The Death Penalty in a Post-Zombie-Apocalypse World

On the season premiere of the television series, The Walking Dead, Maggie Rhee, leader of the Hilltop community, sentenced former Hilltop leader to death. He pretty well deserved it. He had betrayed Hilltop more than once, and his most recent crime was an attempt to use a bereaved father’s grief to cause him to assassinate Maggie. Gregory got hanged, and the Hilltop community was better off for his going.
Modern people often don’t care for the death penalty, because they don’t mind that their taxes are higher to pay for the lifelong support of convicted murderers, and because they don’t realize that weak penalties for murder make the crime seem more forgivable, and therefore more doable. I remember a case of a girl who had murdered her own mother, who managed to go to Harvard after she got out of jail. Very modern and humane, but I wonder if there was not some non-parent-murdering young person who might have been even more deserving of a chance to go to Harvard.
In a more primitive society, the cost of not executing a killer was higher. If the killer was not let off altogether, he would have to be supported for years in confinement. Let’s forget about the fact that earlier humans didn’t have the concept of prolonged imprisonment as a punishment. Early jails were just somewhere to hold accused criminals until they got their trial, and until they got executed or whipped or whatever their punishment was. After all, post-zombie-apocalypse people would know the concept. But how many people would have to be reassigned from survival chores such as growing crops, raising goats or chickens, or hunting for meat, and spend their working hours guarding a convict? Since having only one guard at a time makes escape more possible, and having no guards for night shift would also not help, we might see 6 men assigned to guard one prisoner during all the possible shifts. How much time would these men have, in their off hours, to contribute to their own survival, and to that of their prisoner?
Death penalty also has the effect of making death penalty crimes more serious, especially if it is applied regularly. Letting people off, however, makes murder seem not such a big deal.
In the Viking society, killing someone directly, without stealth and admitting to the killing afterward, was not considered a crime against the state. It was, however, a crime that could be avenged by the family of the murdered man. Even accidental killings could be avenged that way— as could revenge killings. It was custom that you did not have to kill the actual killer. Anyone from the killer’s clan would do. And so Viking society was plagued by never-ending blood-feuds which traced their origin to one act of murder or one accidental death.
I have heard of a Catholic priest who says that the process of going forward with the death penalty gives the condemned a chance to think about the state of his soul. A chance which is missing when a man is allowed to grow old and senile in prison. Christians are not supposed to want any man condemned to hell, even the murderer of our family members, so Christians should want killers to repent and turn to God before their death.
There is a lot of killing-of-humans in the post-zombie-apocalypse world as depicted in The Walking Dead. A failed strategy, since every person killed could have been a person who could have contributed to the building of a new society and a new economy. I remember how Rick Grimes, as leader of the community of Alexandria, decided to have his followers wipe out the community lead by the bad guy, Negan. Instead he only killed off one outpost, which lead to Negan killing Abraham and Glenn. Since Rick and his followers killed many more than 2 Neganites, one wonders in what sense Rick is a good guy and Negan a bad guy if both groups kill indiscriminately.
The death penalty, applied to one individual who has killed or committed other major crimes, has the virtue of being more fair than just killing random followers of a rival group. When people believe their society has a good, functional justice system, that they will be punished only if they commit a major crime and if there is evidence against them, they start to trust that obeying the laws is in their best interest. Some, of course, will obey only out of fear, and will do the bare minimum to get by in whatever society they are a part of. But others will feel freer to contribute to a new society, knowing that others in the society will be prevented from killing them or robbing them of their property.
The problem with not having a justice system is that killers and robbers can get caught, get let off, and be free to wander to another location to prey on fresh people who don’t know them. Some people are just too dangerous and violent to be trusted with the lives of others. It’s not that we wish them dead, it’s that we wish their future victims to have the chance to live.
Current haters of the death penalty can keep their attitude in large part because we live in a society in which it is quite rare for people to be murdered and robbed randomly. Most of us don’t know personally of anyone who has been murdered. It’s only in societies in which such breaches of the law are more common in which people can feel confident that eliminating all death penalty on humane grounds won’t lead to the sacrifice of many innocent victims. A fictional post-zombie-apocalypse world won’t have such an assurance.

