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Photocopied bullets for Carbon-Copy Corpses [zombie opinion piece]

 When Geoff came skipping into the house bearing gifts of a big smile and fish tacos last night I was in the middle of watching the latest from Grimm little did I know it was going to prompt one of our pop-culture debates on the origins of originality which quickly moved back to one of our biggest arguments in which he demands I stop settling for mediocrity. After reading this you can direct all hate mail to his Facebook page; In the Shadows of the Cabin.

Photocopied bullets for Carbon-Copy Corpses
Why I hate the entire zombie genre

by Geoffrey F. Horneker

Young-George-RomeroWhen George A. Romero finished Night of The Living Dead and released a milestone of horror for a waiting world in 1968, I have to wonder if he knew at that moment that he was molding a golem. He blew life into his creation from sources and inspiration that were as distant as they were varied from his landmark film (seriously, the man listed Tales of Hoffman as one of his earliest influences in his film-making), and the result was entirely new.

The sheer reach this film had to shape future artists was tangible and trackable, a game-changer that influenced mediums beyond film into literature, art and music. This first wave of artists, born in the wake of this template, drew from their own wide list of influences consolidated around Romero as the spark for the first variations of his brain-child. Exploring the new concept, changing origins and methods, and helping to establish a genre that would create a renaissance of horror that would see other visionaries rise up in various artistic mediums across the globe to become established cult icons as the cycle repeats with new artists influenced by the group before.

Photocopied bullets for Carbon-Copy Corpses Why I hate the entire zombie genreFlash forward decades to the present and the explosion of on-demand entertainment has created a populace who consumes media as voraciously as the newly-risen dead of Romero’s masterwork. Brief observation shows us the demand for new work absorbed and forgotten as quickly as it can be created has outstripped the ability of the medium to ebb naturally until innovation causes it to flow once more. Where the current iteration of artists in this genre, all influenced by the copies of copies of copies of copies ad infinitum, all pulling from the same pool of cloned source material in an absolutely futile quest to create the next trivial variation of the basic concept that hasn’t been innovative for over three decades.

There is no collision of varied and disparate ideas that spawned Romero’s genius, instead we have a glut of hack writing that is determined to carve out a place in the genre with absolutely trivial variations of the original story such as changes to the zombie origin:

Viral infection “based on actual science”, bacterial infection, fungal or botanical infection, soundwave infection, etc. Changes to the makeup of the zombies themselves: Running zombies, Living zombies (that act exactly like zombies, but are actually alive), Thinking zombies with actual intelligence that the living can’t recognize, Mentally-unstable zombies (regular people driven into murderous rampages that think and are alive but are zombies if you are taking into account behavior and effect), Plant zombies, etc. Or a clash of zombies with other genres: Zombies-as-comedy, zombies-as-comedy in the UK, zombie love-stories, zombies-in-space, steampunk zombies, zombie westerns, zombies in any recognizable moment of human history, etc. And with each new variation of the original, someone will come along in very short order and combine two or three of these later-generation copycats together to repaint the genre in a slightly different hue and crow at their originality.

redneck-zombies

The entire zombie milieu has become inbred and insular to a degree that would make any Elite private school beam with pride at the homogenization that has been achieved. And while this may very well be the market demanding supply is this really what we all want? The same painting over and over again with the barest of changes, different colors over the same picture here, the same picture with lighter or heavier lines there, the same picture but in a different frame? Do we really believe a smudge across the painted landscape is going to create for all of us that first rush of excitement we felt at the art created by the genre’s original trailblazers?

night-of-the-living-dead-zombie-girlI’ve heard the argument that there is nothing new under the sun, that all artistic work is just a variation of work that came before and that nothing new can truly be created, but that has become a cop-out and rallying cry for mediocrity. Throughout our history art has continued to vary and change amorphously through the collision of new technology and ideas. Tell me, where in Shakespeare was the origin of Bladerunner? Where in Mozart was the impetus for the works of Merzbow (look it up, but turn down your speakers if you play any tracks you find)?

The truth is we continuously create new ideas when we give them time to grow organically, remaining content with the originals that we have until new bursts of creativity have been made by visionary individuals creating not from demand of monotony and stagnation, but from a genuine combination of new ideas brought forth from good sources. Invention comes from the absence of forward momentum along a path or conceptual idea, no one will innovate when we give them absolutely no reason to do so. Why innovate if we will demand the lowest common denominator? It is time to burn these washed-out and tired corpses to ashes, seal over the graves with cement, and stop consuming the genre with no sense of irony and leave this compost alone until the seeds of new innovation can sprout something beautiful and weird in the future for us, because we gave it time and necessity to grow rather than tilling the soil over the grave again and again.

Geoff F. Horneker is a resident of Fairbanks, AK and the partner to Kriss Morton. When he is not spending his hours wrangling the deviants of the Interior, he is busy slaying dragons, taming Asrielle, composing music, compiling his manifesto and keeping the Cabin Goddess balanced and happy.

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What is your take on this?

You guys know I am the Zombie Queen. We have tons of friends who love the genre and he is contstantly getting into arguments with them as well. The truth is Geoff and I do not argue much about it because I agree. I am the one who argues that no good idea is truly original and he is the one that points out I am to smart and brilliant to settle.

3 Comments

  1. I dunno. I find that different approaches to the same sourse bring something new to the table. Shaun of the Dead, Evil Dead II, and Zombieland all brought something new to the table for me. Breathers has remained one of the best zombie novels I have ever read, and recently, Double Dead followed it. We can use zombies to examine how different people react and clash. I think we could stand more international stuff, but zombies seem to be a uniquely American thing because they represent so many nerd problems–isolation, inverting power structures, the pressure to conform and work together with the small band of freaks you are stuck with–and of course, agorophobia and fear of crowds.

    However, zombies are becoming passe again. I agree that we need some time away from them but I am interested by what will come next. It seems dystopias/dark worlds/apocalypses are the big sell right now and I think that is reflecting real life a bit. After all, Antarctica is fucking melting.

  2. I have to agree with Geoff since I have felt the same way about it and have for awhile not just with Zombie genre but also vampires. I have seen just to many similarities and not enough uniqueness. I think some of it is because of what has worked and people rushing to join the band wagon to make a few bucks and a name when thinking about mass media and major media like TV and movies. Before the internet revolution and ebooks things were able to come around naturally several years apart and sometimes decades. It allowed for new experiences through different eyes and new takes on things. Now with the rush to produce it doesn’t work the same way….nice post btw

  3. I’ve never been a huge fan of zombies, because to me there are only so many stories that can be told about fighting mindless, shambling hordes. However, I’ve found some of the ideas coming out during the past three years to be quite interesting, such as the Redneck Zombie books, and Patrick Freivald’s Twice Shy and sequel. James Marshall in Ninja Versus Pirates Featuring Zombies and Zombie versus Fairy Featuring Albinos examines zombies as a means of enforcing sameness. Sorry, I couldn’t think of the word I was looking for that explains that better. So, I can’t say I hate the whole genre, because there’s some cool new stuff coming out of it.

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