Sunday, July 5, 2015

Mailbag: "Hay Moon" and demonic zombies (Part 1)

At the time of this writing, I've serialized three parts of the short story "Hay Moon" here on the blog. 

A reader who has read the complete short story in the book sent me the following question:

Dear Ed: 

"In the short story 'Hay Moon', you've chosen to interpret the zombie in a supernatural way, versus in a more naturalistic way. Was there any particular reason for this decision? Thanks, Todd"

The reader didn't elaborate; but I think I know what he means by "naturalistic zombie".

In the vast corpus of the zombie film and literature out there, it has become conventional to portray the zombie as the result of a virus. The popular AMC series, The Walking Dead, relies on this premise. 

The Walking Dead details a fairly complex backstory, including an episode that explains how the virus is supposed to reanimate the deceased by electronically stimulating each corpse's reptilian brain. 

The original Night of the Living Dead (1968) used the device of extraterrestrial radiation, I believe. Romero's follow-up film, Dawn of the Dead (1978), posits a chemical spill. 

As noted above, the naturalistic zombie has now become more or less the norm. 

It is also now standard to throw a Department of Defense experiment in the mix, so as to make a thinly veiled statement about the dangers of the military-industrial complex. (Notice that it's never the Russian/Soviet government, the Chinese government, or the Iranian government that inadvertently triggers the zombocalypse. Always the United States government. Oh, well....) 

All of these methods enable the horror element without any supernatural intervention. While any concept of a zombie is far-fetched, the naturalistic zombie doesn't require any conception of the otherworldly. The naturalistic zombie is, strictly speaking, atheistic in orientation.

When I continue this discussion in a subsequent post, I'll discuss a few of the existing novels and films that conceive the zombie as a supernatural rather than a naturalistic phenomenon. I'll also discuss the zombie as it is depicted in "Hay Moon". 

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