Wednesday, 24 March 2010

A note from the Headline Zombies plus a Guest Post

Some news from the Headline Zombies. With George A Romero’s hectic schedule this year The Living Dead is moving from the original July publication date. We will schedule a new publication date as soon as the novel is delivered so not to disappoint all you zombie fans.

We will be taking a blogging break until the new date is confirmed, when we will truly be back with a bang!

For now, we will leave you with a classic guest post from the Speculative Scotsman. Shut the curtains, turn off the lights, and enjoy!

Faster, Zombies! Kill! Kill!
by N. R. Alexander (The Speculative Scotsman)

Ah, zombies. Dear, dear zombies.

You can’t live with them – a legion of films and novels and comic books and video games, all concerned with the dreaded undead, have clearly established that. But would you want to live without them? I know I wouldn’t.

The rotting masses have a long history in popular culture, as rich and ripe as raw red meat. Particularly in literature, zombies have run amuck in one horrendous configuration or another for hundreds of years; from Shelley to Poe and from Lovecraft to Matheson, the undead have been a terror on humanity in its innocence and its ignorance for long enough now that it’s truly hard to believe the bloody well hasn’t run dry. And yet, ten years into the new millennium, zombies remain a going concern.

We’ve one man, I think, to thank for that. A man who, in 1968, reinvigorated the lumbering monsters of bygone books and budgetless Hollywood B-movies by making infectious cannibals of ‘nzambi’ – which is to say spirits of the dead, according to voodoo hoodoo. Night of the Living Dead changed everything. From its filthy issue the modern zombie was born, the selfsame zombie that has haunted our screens and pages since.

That is, except for one rather vital aspect. For Romero’s awful army of zombies moved at a snail’s pace, mindless machines bereft of both sense and, crucially, speed. As the heroine of the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead cleverly concludes, “They’re so slow, we could just walk right past them.” The saving grace of humanity’s survival in the face of the zombie menace has always been that if you were quick, and smart, you could always outrun them.

These days, if you see a zombie, your chances of physically outstripping them are... well, let’s be honest: they’re not great. When the hordes rise up, we’re done for.

Where’s the fun in that?

There’s no shortage of causal factors one might suggest spurred the transformation of zombies in film from shambling slowpokes to the kinetic powerhouses seen in the likes of 28 Days Later and Resident Evil. For one thing, there’s technology: when you get right to it, undead dawdlers were rather a crutch of old-school special effects. Exploding pig entrails out of a zombie’s prosthetic head was just easier, not to mention cheaper, when they stood around waiting for you to capture it on film. Nowadays, CGI some crimson pixels onto an extra in a dead sprint to devour your lead actor and you’re golden.

Another potential explanation is the fear that zombies were basically getting a bit stale. I’m personally prepared to feed whosoever dares make such a suggestion to the brain-munching masses, but with that caveat, there’s perhaps something of an argument to be made here – as evidenced by a decade of embarrassed silence from the very zombies who’d made such a fool of themselves in John Landis’ music video for Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Even so, I’m a staunch believer that there’s always something new to be done, even when it seems like every avenue for engaging new narrative has been exhausted. Besides which, the undead will never die. And people certainly started taking them seriously again when Resident Evil (the video game) arrived on the scene in 1996. But I digress.

Amongst the myriad reasons for the prominence of speedwalking zombies in modern-day entertainment, one rationale rules them all: fast food. As in the Big Mac, the Whopper and the Footlong. Let’s face it: we’re fast food people in a fast food world. And what we eat is just the beginning of it. Virtually everything we consume these days has to come in convenient, bite-sized portions, be it burgers, books or beliefs – the better for our increasingly intolerant appetites. And movies have not proven immune to the regrettable whims of such an impatient nation.

Once upon a time, the MTV generation merely consumed, but now it’s all growed-up, and a few drive-through addicts have worked their way into positions of power where their bread and butter is not consumption, but creation. And largely, what they create, with frantic, borderline-lunatic glee – in film as in everything else – is a shadow of what once was. Thus, the fast zombie: a clear-cut case of style over substance if ever there was one. An empty thing, hollow and heartless, a focus group creation with no rhyme or reason but to stuff the lowest common denominator amongst the hungry hordes so full of quick cuts and mindless, wall-to-wall action that they never quite realise what an obscene thing they’ve consumed.

They should know better. We all should. Have we learned nothing from Supersize Me and people turning orange after drinking too much Sunny Delight? There’s certainly something to be said for fast food, and indeed fast film, but in this day and age, we understand all too well that to overindulge a diet of such dodgy proportions is to consume ourselves into oblivion. Sadly, in terms of the undead, no-one’s quite arrived at that realisation.

I’ll say this: sometimes, yes, you get a good burger, a hearty, wholesome meal in fast food clothing, but more often than not, your Big Macs and your Whoppers and your Footlongs will only leave you with a severe case of indigestion. The same can be said for modern zombie fiction in film and literature. The notion that fast zombies have outmoded Romero’s so-called “classic” undead is, then, fundamentally flawed.

