My first book deals heavily in zombies, and the following two don't shy away from them either. It's understandable if at first glance, people assume I'm a huge zombie fan. I'm kinda not. If you read Lifehack, you'll find it's not like a typical zombie book or movie. Lifehack isn't entirely about survival.. about a quarter of the book plays like that, but can you name the last Romero-styled movie that escalated into airstrikes on a dragon?
Seriously, name one. If there's one I missed, I wanna go see it. Otherwise, I'll go on assuming Lifehack is unique in that aspect. (as well as a handful of other aspects, of course)
Still, when Jersey's "the Star Ledger" called out about "The psychology of ... Zombies!" I felt I had to answer:
When the hero of my first book [Alisia] first hit the page [as art], she needed a target. Not wanting to kill innocents, I thought, "Hey, what's a threat I can shoot the **** out of, and not feel guilt?" I considered robots, but zombies won out. Robots are too potentially powerful, and from a writing perspective, it's hard to draw a line in what they can do- and readers are likely to draw their own limits on what a robot can and cannot do. It's a far too easy fallback to say "Yeah, you just beat 100 robots... but now.... HERE'S ONE WITH A BIGGER LASER!!!! OOOOOOH!!!"
Zombies have limits, they are pretty well defined. Sure, now we have fast ones, but on the whole, if you see a zombie, you know what you're in for. Does that make them less of a threat? No, that's the trick. They're like you and me... that alone is a threat. And they're relentless, tireless, and hungry. The more you think of a person maniacally trying to bite into your flesh... at first you think of an angry little kid biting. Yeah, that can leave a mark... but make it an adult who wants more than to hurt you, and have the strength to tear parts of you away. To pull your familiar, comfortable body apart, bit by bit.
Now give this guy a couple hundred buddies that all want the same thing. Suddenly you're the last tray of nachos in the stadium.
Right now, guarantee for me that there isn't a zombie outside your house. There isn't? Did you look? Are you wondering? We know there isn't, of course there isn't. But doesn't a part of you want to give a teeny little glance? Did you smirk at your fence? How long would that fence stop them, you wonder? Hey, there's a mop nearby, would it... no, a shovel would be better.
Suddenly, you're casting yourself in a zombie survival fantasy. It's real enough that anyone can get wrapped up in it. When the musing is done, you chuckle to yourself, or thank that it's not happening.
It isn't, is it?
Did you look outside?
Just a quick peek? For me? We have to stick together.