Archive for January, 2015

So the zombies rose to plague the living, but it was no apocalypse. The world did not end. The living were somehow able to battle back the hordes of the undead. Hey, it could happen; think World War Z (the book, not the movie).

Now, in the aftermath, there is that messy question of what to do with all the leftovers? The zombies still shambling around, the pieces strewn far and wide, maybe even the infected zombie animals. Sure, we could double tap them all right in the brain and burn the remains, but that just seems wasteful (and boring). And what are zombies about if not recycling parts (get it: reanimated bodies)?

So, in the spirit of adaptation and reuse, I give you 5 things to do with the lingering zombies after the apocalypse failed to actually end the world:

Weapons of War

What do we humans do maybe best of all throughout time? Figure out evolving and creative ways to kill each other. Guns, bombs, landmines, biological pathogens—if nothing else, we are innovative when it comes to the demise of our species-mates. Why not include the undead to the regiment?

Imagine, if you will, a battlefield led by the snarling, chomping, flesh-hungry masses that require no food, no quarter, no rest. Sure, they also completely lack cognition and loyalty, but with the proper direction, they could be unleashed on the opposing force.

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Not to mention the more covert precision insertion of a zombie. A zombie smuggled into a secure facility could mean secure facility down. Zombies could be dropped in the night into sleepy, unsuspecting towns to annihilate the population in mere days.

Entertainment Fighting

Zombie fight club. Zombie cage matches. Zombie gladiators. The variation possibilities are nearly endless. Perhaps zombies could be made to fight other zombies (gambling involved, of course). More likely, zombies would be obstacles for the living, either released gladiator style on the peripheral of a more central fight or as the direct contest.

Zombie fighting could become an entire entertainment industry. It could be conducted on a grand scale in large arenas, getting us to truly channel our savage gladiator-loving roots. It, no doubt, would be televised (most likely on pay-per-view) and YouTubed. Foolish children would be trying to emulate the greats, making their own home movies that ended with them getting chomped on by a zombie and racking up millions of hits.

Scientific Experimentation

Sure, zombies are not living tissue. OK, they are not exactly human anymore. But surely, a reanimated human body more closely imitates a human body than a pig or rat. With a horde of zombies laying around, we might not even need to worry about testing on animals anymore. We could use those undead bodies for all sorts of medical and scientific experimentation, consumer product testing. If a shampoo could give a zombie radiant, shining locks, there’s no doubt it would be a top seller. If lipstick could stay on through the ravaging of a screaming victim, it truly never rubs off on his collar.

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At the very least, there is the ever-constant search for a cure for zombies. With enough doctors, maybe they could restore zombies to the living before they figured out how to cure cancer.

Crash Test Dummies

Not dissimilar from scientific experimentation, zombie bodies being formerly human bodies could be used to gauge damage done in things like car accidents. Zombies would bring the fleshy (though rotting) tissue and animated rigidity that normal crash test dummies simply lack. And you know if a zombie gets dispatched in a car accident, there is no way a breathing human would ever survive.

Why not zombies shot into space? Save the monkeys. Surely there’s not an ethical consideration if the alternative was to put two in their skull and set their finally limp bodies ablaze.

Perimeter Defense

What is more of a deterrent than zombies? Put a shambling biter on a runner outside your house to discourage a midnight burglar. Leave staggering bodies in a vacant store, ever vigilant for any sound of a living soul who should not be there. Equip these zombie guards with webcams, and you could eliminate the need for a night watchman.

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Even better, create a zombie moat. Imagine, if you will, a deep trench around your property filled with a teeming mass of gasping bodies. You never have to feed them; you never have to make sure there are enough. All you have to do is dump in the dead and let them pace relentlessly in the ground around your site. No one is going to dare crawl down there to get across. As long as you can ignore or mask the noise of those wheezing walkers, it is perfect high security.

Perhaps around a bug out location for when the apocalypse really comes.

