How many zombies are in a zombie apocalypse, anyway?


In Memory of George Romero (1940-2017), inventor of the modern zombie film. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine on him….. (Because we don’t want him to come back as a zombie!)

I remember watching a much-censored TV version of Night of the Living Dead as a kid. The zombie outbreak in the film was a local one, and was caused, as was everything in the Sixties, by mysterious radiation. But what about the REAL zombies? Or, OK, the more realistic ones? How do they grow from a local problem to a cool global zombie apocalypse like in The Walking Dead?

Most of us assume the zombie condition is caused exclusively by bite-to-bite transmission. That is, a person is bitten by a zombie, dies, turns, and goes on to bite others. But can this mode of transmission lead to a global outbreak? I mean, it wouldn’t take more than a few transmission events before people got the clue that it was a really bad idea to leave zombie-bite victims unattended. If human beings were to routinely shoot newly dead zombie victims in the head— or maybe all newly dead— a zombie outbreak wouldn’t likely reach outbreak levels. It might become a part of the death ritual— like the way they smack a newly dead pope in the head with a silver hammer…. (I wonder which pope became a zombie so they had to institute that ritual?)

There perhaps needs to be alternate methods of transmission in order for the zombie condition to spread to apocalyptic levels. In The Walking Dead the theory is that everyone’s infected, so that death from any cause will spread the zombie condition. Once people know this one would think that it would become a universal rule to crack the skulls of dead people just in case, but that doesn’t seem to have happened. I blame big government. They were too busy setting up refugee centers and military controls to do the right thing and spread the essential zombie-prevention information to the whole population before the lights (and TVs) went out.

Perhaps the zombie infection is like the Black Death of the Middle Ages. In the initial form the plague was spread from rat fleas to humans. But then as the infection grew worse in the cities, it began to spread human-to-human through coughing and sneezing caused by the infection.

The primary initial method might be something other than zombie bites. After all, there has to be a first zombie somehow unless the zombie condition is endemic and present in the population at a low level all the time. In my much-delayed zombie story, the infection is spread by inhaling or otherwise consuming a plant symbiont. The infected person will either develop an acute infection and rapidly become a zombie, or get a “slow burn” infection, which will allow the person to live with the infection for years and only become a zombie after natural death.

With a second method for spreading the zombie infective agent, one can achieve very large numbers of zombie far more rapidly than if you need a zombie to bite every victim. If you want to wreck the world with zombies (in fiction, I hope) a second infection method will get the apocalypse going quicker.


Blog posts I’m reading:

Daniella Bova: What Happened to Common Decency

Fiction Notes: Series Tips: Characters, Timeline & Plot

Girl Zombie Authors: Lizzie Borden’s Doctor #Paranormal #Mystery – Almost here!   – Christine Verstraete writes about her latest, soon-to-be-published zombie novel. Girl Zombie Authors is a multi-authored blog by, you guessed it, girl zombie authors. Meaning girls that write about zombies not girls that ARE zombies, I’m guessing.

 

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