 

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Why do zombies want to bite us? Nutrition or Reproduction?

Why, exactly, are zombies so darn eager to take a bite out of humans? On the Walking Dead, zombies have it good. They survive all sorts of injuries except direct shots to the head, some zombies have been locked in rooms for years before Our Guys find them and the zombies are still doing good without food for all that time.

We assume they want to bite us because they are ravenously hungry and want to consume our flesh for food. But zombies don’t seem to need food to keep going. How hungry can they be?

Plus, zombies don’t have a beating heart or working lungs. They don’t need air to survive. They don’t even need their bodies to survive— remember Herschel’s head? So we are supposed to believe they have functional digestive systems without functioning hearts and lungs to support them?

Without a functioning digestive system, what zombies eat would just accumulate in the zombie gut until the undigested mass got so heavy that it would overtax the fragile zombie skin and tissue and the guts would fall clear out.

But there is another reason zombies might have an instinct to bite: zombies cannot reproduce sexually. You’ve never seen a pregnant zombie giving birth. If a male zombie tried to have sex with a lady zombie, could he even do it without breaking off vital bits?

The only way a zombie has of making more zombies is to bite a human. And he can’t bite off too much. If zombies ate a human right down to the bones it would not be able to reanimate as a functioning zombie.

So, when a zombie is coming at you with intent to bite, it’s not that he thinks of you as food. It’s just that the zombie really likes you a lot and wants you to join the herd. It’s flattering, really. But it’s best to blow the zombie’s head off anyway.


What’s new: I’m on Wattpad now. Wattpad is a social media for readers and writers, where writers share stories and other things for free. My profile on Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/NissaAnnakindt I’m currently putting up one of my poetry books for free there, but I’m working on a zombie story to put up there.

 

Worldbuilding Wednesdays: Economy — Feudalism in the Zombie Apocalypse

Worldbuilding Wednesday, a weekly blog hop by Rebekah Loper, is today, and our topic is the Economy. Economy is an all-important topic in worldbuilding which is often neglected— who wonders how Frodo managed to pay Samwise? But I’ve only just written a post about the economic collapse caused by the zombie apocalypse which happens in the third book of my as-yet-unwritten Revenant Nation series.

So I’m narrowing the focus to one aspect of the new economy— feudalism. Because if you don’t own land or any form of wealth when the Zombie Apocalypse hits, all you have is your labor power to sell.

The new wealthy of the Zombie Apocalypse world are the people who control food resources— farmers. Imagine a typical dairy farmer in Menominee county, Michigan— there are a few such farms within walking distance of my house. They will still have their herds once the Z.A. hits— but lack of fuel and electricity means that they will be needing greater supplies of labor.

Human beings who survive the zombie carnage in the cities and larger towns will need work to provide food and a place to stay. It is almost inevitable that arrangements will be made, trading the labor power of workers for a place to build a cabin and a supply of food.

The workers will be at first fully unskilled— how many people know how to harvest grass for hay using a hand scythe or even a horse-drawn hay cutter? But with practice the survivors will become skilled peasants of the European type.

The farmers will be expected to supply some of the food needs of their workers, perhaps giving them a cut of the milk, butter and cheese harvested. But the new peasants will be expected to produce some of their own food through gardens and the like.

I have read that in Ireland the peasants subsisted on their potato crop plus what they got from the family cow. At least until the potato famine came along. Although a diet of potatoes plus butter, milk and cream is nutritionally horrible— too many carbs— it was able to sustain life. The new peasants of the Z. A. world will likely have to discover a similar way of basic subsistence to survive.

The wealth of the farmers will depend on how near they are to transportation of their goods to a market. Some farms— cultivated by the military to feed the troops— will be supplied with fuel and operate in a nearly normal method. Other farms, without the market, will mostly be about feeding their workers.

At first, most of the purchases people make will be in the form of barter. Perhaps some people will be able to install solar or alternative electricity in exchange for long-term food supplies. It will probably be a few years before a stable currency is reestablished.

In addition to food and/or a chance to produce one’s own food— one can’t garden without a home to garden from— a farmer will probably have to provide a degree of protection. The Z. A. world will likely be full of would-be Negans who would love to enslave other people. A farmer who arms some of his trustworthy male workers would be able to fight off most threats of that sort.  New peasants choosing a farmer for a ‘master’ would take into consideration the ability of that master to protect his workers.