 

So before you double tap those bullets in a rotting skull, stop to consider how you could recycle that pitiful zombie (a second time). Grandma need not perish completely unnecessary when you could keep her around as a mobile scarecrow to would-be intruders through your backyard; think of the lives she could save being ejected from a demolished car or the joy she could bring consumers in finding the right formula in hair products.

Don’t waste the dead.

What other purposes could you find for a zombie?

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When you publish a book, the first thing people ask you is where the idea came from.

The honest answer (that it just one day materialized out of the gray matter between my ears and started knocking on my skull until I wrote it out) always sounds like a vague copout, so I guess the real question is what inspired that idea in the first place. What planted the seed that bloomed into (in my case, a dark and twisted) alternate reality in my head.

For me, with Savages, the answer is a combination between a short civilian deployment to Iraq and a season long marathon of The Walking Dead.

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The two might be seemingly unrelated, yet they have one common vein for me: savagery.

When I traveled to Iraq, I was a young, naive civilian girl. I had experienced messy and rough patches of life but all under the pillowed safety of American culture. I never wanted for food or shelter; my life was never in daily peril. I lived the good and easy life without realizing or appreciating it.

In Iraq, I did not see any action. I spent my time on a few different bases (Victory, Liberty, Slayer, Tallil, Taji, War Eagle) but never outside of the wire. I only traveled by plane of helicopter. My interaction with the soldiers was in a living capacity, as we shared living areas, laundry, and dining facilities, and professionally, as I trained them on software. My interaction with actual Iraqis was slimmed down to only an Iraqi troop store on War Eagle.

The impression made on me was an issue of exposure. Feeling the blast of an IED in my boots and the walls of a trailer around me was different than a passing news story on TV. Hearing the sirens for a mortar was different than the idea of the threat. Talking to soldiers who lost brothers or had missions go awry was different than some cold article in a magazine or link on Facebook. Seeing wounded warriors still walking and still serving was different than donating to a charity in their names.

My little taste of war, my front row sideline seat, made me appreciate my cushy life back home, but it also highlighted the worst in human nature. The stories I heard, the reports I saw, the realities all around me painted humanity in a very depressing and unfavorable light. To me, it seemed if you removed a flush and comfortable society to take care of our needs, people reverted to animals.

So into my brain went the seed that people are savage in nature. Enter twelve straight hours of The Walking Dead.

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My favorite part of The Walking Dead, aside from the gruesome zombies, is the examination of what the apocalypse does to the survivors. I appreciate how the show tracks their slow exchange of humanity for survival. No matter how the characters try to cling to the humans they once were, with each threat, they ransom off a little piece of that person they remember. Not to mention the entirely savage other survivors they encounter.

Psychology is my favorite part of apocalyptic media.

So with my brain saturated half a day’s worth of post-apocalyptic dead fighting and living fearing, the mood and the imagery permeated my mind, reached down to mingle with my own memories, my own life imprints.

I started to think about how savage we are underneath all our socialization and civilization. I started to brood on how those animals within would come screaming out at the smallest threat, much less the end of the world. Gradually, these ideas grew legs, formed into bodies, started speaking in dialog inside my head. I could see their world, and I only followed.

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Savages tells the story of two apocalypse survivors navigating through the ruins of America and battling through lingering savages with no answers, searching for the last strain of humanity. Until one discovery changes everything. The infant’s cry shatters their already destroyed world. For Parker, the babe invokes the ghosts of her dead husband and sons. For Iraq war veteran Marcus, the child embodies his hope and gives him innocence to protect.

As far as inspiration, Parker is the most pessimistic and damaged parts of me, the rational parts of my mind the believe the worst of us as a species. Marcus is the embodiment of the best I saw out of the soldiers I was deployed with. The savages are representations of what might be at the core of every one of us.

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What do you think? Are we savage at our core? Would we all devolve in the face of the apocalypse?

Savages is available in paperback and for Kindle on Amazon and Barnes and Noble (with more formats and sites to come). Feel free to step inside my brain and see how I imagine the world falling apart.