I’m not really supposed to be here. On the internet, I mean, and not just right now – I’m not meant to be here at all. The problem is that I’m not greatly interested in zombies, vampires, bacon, cupcakes or socially inept cats, and a fascination with one or more of these is a basic requirement for going on the internet and doing internet things. My presence here is only tolerated because I usually exceed my daily tweet quota by over 100%, and also thanks to a nice semantic loophole; I update my blog regularly. Regularly. Twice a year. It’s not frequent, but it is, technically, regular. They had to let that one through, but it’s under investigation.

So, in the time I have left, I’d like to address one of the internet’s fundaments: Zombies. Specifically, a major statistical misconception regarding one of the internet’s accepted truths.

It is a universally (internetally) acknowledged fact that something called the Zombie Apocalypse is approaching. What will trigger this event is unclear, but the fact that it’s on its way, and there’s nothing we can do to prevent it, causes much online excitement. There’s no end of speculation and advice out there, even diet and exercise plans to make you lighter, leaner and stronger so you get better at fleeing and/or fighting the zombie hordes while becoming less appealing as a food source. But while I’m sorry to rain on the parade, somebody has to, and actually I’m not sorry at all. I’m going to switch to second person address now, and explain to you why, if you are, or have ever been, one of these excited speculators, you’ve got things totally wrong.

First of all, forget the traditional, strictly defined zombie. Those chaps, the dead rising from their graves, offer little threat. How many of them will even have enough structural integrity to walk? Without visiting the Tennessee Body Farm I’m not sure, but I’m guessing that anyone who died more than twenty years ago (and wasn’t cremated) isn’t going to hang on to their feet for more than a couple of steps. We’ll have a fully functional, heavily armed military and police force to deal with them, and if any of them even make it past the cemetery gates, gun enthusiasts, chainsaw owners and 4×4 drivers will have a field day. It’ll be a massacre and, frankly, not very apocalyptic.

(Similarly, the first computer program to achieve self-awareness and become a genuine artificial intelligence will probably just open a Twitter account and surf hardware porn sites, but that’s another essay.)

The truly epic OMG ZA won’t be the work of the traditional undead zombie. No, this is a job for Zombie 2.0, a whole different kettle of fish who doesn’t really like being called a zombie, preferring the more politically correct “Infected”. You’ve seen these folks in 28 Days Later, Resident Evil and I am Legend; they’re fast and furious and unwilling to just chill. They don’t dick about; they want to infect you, or kill you and eat you, or kill you by eating you.

The nature of all ZA talk is as follows: “In/after the Zombie Apocalypse, I’ll…”, followed by things like where you’ll live and with whom, how you’ll fortify the place, your weapons of choice, preferred fighting partners (Batman, Robocop, Hello Kitty etc) and who will be your primary assistant in rebuilding the human race (Jake or Maggie).

And here’s the problem, the crux, the rub: You’re assuming that you will survive and that you will be human.

You won’t.

(Warning: The following passage contains statistics unsuitable for those of a nervous disposition (around numbers).)

As we’ve established, I’m no expert. But I’ve seen a few films and even though I’m not a particularly heavy or wide-ranging internet user, I’ve absorbed a few bits of zombie lore – like Dog the Bounty Hunter and Kim Kardashian, it’s inescapable. Zombies, or The Infected, don’t come from under the ground or out in space, they start off as humans. The infection – usually the result of an Experiment Gone Wrong, but sometimes attributable to space vegetables – spreads rapidly and unstoppably. Let’s quantify: Taking a wild stab at a figure, something like 99.9% of the human population gets infected, or zombified, or replicated by a large marrow.

How do the remaining 0.1% avoid contamination? There are a few options:

1. You live somewhere so geographically remote, or climatically extreme, that the infection doesn’t reach you. (Unless you’re in John Carpenter’s The Thing, in which case you’re still fucked.)

2. You are in a sealed environment such as a military research establishment, hospital isolation ward – or (just thought of this one) a submarine.

3. You are temporarily dead (The Quiet Earth, 1984, New Zealand – not a zombie film but it’s a nifty apocalypse-dodging trick.)

4. Your DNA displays a rare aberration, based on tightly researched and referenced pseudoscientific bollocks.

5. You are Will Smith.

6. Or Milla Jovovich.

So, what are the odds of you being a survivor? Using my totally made-up stats, which I’m keeping simple for my benefit as much as yours, 1 in 1000. And that’s the optimistic 28 Days Later model; if we’re taking I am Legend as our standard, well, you’d better be Will Smith. Are you Will Smith? You are not.