Worldbuilding Wednesday blog hop: DEATH!

Death is a part of life. The last part. It’s also today’s topic in the Worldbuilding Wednesday blog hop, which is hosted by Rebekah Loper on her blog Fantasia Hearth

In my WIP series Revenant Nation, which is a near-future political dystopia with zombies, people start out with attitudes on death that are pretty much that of Americans today. They leave death and the handling of bodies to morgues, funeral homes and churches. The Rosa party, the faction which is making it a dystopia, prefers cremation and party-dominated secular funerals. The Settlers, a rural faction, has members who experiment with do-it-yourself burials, cremations, and eagle-burials on their own land. (Eagle-burial is when you tie a corpse in a tree and leave it for the eagles.)

The spread of zombie infection changes burial customs. Corpses have to be handled promptly in case they were infected. In the Rosa party dominated cities they are disorganized and most infected corpses rise as zombies. In the area dominated by the Settlers, smashing in the skull of the dead person with a sledge hammer becomes part of the death rites. In Catholic families, on the order of the current pope who is in exile in Northern Wisconsin, a blessed sledge hammer is used. After a while, this becomes a part of the death rites even for people who are known to be uninfected. (It’s not like TWD where everyone is infected.)

Large numbers of zombie corpses are killed (or should that be re-killed) by shots or blows to the head and are then left somewhere— often a paved area— to dry out during warm days of summer. When they are dried out somewhat the corpses are burned.

Mourning procedures change depending on if a person died of the infection, turned, and killed people as a zombie. Some communities ban the wearing of mourning bands for someone whose corpse killed people as a zombie.  Others use a charcoal gray mourning band for such cases. People in the Judeo-Christian faiths tend to not blame the dead person for what his corpse did as a zombie, but are concerned about the feelings of those who lost family members to zombies.

Spiritual aspects: among religious believers with afterlife beliefs, a person is held to have died and his spirit gone into the afterlife at clinical death. The zombie that may arise from his body is considered its own entity, more animal than human-like. IT is widely believed that a person is not responsible for evil actions performed by his zombified corpse. Anti-religious types like those in the Rosa party often insist that the zombies are not risen from death, that they are the same person they always were only with brain damage. They are wedded to the idea that humans have no soul and that nothing happens after death. Which is why Rosa ruled regions can’t cope with zombie infestations effectively.

This has been a post in the Worldbuilding Wednesdays weekly blog hop. It runs from July 26 to Aug. 1. If you are an author currently doing worldbuilding, it’s a great opportunity to get inspired to do more work. Join us at http://rebekahloper.com/worldbuilding-wednesdays/ and sign up.

 

The dollar becomes worthless when the zombie apocalypse hits

If you are a fan of The Walking Dead, here is one thing you never saw— a character pulling out a wad of dollars to buy something. And that’s actually a feature of any real zombie apocalypse of TWD severity— the dollar will become worthless. Why? Because the US dollar, like other global currencies, is fiat currency. It’s money because the government says it’s money. But when the government collapses because of the zombie threat, who is going to trade food or survival supplies for your fistful of dollars? No one.

Once the zombie apocalypse is truly upon us, we will have to rely on barter. John has a large supply of bullets, Maisie has a large supply of bags of split peas. They swap. Mike has a spare milk goat, Barry has a crossbow. And so on.

Some people may be able to trade their work for food. Christie the mom goes to Bill the dairy farmer and offers to do hand-milking and other chores in exchange for some of the milk. They work out how much work is required for a gallon of milk and make the deal. A dairy farm will probably attract quite a few laborers who will work for food and a spot in the barn to sleep. And they will need the labor once the fuel and electricity supply is out.

After people get more settled— when they know where their next meal is coming from— people will want the benefits of a cash-based economy. They will want a wage that they can spend on what they want. Most likely, the new money will be gold.

During the survival phase, no one is going to trade you a bag of corn for a bunch of gold coins. You can’t eat gold. But once people either learn the skills to hunt or grow their own food, they will want other things, and a means of exchange is more convenient than barter. In barter, the person who has the thing you need may not be willing to take what you have to offer for it.