In and of themselves, fast zombies aren’t the enemy. The likes of 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder’s retooled Dawn of the Dead are proof enough of that. In this day and age, fast zombies have earned their place. It’ll always be a case of us versus them, but the “them” in that equation needn’t be one or the other – fast or otherwise – and short of Romero’s recent trilogy comprising Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and lately Survival of the Dead, the kinetically challenged amongst the zombie populace seem to be considered a remnant of the past.

Which simply won’t do. Where’s the hopelessness? Where’s the sense of dread? Instead, we have stuttering handicams and extreme close-ups on gore no-one in their right mind really wants to see.

Are you with me?

Tell you what. Stop patronising McDonalds and Burger King and Subway and chow down on a nice home-cooked meal. On the go? Pack a sandwich. Maybe then, if we’re lucky, slow zombies will get their second chance.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Guest post from BookChickCity

And now for something completely different, a guest post from the lovely Carolyn at BookChickCity! As the Headline Zombies have proved, yes we girls like zombies too. In our case, almost as much as we love shoes! Read on for Carolyn's take on her fascination with zombies:

You Like Zombies?! But You're A Girl!

As far back as I can remember I have always loved horror. I remember many nights watching classic hammer house with my mum, scaring ourselves silly. Probably not the best thing to do with a ten year old, but I loved it.

I love all horror movies, whether cheesy, gory or physiological. I enjoy vampires, but they never get my skin to crawl, and most of the time you just end up fancying them (did anyone see Gary Oldman in Ford Cappola's Dracula? Not normally I guy I would go for, but hey, as Dracula he oozed sex appeal. And Robert Patterson? 'Nuff said).

I love watching werewolf films too - An American Werewolf in London is in my top ten favourite horror movies of all time. It is such a classic, the combination of horror, gore and comedy, was, and still is in my opinion, fantastic. The change from man to beast is bone crackling good.

But the monster that scares me the most has to be the zombie. For they are neither sexy, nor beast. They are us. Just the undead version of us. Zombies make my skin crawl, they make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, zombies give me nightmares.

Zombies are also the symbolism of complete human annihilation. The virus spreads fast, without discrimination. The realisation that ANYONE can be infected, is terrifying. And although we complain about the police and the government, fundamentally it's what makes us as a society feel safe, but then they're infected too. Your family, your friends. Where do you go? Where do you hide? You are totally, utterly alone...

The scene from Romero's movie, Dawn of the Dead, captures this. The few remaining survivors trapped on the roof of the mall surrounded by the gathering zombies crashing and banging trying to get in, to get to them... to gorge on their flesh.

The opening scene of 28 days later also sums it up completely. The silence and desolation of London that's usually bustling with life, is now empty. Except for them. Instead of the slow, stupid and cumbersome zombie that you always felt you could run from is gone. Zombies have evolved. They're fast, they can run, and they can run as fast as you!

My husband will contest to the fact that night terrors get more intense if I'm reading zombie novels (which I do on a regular basis), play Resident Evil on the Wii, which I do with the curtains closed and all lights off. My husband continues to shake his head in wonderment at why I love shuffling, putrefying, decaying, walking dead people, so much.

With so many of my girlfriends saying they are too scared to watch scary movies, or you would never see them reading books like that, I have often asked myself the question. Is it rare for a girl to like blood and gore? To relish fear? To get excited over the knife wielding lunatic who's escaped from an insane asylum?

For me it's normal and I think it stems from watching monsters from an early age. Horror is a total escape from reality. I know that zombies don't really exist and therefore can completely immerse myself in the safety of that fear, knowing that no real harm will ever come to me...

I am right aren't I? They don't really exist? Right?

Guest post from NextRead

And now for a male perspective! We have asked a number of influential bloggers, fans and journalists to write about anything they want - as long as it is zombie related! Gav from NextRead is the first up and takes us through his cultural history with the undead. Read his article below:

It’s taken a while but zombies have managed on mass to drag, limp, and crawl their way into the printed page.

So what’s the fascination with zombies and are they going to be as scary without all the disturbing visuals?

I am not a big horror fan. By horror I’m thinking along the line Nightmare on Elm St and The Ring. Films where reality and the imagination mix rather than gore-related horror where the horror comes purely from trying to show the goriest imagery you can. And thinking about it I have seen a fair few versions of zombies.

They seem to come in two forms: slow lumbering animated corpses as shown in Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead and the faster more ferocious kind as seen in 28 Days Later and the remake of Dawn of the Dead.

I’m not sure which version I prefer. The ones that you can see coming and coming and coming but are unstoppable when they do arrive or the ones that tear you apart without warning? Both have been know to upset me in their own way.

Zombies aren’t always seen as something to fear as can be seem in Shaun of the Dead when Ed is throwing records at an approaching zombie but has time to decide if he wants to keep or throw it. It’s that slow.

The more I think about it the more places zombies seem to be. They are in graphic novels like The Walking Dead that’s on 70 issues and counting.