Stop looking at crossbows on eBay. It ain’t gonna happen. I’m being a bit cavalier with the numbers, but the truth is, when the Zombie Apocalypse comes, you’re going to be a zombie. So now you can stop worrying about it.

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Formerly a professional modelmaker, STEVE SPARSHOTT turned to writing after brain damage sustained in a 2003 road accident removed much of his physical function. Typing with the three middle fingers of his left hand at a blistering fifteen words per minute, he has had work printed in London literary magazine Smoke, and various academic publications have featured his design-related social criticism. He has reviewed films for Screenjabber.com and Nude Magazine, and because his life just isn't difficult enough, he's writing a memoir called Get Well Soon. He is well chuffed to have an essay called Fin in the Nervous Breakdown compilation The Beautiful Anthology.

56 responses to “Addressing a Common Misconception Regarding the Impending 
Zombie Apocalypse”

  1. Matt says:

    The entire ZA ouvre is so played out and silly. A human body left exposed to the elements will decay to the point of immobility in about a year, with variations allowed for local climate – the process will be expedited in a hotter, humid climate like the tropics. So really, after less than a year, even the freshly dead won’t be much of a threat anymore.

    I’m over zombies. And vampires. And the only poorly socialized cat I’m interested in is Sockington. We need a new monster du jour. Maybe it’s time for the mole men to make a resurgence.

    • I think I actually read Patricia Cornwell’s The Body Farm, but I don’t remember anything about it apart from concluding that I don’t like Patricia Cornwell much. Mind you, I suppose gathering logical, scientific arguments against a silly, fantastical situation is a bit pointless.

      (It’s before 1pm. I can’t write coherently before 1pm.)

      I heard a great interview with Danny Boyle when the film Sunshine came out. He was saying how there were certain science fiction film conventions that have to be adhered to although YOU KNOW THEY’RE WRONG – the giant spaceship has to make that rumbling noise, there’s normal gravity inside etc. His conclusion was – just go with it.

      Speaking of sci-fi, and the faster, more aggressive “infected” type of “zombie” – I watched Serenity a while ago, and even while I was watching (and thoroughly enjoying) it, I was thinking These Reavers are daft. They’re basically animals, but they maintain and fly a big fleet of spaceships, design and build weapons…I could only come to the same conclusion as Danny Boyle. I just went with it.

      Vampires are a load of rubbish these days too. Although Sofa Cinema has just sent me Daybreakers, which looks fun.

      I will now look up Sockington. Meanwhile, here’s Simon’s Cat: http://www.simonscat.com/films.html

      • Matt says:

        My last girlfriend was so zombie-obsessed that she would evaluate every apartment we moved into together based on how secure we would be in the event of the OMG ZA. Seriously.

        With all due respect to Danny Boyle, that’s rubbish. Every time someone has done a sci-fi film based on, you know, actual science – 2001, Gattaca, Moon – it’s brilliant.

        Regarding the Reavers, I’ve had the same conclusion more than once: they’re hyper aggressive to the point of cannibalism but still have the mathematical skills to fly (noiseless!) ships through space, even if they don’t maintain them too well. Given that Joss Whedon is an intelligent guy who treats his audience as intelligent as well, it’s very likely we would have seen that dealt with had Firefly lasted longer than 13 episodes.

        Sockington can be found at http://www.twitter.com/sockington or http://www.sockington.com

        • Sweeet…I think we could both jaw about science and fiction in science fiction all day. I’ll address this properly forthwith!

        • Matt! I should mention that I’m not very good at forming solid opinions – I tend to see both sides of any argument.

          I think Boyle was talking about entertainment, conventions established since the ’70s. I was going to cite Star Wars, but actually the first film I can think of featuring a huge spaceship with built-in gravity is 1972’s Silent Running. The eco-domes on the front of the American Airlines Valley Forge point in all directions too, implying that they have their own internal gravity…Star Wars would be the film that embedded these conventions in the public consciousness, though. It owes a great debt to Silent Running (stumpy robots too (and of course C3PO is the GBF of Maria from Metropolis)), which in turn is indebted to 2001, and so on. And the presence of gravity saves a lot of money that would otherwise be spent on wirework and CGI.

