on the zombie apocalypse

I’ve been thinking about the zombie apocalypse. Not the middle or late stages of the apocalypse, since that always seems to follow a straightforward and predictable course, as we see in World War Z and 48 Days Later and many many other books and movies.  Wherever they have come from, zombies bite people and create new zombies, and so it continues until it reaches an end.

Rather, I was thinking about the early stages of the apocalypse, of how the apocalypse begins. Whether for instance, a la Night of the Living Dead and Thriller, the dead rise from the earth.

Driving through Georgia over the past couple of weeks, I made an observation. We passed many cemeteries and memorial gardens on the road: some were old and some more recent; some were small family plots and some large scale community enterprises. But only one of them was enclosed by a fence or a wall. Particularly given that The Walking Dead is set in Georgia, I would have thought the locals would be more concerned with the dangers of the rising dead.

In England, on the other hand, almost all of the cemeteries are surrounded by a wall high enough to impede zombies from freely wandering the landscape. Perhaps there is a simple cultural explanation about how we should remember the dead.

Or perhaps there’s a deeper explanation, that this difference relates back to a now forgotten but recent zombie apocalypse, which struck Europe, hence the walls, but missed the US, hence the lack of walls and fences. I know that it’s a bonkers idea and that it’s a horrible thing to wish upon people, but I want this zombie apocalypse theory to be true. I want there to have been a zombie apocalypse and some deep, persistent cultural amnesia, the only memory of which is the existence or lack of walls around cemeteries.

And once one idea gets started, other ideas start creeping in. What would happen to nuclear power stations during a zombie apocalypse. I’ll admit that I am not an avid or extensive reader of the zombie canon and so perhaps this idea has already been done, and done well, but I suspect there is a good story about a group of workers holed up in a nuclear power station, desperately trying to keep the core from going critical while being besieged by zombies.

This ties into a different thread of ideas, namely that of the doomsday scenario, in which we have created something which we cannot undo. We then have to spend more and more effort in keeping this thing we cannot undo from going bad, until at some point this takes all of society’s effort, and then something breaks. Admittedly, the zombies are not the doomsday scenario but this might be a strange way of exploring some of the issues around nuclear power, an idea that’s been explored to some reasonable extent.

I think that money might be considered as a doomsday device, and that there are others. But this is taking us away from the zombies. Though this has admittedly been a bit for a facetious zombie rant, I think it highlights something different. Namely, how do we as humans build systems to remember things that we do not want to forget.  This preservation of knowledge against the ravages of time and disaster is something that I’m starting to explore, and a fascinating topic it is.

~ by Jim Anderson on 5 August 2017.

4 Responses to “on the zombie apocalypse”

  1. If you spill salt, do you throw a pinch over your left shoulder? If you visit a fountain do you throw a coin into it? If you tell a lie do you cross your fingers (mentally if not literally)? Superstition? Or are they rooted in race-memory?

  2. re. money as a doomsday device — living in a world controlled by money may be our practice run for living in a world controlled by a nonbenign, amoral AI. Money has *tentacles*.

  3. Indeed, and we can see only some of those tentacles. I wonder whether there is a story about money developing some sort of Borg-like distributed sentience and controlling us, perhaps without even realizing that we are sentient beings in our own right.

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