Friday, February 15, 2013

Since I am both a bit lazy and a bit busy, I thought I would repost a guest post I wrote for Cloey's Book Reviews and Other Stuff. Hope she doesn't mind.

The Top 10 Things You May Not Know About Zombies

Number One: They didn't start eating people until 1968. Zombies originated in Vodou (or Voodoo) folklore, and referred to dead people revived by witch doctors, or bokors, to be slaves. So, for centuries zombies were just luckless slaves, kind of creepy but generally not all that scary. George Romero made them scary in his seminal “Night of the Living Dead,” although he refers to these hungry, reanimated corpses only as ghouls, not zombies.

Number Two: The first full-length zombie movie was a love story. That would be “White Zombie,” in which an evil witch doctor plots to turn a beautiful young woman into a zombie so she will fall in love with a wealthy plantation owner. This one dates all the way back to 1932 and stars Bela Lugosi as the bokor, just a year after his star turn as a certain vampire named Dracula.

Number Three: They don't have to have bodies. One type of zombie is a spirit zombie, or astral zombie, which are used to enhance the witch doctor's power. In “Mama Lona's Man,” I combined these two to create a spirit zombie who inhabits his own dead body. Gotta think outside the box sometimes.

Number Four: You don't have to shoot them in the head to kill them. Not the traditional Vodou zombie, anyway. You just need to stuff salt in their mouths, which either brings them back to life or convinces them to return to the grave. Easier said than done, for sure, but if you can accomplish it, less messy than firearms.

Number Five: They may be real. There have been numerous anecdotal accounts of researchers who visit Haiti and other Vodou-equipped areas and hear of the reanimated dead, and occasionally they even have first-hand accounts. Theories include the application of various drugs, hypnosis, and perhaps even actual black magic. Researchers wrote in The Lancet more than a decade ago that there were probably various interpretations for the zombie phenomenon, including mental illness, learning disabilities and brain damage. Such folks are “not uncommonly met with wandering in Haiti,” they wrote, which is not very nice to say.

Number Six: They may be real and closer than Haiti. And, in this case, caused by drugs. Namely the compounds known as “bath salts,” which sound kind of nice but seem to drive people completely nuts. Such as the guy in Florida who recently chewed another guy's face off and then withstood several bullet wounds from police before succumbing. Or maybe he had just seen too many zombie movies.

Number Seven: Vampires trump zombies. At least according to Spike TV, which runs shows like “Deadliest Warrior,” which pits historical figures against each other in speculative match-ups, such as Teddy Roosevelt vs. Lawrence of Arabia, or Saddam Hussein vs. Pol Pot (I am not making this up). They did one episode that pitted vampires against zombies. I didn't have cable at the time and didn't watch it, but it's online and judging by the comments, the vampires won. I don't know, I like to think that my book's zombie hero, Ravinell Straw, could take Edward Cullen in a fair fight.

Number Eight: Zombies can dance. Forgotten “Thriller” already, have you? For shame.

Number Nine: They aren't really that bitey. Sure, the zombies in “Walking Dead” can easily tear through flesh in one chomp, despite having allegedly rotting jaw muscles, but in reality humans rank fairly low on the bite scale compared with some other critters. The human jaw generates 120 pounds of bite pressure. Snapping turtles generate 1,000 pounds. “Night of the Living Dead Snapping Turtles”? Yeah, you don't really want to watch that. Crocodiles, just to show off, generate 2,500 pounds of bite pressure. Just an aside here to mention that my zombie character in “Mama Lona's Man” doesn't bite anyone. He may bite the girl he loves in a later book, but only if she asks him to. That could come in a planned sequel, “50 Shades of Gray Skin.”

Number Ten: Zombies are metaphorical, sometimes. Adam Ant, of 1980s new wave music fame, just issued his comeback single, which refers to his exile from the music scene when he moved from London to tiny Dayton, Tennessee. He was dead, but not dead, and still cool. And now he's going back on tour, so his career may be revived after all. The song title? “Cool Zombie.”

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