          By “public” I mean the non-nerdy public, people who weren’t into science fiction or science. Forward to the 2000s, and Joss Whedon knows his audience, and is aware that traits previously considered nerdy (being into sci-fi, knowing stuff) are now mainstream, and he’s just one of many people who’ve been annoyed by on-screen space objects whooshing and rumbling. I remember a (mainstream press) review of Serenity that made approving mention of the silent space battle; when I saw it on DVD last year, I’m sure some sounds had been added. I just looked around YouTube and, of course, the young people have added their own music. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was a studio decision, like Mad Max being dubbed from Aussie to American accents. Of course, I might have imagined it.

          One thing that attracted me to the BSG remake, when I looked at some clips on YouTube, was that the spaceships moved like spaceships rather than aeroplanes. Projectile weapons too! I might be right in the middle of Whedon’s target demographic.

          Where shall we go from here? How about 2001? The science is as hard as nails. Space is silent. Travel is tedious and dangerous. If I have to choose one, I’d say my favourite scene is when Dave gets back into the Discovery; it’s terrifically exciting in terms of action, as the door blows out and he bounces, weightless, off the walls, but the best thing is that it begins in silence, but the sound comes up as the chamber fills with air. Fantastic – and correct – sound design.

          Keeping it real also provides a nice device; the sloth and difficulty of human space exploration contrasts beautifully with the go-anywhere-do-anything omnipotence of whatever is behind the monoliths.

          You mentioned Moon, which is, I agree, fabulous. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I loved the way it openly copped its design and even some shots from the likes of 2001, Alien and particularly Silent Running (hurrah!). There were even hints of Outland in there! The great thing about using a comfortable, established aesthetic is that it’s then possible to tell a much more complicated, inventive story – not that there were no original visuals, I loved the giant harvesters showering rocks around, seen against the sun. Great soundtrack too, and extra points for Sam Rockwell wearing mid-’80s Hi-Tec Squash shoes and an American Apparel track jacket on the moon.

          While I’ve said that bad science like FTL travel, artificial gravity etc. allow the story to progress easily (Star Wars etc.), you have to draw the line somewhere. Starship Troopers was cracking along with the usual space opera stuff, plus crude political satire, tons of violence and those fantastic warrior bugs…and then they chucked a rock. All the way across space to Buenos Aires. Oh, and the big spaceship bumped into it. I was just appalled by the scale of the affront to physics…but then there were more bugs and violence and Dougie Howser in an SS uniform, so things improved. But still.

          And don’t get me started on Alien Resurrection. I mean really. Do not, please.

        • Just realised: Beard, old skool trainers, Mercan Parrel track jacket – Sam Rockwell’s character in Moon is a space hipster! A spipster!

  2. dwoz says:

    The zombie infection will be carried by USB mice, much like Bubonic Plague was carried by Mice 1.0.

    Oops. Meant to say “is” carried.

    if you’re reading this, well….ahem.

    Unless you’re web-smurfing on an iPad.

    • Well, I only use laptops, with trackpads, so I’m probably safe. Now I’m no hygiene freak, but I’m quite scared of my own earbuds. Great sound, but damn, those things gather wax and…and…some kind of condensation and…urgh.

  3. We have zombies here in the US. They’re called the “Tea Party.”

    • dwoz says:

      …prion disease due to eating each other’s brains?

    • The band from Canada? They’ve been getting a lot of press lately.

      A tea party posse visited Britain recently (or they will soon, I didn’t pay attention), to spread the word. A group named after the Boston Tea Party, visiting Britain…is that contradictory or totally apt? I can’t decide.

      What’s ironic is that rich Brits are, and always have been, extremely enthusiastic about not paying tax, and don’t need any encouragement. We call them non-doms (non-domestics), meaning their money’s kept in tax havens like the Bahamas or Channel Islands.

      Anyway. Nice to see you here, thanks for reading!

  4. Greg Olear says:

    Yours is the first zombie-related post I’ve read, because when talk turns to zombies, I tune out, but I was wondering what all this zombies-are-coming nonsense was all about. The only zombies I’m interested in are the blokes who sing “Time of the Season.”

    Thanks for clearing this up, Steve, in such humorous fashion. (“(Jake or Maggie)” = ha!)

  5. Simon Smithson says:

    You guys are all suckers, and I’ve planned for what the next big thing is going to be when vampires and zombies are played out. You hear me? My time is coming..

    Will Smith is still going to be pretty well-positioned to survive, though.

