Zombie stories are not science fiction. George A. Romero left a confused heritage by suggesting in the classic film that something like Martian or poisonous caused the zombies.
CF has always won with almost any mix of subgenres. I’m not interested in saying that CF should be this or that exclusively, but I want to better understand what zombie stories are about. I think they are not from CF. I want to review what that means, and the doors that can be open.
The zombies are a tale of terror. It is a linguistic device to move the emotions of anguish, terror, disgust. This difference matters because the ways in which CF deals with death — life after life, resuscitation — are characteristically distinct. Frankenstein is science overcoming death. But he is not a zombie because his drama is his conscience. The drama of life in CF is just the conscience: if the aliens have it, if there is only one type of, if the rationality is good, bad or what, if there is a universal language or if there can be, if the machines have or they may be aware, if the clones are humans, etc., etc. Zombie stories are not about conscience, that’s why they are not CF.
But when Romero gets into a social conflict in his story he gives us a clue. Utopias and dystopias are basic themes of the CF. In the Romero films that continue the series there are several that focus on the problems of the future society: rich-poor, if technology helps, if science will defeat zombies, if they are a viral epidemic (as suggested in dozens of series), if they are another human species, etc. In no story of zombies that I know is inclined to magic: I do not remember any series in which someone suggests that zombies are a thing of magic, and that’s why they are the final condemnation of humanity. Nor is it ever declared that they are the Condemnation: the divine punishment. The zombies do not point to any new religiosity. They continue in the positive world, in science world, in politics world.
What zombie tales are about is politics. The zombies invade. They destroy civilization. They destroy society. They are invincible as a problem, but they can be faced and defeated and successfully in quarantine zones, in oases on a planet turned against Humanity. But only in oasis. They are no more governments or nations. What is needed to establish these oases is not technology. Science does not cure anything: there is no cure or vaccine. What is needed is courage, strength, solidarity, altruism … And fear, and violence, and a strong authority. Authoritarian. Even cruel. What the zombie stories are about, what this horror story turned into because that is what matters to us now, is what we need to organize ourselves. The present stories of zombies are tales of naive politics. Of politics that does not want to be political.
Throughout the world, politics and politicians are detested. And as we suffer a rampant political inculturation by which voters prefer to vote for a demagogue like Trump rather than a politician like Hillary, and as the gap between political class and citizenship has widened, we are afraid. Anguish, uneasiness, uncertainty: the colors of fear, then. We take a story of fear and we put the one we suffer. In zombie tales there is never a cure. Neither victory nor restoration of order. And that, the impossibility of society and government is the problem, the point of zombies stories. There is no government. There are people. Families, clans. And that’s it. And everything ends like this, everything ends there. As in a dystopia of tribes harassed by a permanent threat. We all know that poll after poll family and friends are what people around the world say they have confidence, and also what they distrust most: strangers. As it is always be in zombie tales.
The CF, if the authors want it, could be more political and see in this gap, in this fear an opportunity.