretation, which has helped to keep the subgenre thriving as long as it has. The traditional vampire as a monster, which was imbedded in our culture thanks to Universal and Hammer Studios, now shares the night with their modern offspring: the moody, gothic vampires of Anne Rice; the paranormal romantic vampires of Laurell Hamilton; the vampires as historical figures of David Bishop and Jasper Kent; the teenage vampires of Stephanie Meyers; the vampires of anime; and a host of others. Even television has gotten into the act, providing us with such blockbusters as HBO’s True Blood and the CW’s The Vampire Diaries. The fact that vampires exist in so many variations is a testament to how pervasive they are in modern culture, here in the States and throughout the world. The eroticism and mystery of vampires is universal. They are one of the few monsters that are widely popular beyond their intended genre, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.
Zombies, on the other hand, appeal to our deepest fears, primarily the fear of death. No one wants to die, and the only thing worse than death is coming back as the living dead. It’s the ultimate desecration. The other fear zombies play on is chaos. A zombie outbreak means the world is going to hell in the next few hours, so get your crap in order now. The most popular zombie fiction involves post-apocalyptic scenarios in which society has collapsed and everyone who is left struggles to survive. A zombie outbreak has replaced nuclear war as the big threat facing mankind, although with the living dead you don’t have to worry about fallout. (Radiated zombies? I think I have the plot for my next book.)
In the past few years certain themes within zombie fiction have changed. Where before the cause of the outbreak was attributed to some “natural” disaster, now it’s usually the result of a government or corporate bioweapons program that has gone horribly wrong, which represents the public’s growing distrust of our political system. Twenty years ago, a zombie aficionado had to get his/her fix mostly from movies where the focus was on the creatures and the kills, and few of those films are memorable except for classics such as Return of the Living Dead. (I’m sure everyone gets the reference when I say “Braaaiiinnnsss!”) Now the focus is on character development and the personal tragedies of an outbreak. The Walking Dead graphic novels and TV series, Max Brooks’ World War Z, and Kim Paffenroth’s Dying to Live series concentrate less on the living dead and more on how the survivors deal with the emotional and psychological trauma as well as their struggle to deal with both the living dead and the gangs that will take advantage of the situation.
Unlike vampires, however, zombies don’t easily lend themselves to multiple variations. It’s not easy to picture the living dead as romantic figures, running private detective agencies, or dating teenage girls. With few exceptions, most zombie fiction is innovative in either the storyline or the nature of the zombies themselves. Most notably among “alternative” zombie fiction is S.G. Browne’s Breathers, which tells the story of a recently deceased young man and the prejudices he faces from humans, and Andrew Currie’s movie Fido, in which Billy Connelly plays a domesticated zombie pet for Timmy Robinson (Kesun Loder), becoming the boy’s best friend and defender. But these are unique entries into the subgenre and have not yet spurred successful imitators. Does that mean zombie fiction will always be limited to the struggle-for-survival theme? No. Some viable variation is inevitable; we just haven’t seen it yet. (So all you authors out there looking for an instant success, get writing.)
So, are zombies the new vampires? No. They’re completely separate subgenres, and they both have a lot of life left in them (pun intended) and will be around for quite some time. And as a horror author, I’m glad.
Eight months have passed since vampires released the Revenant Virus on mankind, nearly wiping out both species. For Mike Robson, the situation could be far worse. He has joined up with a small band of humans and the last coven of vampires who are riding out the zombie apocalypse in an old fort along the coast of southern Maine.
The uneasy alliance between humans and vampires is strained with the arrival of the creator of the Revenant Virus. Compton claims to have a vaccine that will make them immune from the virus and allow mankind to take civilization back from the living dead. However, the vaccine is located in a secure underground facility five hundred miles away.
To retrieve the vaccine, Robson leads a raiding party of humans and vampires down the East Coast, which has been devastated by the outbreak and overrun by zombies and rape gangs. Yet none of the horrors he deals with on the road can prepare him for what he will find in Pennsylvania. Once inside the underground facility, the Robson encounters the greatest threat his group has faced to date, not only from zombies but from betrayal within their own ranks.
I wanted to make the giveaway easy so there are 3 entry options:
1. follow the blog
2. tweet a message
3. leave a comment for Scott
The giveaway is open to one and all!
US winners will receive a signed paperback.
International winners will receive an ebook.
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