    • BOGANPOCALYPSE! Rednecks, chavs, hillbillies and guidos swarming across the land! Although I’m not sure how Will Smith would be in a favourable position…maybe Nina’s right, and it’ll be teabaggers – Smith’s definitely in a high tax bracket.

      Although I’d like to think that he’ll be saved from your event by his Fresh Prince past, and Boom! Shake the Room becomes a rallying cry for the remaining humans.

      No, that’s a bit fanciful.

  6. Irene Zion says:

    Steve,

    You dismiss cremains too lightly, my friend.
    When cremains attack,
    the wind blows them
    into your eyes
    and up your nose
    and into your mouth
    and,
    just like a virus,
    you will be infected.

    (Sorry to have to be the one to tell you.)

  7. D.R. Haney says:

    A zombie is a terrific metaphor for those who’ve turned over their brains to corporations (“Buy this!” “I will, master!”), which seems to me a sizable portion of the population by now, and accounts for the renewed interest in zombies.

    Similarly, a great many of us have had, and continue to have, our blood sucked by the powers that be, which I think accounts for the renewed interest in vampires.

    Of course, the true reasons probably have little or nothing to do with unconscious perceptions of our overlords, but I enjoy thinking otherwise, so I do.

    • I think your theory has legs. People queueing outside the Apple Store for days to be the first to get hold of the latest iTelephone…wasn’t one of Romero’s zombie films (or was it Cronenberg?) from the ’70s set in a shopping mall for precisely that reason? CON-SUUUME…

      And the captains-of-industry-are-actually-vampires theme is definitely popular. I’m thinking of Blade? Underworld? You can tell I’m not taking this thing too seriously. Although I’m really looking forward to watching Daybreakers now.

      Sir Duke, any news on the e-book version of Subversia?

      • D.R. Haney says:

        I don’t know about the status of the e-book, Steve. I know PDFs were sent out to members of the Book Club, but I’m not sure if that that’s the same thing. I should see or speak to Brad tomorrow, and I’ll ask him for an update and be sure to get back to you with it.

    • Irene Zion says:

      @Duke,

      deep breath.
      lighten up already.

  8. Did Pride and Prejudice and Zombies revive (ha ha) the zombie craze or was it a reaction to it? It would be nice to blame Jane Austen in some way. Also, my ZA plan involves Hello Kitty and a machete, so your essay has left me feeling utterly deflated. Thanks.

    • Don’t know if it was a reaction or a continuation. I was recently made aware of something called…I can barely bring myself to type it…Wuthering Bites. Yes.

      Sorry to spoil things. But the good news is, you can just sort of wander around…er…

  9. B says:

    I don’t even have an ish of Milla about me, sadly. But, I’m not giving up my crossbow, because it looks so badass in pictures. ;p

    PS – Your lack of interest in bacon makes me sad, but I still think you’re the bees knees.

    • I’m actually eating a BLT as we speak. I love bacon, I’m just not obsessed with it. The other internet things, well, I can see how they could be pretty interesting – except cupcakes. What’s that all about? They’re a rather unremarkable sort of cake.

      Anyway. Thanks for inspiring me to finally post this with your Silent Hill nursie picture! As you’ve already got a crossbow you might as well keep hold of it. Just because you’re going to be a zombie, doesn’t mean you can’t be armed.

  10. Here’s a photo of the event that got me thinking about this stupid subject in the first place: http://www.flickr.com/photos/frazernash/5075565208/

  11. Jim Valvis says:

    Steve, you’re wrong about the feet of the zombies falling off. How is that ever going to happen when they can’t even get out of their graves? It’s physically impossible to open a buried casket and dig your way up from 6 feet of dirt. We could be having a zombie infestation right now and nobody would ever know because they’re trapped in their coffins.

    And for another point, why do the zombies only feed on the unifected? Why not, since they are really, really hungry, turn on each other? I mean, after all, it’s the same kind of meat, just a little less fresh…

    Fun little piece, Steve. I enjoyed it.

  12. Dana says:

    I love vampires, or I did until they turned Mormon. They’re dark, dangerous, sexy and they live forever. What’s not to love? Zombies are like the anti-vampire. Slow, gross and falling apart. They certainly do creep me out though. Night of the Living Dead – gahh! But the more recent incarnations have cracked me up – thinking of Sean of the Dead and Zombieland specifically. That must be the2.0 appeal… they’re HILARIOUS!