The Resident Evil games - that I find really hard to play I’m more into House of the Dead where you get to shoot them or Left 4 Dead which isn’t something you should be playing with lights off, especially when you hear the gagging sounds of a Boomer. I had most fun in Dead Rising. I don’t think I’d be that brave trapped in a Shopping Centre.

In terms of novels the one I’ve always avoided is Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite even though I loved Drawing Blood and Lost Souls, it’s probably the first time I’ve seen full blown zombie novel. Though there is something about Brite’s writing that is so intermit that I’m not sure I want to read a love story with a zombie as a main character.

The most recent and highly successful novel has to be Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It seems to have worked for a lot of people but I’m not sure it’ll work for me I just can’t see think of that mash up without laughing.

I must admit to starting but not finishing Cell, Stephen King’s take. I think it lacked the tension I’d expect from a world where humanity is turning from order to chaos.

There is a collection of zombie stories just out called Zombies: An Anthology of the Undead with stories from including Mike Carey, John Connolly, Kelly Armstrong, Tim Lebbon, and Joe Hill to name a few. So there has to be some legs in the concept if it inspires these great writers.

This isn’t a promotional article for The Living Dead A Novel by George A. Romero but it would be rude not to mention it’s imminent arrival. And it seems that he has moved the idea on to examining how different groups of people try to survive. I wonder how they’ll do and what the grandfather of zombie movies will bring to the table? I guess we’ll find out in July.

If there was something that caused a zombie outbreak I’d choose the Shaun of the Dead version in the only hope that I’d have some fun before I died rather than worrying I’d become the semi intelligence of the zombies in Land of the Dead.

If there is one thing we have learnt from zombies it is that you can never have enough brains. Therefore we have not one, but two guest posts for you this week from blogging aficionados Gavin from NextRead and Carolyn from BookChickCity. These guys really know their stuff and for those not acquainted with their brilliant book blogs then shame on you!

Before we reveal their fantastic guest posts – we asked them both: how would you survive the zombie apocalypse? Check out their answers below!

Carolyn, BookChickCity:
I'd travel to a small rural village to hide out, less zombies. I'd keep fit, so I could outrun them. Own guns, lots of them. Shoot their heads clean off, without hesitation. It's the only way to survive...

Gavin, NextRead:
Should I go out fighting? Load up the guns and ammo and take Casters Last Stand? Or do the sensible thing and see what water, tinned goods, candles etc I can find and head off into the hills and live out my final days in peace reading something big and chunky?

It's gotta depend if they are slow and lumbering and brainless I'd go for shooting them like ducks off the top of shopping centre roof. I know i'd rather be dead than brainless - though if they are bit more dangerous I'd be hiking into the Brecon Becons as fast as my legs would take me!

I'm not that good a shot!

Friday, 26 February 2010

All you need is love

"I'm Just a Girl, Standing in front of a Boy, Asking Him for BRAAAAAAAAAAINNNNNS"

Okay – so perhaps not your typical love story opening but believe it or not it there is a growing market out there for zombie romances. The success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has paved the way for a number of cross-genre titles. It would seem that zombies have feelings too!

Vintage have bought Warm Bodies by Seattle-based writer Isaac Marion, a zombie love story where the undead hero R falls in love with a very living young woman. The editor Frances Macmillan has described the book as a “brilliant modern day Romeo and Juliet with zombies” and the film rights have already been sold to Twilight producers Summit Films. Read more about Warm Bodies here.

The people at the Zombie Romance website are actively looking for submissions and have issued an open challenge to authors to send in their stories. We thought we’d have a go at our own and have reworked a chicklit classic – see if you can guess what it is! Can I apologise to Helen Fielding now!

Friday 26th February

3 stone 2 (v.good!); alcohol units 0 (v.v.v.good!); brains eaten 37 (v.bad particularly since first day of giving up)

The zombie diet is working a treat! Lost a stone (and an arm!) overnight. Who knows - might not need grey granny control pants after all. Anyway. Mark Darcy's asked me to marry him. Was originally for five-year fixed term with option to renew after four, but he got all soppy and extended it to LIFE with minimum term served of 25 years. Now no longer panicked at inevitability of dying (again) alone and being found three weeks later half-eaten by an Alsatian. These days much more likely that I’ve eaten the Alsatian instead. And Mark Darcy.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

We first saw this on brilliant website Boing Boing. What do you get when you put zombies and Disney together? Zombie Disney of course! Personal favourites? Tinkerbell (or should we say Stinkerbell...) and Jasmine!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Crap joke of the day (a.k.a. all roads lead to shopping)

Crap but topical joke of the day, spotted in April's Empire magazine:

Q. What do bees come back as when they die?
A. Zom-bees!

Which seamlessly paves the way to David and Goliath's zombee merchandise.

Like those? Then lets take it a step further (if you'll pardon the pun) with the ultimate in geek-chic, a pair of killer heels. Loving the bow-detail - Jimmy Choo eat your still-beating heart out!

Add your own zombie-related jokes to the comments and, of course, any interesting zombie merch that floats your boat...