Gold IS money, in a lot of ways. Survivalists and independent types often keep a supply of gold coins on hand in case of a crisis. So it’s going to happen that some people are going to start taking a risk on the value of gold coins. Initially perhaps on items for enjoyment, such as an antique table or a piece of jewelry. Only after gold coins start being traded regularly will you be able to buy essentials— like a new gun— with it.

The trading value of gold will fluctuate wildly at first. People who didn’t understand economics probably didn’t even take gold coins when they found them in abandoned shops or homes in the beginning. They were more concerned with finding food and ammo. But once gold coins have value, people will be finding gold coin hordes, and each discovery of large amounts of gold coins to come into circulation will lower the value of other gold in circulation.

This will disconcert those who believe in gold and the gold standard, but similar things have happened before, as when the Spanish brought home the gold treasures of the New World. That lowered the value of the gold already in circulation in Europe. But economies adjust to fluctuations in the gold supply. In time gold will become the currency of choice in the zombie-haunted world.

What about silver? They are always hyping silver on TV as being almost as good as gold. Well, it isn’t. Silver fluctuates wildly as sometimes silver is a popular investment and sometimes it wasn’t. Silver can boom and bust to an extent that gold can’t. After a gold economy is established among survivors, silver may be desirable for small purchases. But it will be difficult to establish how many 1 0unce Silver Eagles it would take to trade for a one-tenth ounce Gold Eagle coin. The exact amount will ultimately be determined by local communities of survivors. And they may not take other silver, such as historic coins, as they would take a common Silver Eagle (minted by the US government, as are Gold Eagles.)

Is there a zombie apocalypse novel in your future? If so, how will your characters deal with the probable economic collapse?


A blog post I read today

GirlZombieAuthors: Dr. Bowen Mystery, AuthorFest! The blogger, C. A. Verstraete, is the author of Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter and has a new book out involving Dr. Bowen, Lizzie Borden’s doctor.

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.

 

Zombie Prepper or Zombie Survivalist?

1227160757The word used to be ‘survivalist.’ But the people who run our media developed a really nasty stereotype about ‘survivalists’— mainly, that they weren’t liberals.

How could they be? They obviously didn’t trust Big Government to step in and provide for them in a crisis. So when survivalists were noticed at all it was to be condemned as crazy gun nuts and hateful non-liberals.

Now the preferred term is ‘prepper’, which sounds a little like ‘survivalist lite.’ And the most media acceptable thing to be prepping against is the zombie apocalypse. Because zombie preppers can’t POSSIBLY be non-liberals. After all, everyone on The Walking Dead’s a liberal. Even the ‘priest’, Father Gabriel (who’s Episcopalian, BTW.)

But I’m old-fashioned and cynical, and don’t trust Big Government to take care of me in a crisis. Hell, they can’t take care of the people they are claiming to right now! The social welfare programs are notorious for cutting off the real needy people at random, while ignoring the cheaters who have illegal incomes in the drug and prostitution industries.

And look at how well Big Government, in the person of the VA, helps military veterans who need medical help. That’s why I conclude that in a big national crisis— whether it’s zombies or an economic collapse when our fiat currency becomes valueless— the only help I can expect will come from me.

Some people think that being a prepper/survivalist means buying a fortune’s worth of expensive dehydrated food with a 25 year shelf life and doing nothing else until the crisis hits. But the wise survivalist makes survival skills a part of his way of life, rather than counting on pre-packaged supplies to save the day.

The survivalist will make survival-friendly choices— living in places that are rural or very-small-town rather than urban/suburban death zones, for example. He will learn traditional skills such as hunting and meat processing. He will keep chickens and/or goats, raise a garden, grow sprouts in the house….

Because if the zombie apocalypse actually hits, that is NOT the time to start learning the skills or eating ‘weird’ survival-friendly meals that didn’t come from Burger King.

The Writer and the Survival Mindset

Thinking about survival and learning some skills is an aid to the writer. The writer’s job is to place characters in loads of trouble, the more intense, the better. One way to do that is to put a character in a survival situation without the supplies and skills a survivalist would want to have. Or how about taking a skilled survivalist and having his whole survival hoard, along with his survival-friendly home, taken away from him by powerful people?