    I don’t get the cupcake thing either. Really? I think it’s a secret or something but they’re just a really small cake.

    • Have you seen the Korean vampire film Thirst? It’s decent. I wrote a review for Screenjabber.com, which was never used…and as this is the comments section of MY essay, I don’t feel bad about clagging it up, thus:

      Thirst****

      Thirst is, unashamedly, a vampire film. It doesn’t have a distant, sideways relationship with its peers, in the way that Unbreakable is a very unconventional superhero flick; it’s more like Hulk – a genre piece by an unexpected director. Although Park Chan-wook – or Director Park, in the formal Korean mode of address – isn’t the most genteel filmmaker; there’s no shortage of action, gore, dark humour and suspended disbelief in his back catalogue.

      One of the poster quotes asserts that “Thirst is unlike anything you’ve seen before” – unfortunately, in content rather than style, it covers much of the same terrain as the HBO series True Blood; how vampires navigate polite society, the opposing pulls of vampire aggression and human civility, the usual problems with sunlight and a regular supply of refreshing blood. However, Thirst’s style – the performances, cinematography and direction – is far from True Blood’s. The pace is measured, injecting occasional – effective – shocks and laughs rather than a relentless assault. As in Director Park’s previous films, every shot is elegantly composed and lit, and unconventional camera angles and movements are used to tell the story, not just for effect.

      Director (and co-writer) Park’s wry sense of humour is present and correct, but not as pitch-black as usual. Many of the laughs draw upon vampires’ inherent absurdities – their strength, speed, pallor, need for enclosed sleeping quarters and so on – but, happily, there are no comedy fangs or garlic here, or any of that irritating beetle-browed glowering. There are crucifixes, though, as Kang-ho Song’s character Sang-hyeon is a Catholic priest (Director Park was raised Catholic). He becomes a vampire after receiving a life-restoring blood transfusion while on missionary work in Africa; his internal human-vampire conflict is given extra reach by his holy origins. In contrast, female lead Ok-vin Kim’s character Tae-joo is almost identical to True Blood’s Jessica, an oppressed young girl embracing her new vampire existence with murderous relish

      Kang-ho Song comes with a lot of goodwill having played the hapless lead in The Host. Here, as Priest Sang-hyeon, he’s much quieter and more restrained (as is Thirst), and makes a convincingly attractive protagonist. Father Ted-style brown brogues aside, his Neo-like priest/vampire garb doesn’t hurt his cause; alongside Ok-vin Kim in her slinky blue dress he deserves pin-up status.

      Perhaps surprisingly given its theme, Thirst is less of a twisted shocker than Oldboy or Lady Vengeance. It shares the cool style of the former and the enjoyable dark humour that runs through much of the latter; there’s some mild body horror and a fair amount of bloody violence but it’s all good fun. In the currently over-subscribed vampire genre, Thirst is a cool, fresh take on a familiar theme.

  13. Dana says:

    And I neglected to say what I meant to – this was a fun piece Steve!

    • Thank you! Fun was my intent; I usually produce either shaggy dog tales or slightly ranty opinion pieces. This time I thought I’d just have a laugh. Even went for the too-long title too.

  14. Steve, enjoyed the piece. And thank you for joining the growing movement of sentient individuals who never want to read about cupcakes again ever.

  15. Further to the huge comment I just posted, which was only 25% shorter than the original essay, I’d like to name some essential cerebral sci-fi films:

    Primer
    Gattaca
    Silent Running
    Pi

    There are many more. Please barge in with suggestions and/or protests.

  16. Porky Haze says:

    wow you people take things seriously. who are Dog the Bounty Hunter and Kim Kardashian?

    • Dog’s this bloke on the telly who has a massive wife. As for Kim Kardashian, it pleases me greatly to say I don’t actually know who or what she is, why she’s famous, or even what she looks like.

  17. […] I also found a bunch of interesting pieces about faith not being stupid, and God having both womb and a vagina, and a great one by Steve Sparshott on zombie apocalypse misconceptions. […]

  18. […] I also found a bunch of interesting pieces about faith not being stupid, and God having both womb and a vagina, and a great one by Steve Sparshott on zombie apocalypse misconceptions. […]

  19. […] and you know what? I think we’ve been making a big mistake. I’ve written my conclusions here. This entry was posted in Zombie News and tagged apocalypse, Cool, images, Zombie…………. […]

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