So, I’ve finally worked out the schism and problem.
There are two types of zombie literature: first-world and second-world. One works and the other really doesn’t. The term ‘first-world’ means ‘set in our real world’. And ‘second-world’ means ‘set in its own made up world’. Instinctively, which do you suspect is best? Well, for my money, here’s how it is…
First-world zombie literature sees the zombie explained as plague or epidemic. It works as a metaphor for ebola or radicalisation. You might think it explores the problems of today’s world in an interesting way. But it doesn’t really, to be honest. In first-world zombie literature the same jeopardy is repeated over and over. Pretty boring. The zombies are mindless. They have no variety. There is no uber-zombie. Yes, there might be a search for ‘patient zero’ (as in the World War Z movie), but it never provides an insightful revelation about our species. I got series 1-4 of The Walking Dead for xmas. Wow, I had to work hard to get through it. Repetitive to the point of viewer-becomes-a-mindless-zombie-just-to-tolerate-it-anymore. The writers ran out of jokes in series 1, they had to think of inventive ways to kill zombies just to keep some sort of variety, blah, blah.
Now, your second-world zombie lit is another kettle of undead fish altogether. I’m not just saying this cos my book Necromancer’s Gambit kickstarted the new wave of zombie lit back in 2008 either. (Alright, I am a little bit.) The point in second-world zombie lit is that the focus is usually the necromancer. The necromancer is a magician with an ‘intelligent’ aim. They often serve a God of the Dead too, so there’s a larger philosophical framework. Larger existential questions (the meaning of life and death) are implicitly explored too. And even the zombies can be smarter – they can be thinking revenants. So there can be more malice and humour.
And there you have it. Second-world zombie lit rules. Forget your survivalist gun-lobbry first-world nonsense. You might wonder where the Resident Evil movies sit then. Well, the Red Queen serves as organising intellect and the world is soooo post-apocalypse that it’s effectively unrecognisable from our own. Resident Evil is therefore second-world, or so I’d argue. Or it’s a hybrid. A third way. I like it anyway. See you in the next world!