Zombies: The Recent Dead

BOOK: Zombies: The Recent Dead
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ZOMBIES:
THE RECENT DEAD

 

Edited by
Paula Guran

 

For Linda and Laura—

who have kept me from becoming

one of the living dead myself lately,

and who I trust will know when

to hit me in the head with a baseball bat.

Copyright © 2010 by Paula Guran.

Cover art by Szabo Balaz.

Cover design by Stephen H. Segal.

Ebook design by Neil Clarke.

ISBN: 978-1-60701-262-7 (ebook)

ISBN: 978-1-60701-234-4 (trade paperback)

All stories are copyrighted to their respective authors,and used here with their permission.

PRIME BOOKS

www.prime-books.com

No portion of this book may be reproduced by any means, mechanical, electronic, or otherwise, without first obtaining the permission of the copyright holder.

For more information, contact Prime Books.

Table of Contents

 

Preshamble
, Paula Guran

Introduction: The Meat of the Matter
, David J. Schow

Deaditorial Note
, Paula Guran

Twisted
, Kevin Veale

The Things He Said
, Michael Marshall Smith

Naming of Parts
, Tim Lebbon

Dating Secrets of the Dead
, David Prill

Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed
, Steve Duffy

The Great Wall: A Story from the Zombie War
, Max Brooks

First Kisses from Beyond the Grave
, Nik Houser

Zora and the Zombie
, Andy Duncan

Obsequy
, David J. Schow

Deadman’s Road
, Joe R. Lansdale

Bitter Grounds
, Neil Gaiman

Beautiful White Bodies
, Alice Sola Kim

Glorietta
, Gary A. Braunbeck

Farewell, My Zombie
, Francesca Lia Block

Trinkets
, Tobias S. Buckell

Dead Man’s Land
, David Wellington

Disarmed and Dangerous
, Tim Waggoner

The Zombie Prince
, Kit Reed

Selected Scenes from the End of the World
, Brian Keene

The Hortlak
, Kelly Link

Dead to the World
, Gary McMahon

The Last Supper
, Scott Edelman

Publication History

About the Editor

Preshamble

 

I’ve never thought of them as zombies; I never called them zombies. When I made
Night of the Living Dead
, I called them flesh-eaters. To me, zombies were those boys in the Caribbean doing Bela Lugosi’s wet work for him [in
White Zombie
(1932)]. I never thought of them as zombies. It was only when people started to write about them and said these are zombies that I thought maybe they are. All I did was make them the neighbors; take the voodoo and mysterioso out of it and make them the neighbors, and I don’t know what happened after that. The neighbors are scary enough when they’re not dead. Maybe that’s what made it click.

—George Romero

As David J. Schow correctly points out in the following introduction, the modern zombie archetype is derived from cinematic rather than literary roots.
1
But we’d be remiss if we did not note the
other
zombie mythos—and the roots of an earlier round of zombie popularity.

Haitian Voudou is not an easily explained belief system. For our purposes we will only mention that the idea of the “voodoo zombie” arises from a mixture of African folklore—the
dodo
of Ghana, for example, shambles, hides in trees, and eats unwary travelers—and the Afro-Caribbean religion of Voudou. Essentially the “traditional” zombie is a dead or living person stripped of their own will and/or soul who is under the control of a sorcerer.

American and European understanding of Haitian Voudou is steeped in racism, racial and cultural stereotyping, and a complex socio-political history. For our purposes, let us state only a few overly simplistic facts:

     
  • A slave rebellion beginning in 1791 ended with the establishment of an independent Haiti in 1804, a black republic composed of former slaves.
  •  
  • This successful rebellion by black slaves inspired American slaves, but it terrified white slave-owning Americans. As black, white, and multi-racial Haitian refugees arrived in American port cities, slave owners fears of a black revolution spreading to the to the United States were further exacerbated.
  •  
  • After the American Civil War Haiti was still generally held in disdain by the U.S. In the nineteenth century, fiction (and “nonfiction” that was just as imaginative) concerning “voodoo” gained popularity. (Zombies—albeit not by that name—appeared in some of it. An 1882 novel, for example, by “Captain” Mayne Reid,
    The Maroon: A Tale of Voodoo and Obeah
    , features a voodoo practitioner who resurrects himself from the dead.)
  •  
  • Fear that Germany might establish a military base in Haiti—dangerous close to the Panama Canal—and imperialist motivations led to the United States’ occupation and rule of Haiti by means of a military government between 1915 and 1934.
  •  
  • Although the occupation had some positive aspects (such as infrastructure improvement), Haiti was still ruled by white foreigners with profound racial prejudices and contempt for its inhabitants.
  •  
  • Both fiction and nonfiction fed on and imbued the predominant racism and ethnocentricity concerning “voodoo” and its supposed sorcery and black magic.
  •  
  • The American public, which had already developed an appetite for entertainment based on such fallacies and prejudices, was further misinformed by a hugely popular book:
    The Magic Island
    , a 1929 “travelogue” on Haiti by William Seabrook.

Seabrook—in dramatic style—reinforced current and earlier American and European thought about “voodoo” while introducing new innuendo and “facts” about zombiism. “ . . . Dead Men Working in the Cane Fields,” a twelve-page chapter in
The Magic Island
featured the first widely read English language account of Haiti’s “walking dead” that referred to them specifically as “zombies”:

It seemed . . . that while the zombie came from the grave, it was neither a ghost, nor yet a person who had been raised like Lazarus from the dead. The zombie, they say, is a soulless human corpse, still dead, but taken from the grave and endowed by sorcery with a mechanical semblance of life—it is a dead body which is made to walk and act and move as if it were alive. [Seabrook, W.B.
The Magic Island
. New York: Harcourt, 1929.]

Kenneth Webb, inspired by Seabrook, wrote a dud of a Broadway play,
Zombie
. Opening on February 10, 1932 at the Biltmore Theatre in New York City, it lasted only twenty-one performances.

Now-forgotten fiction written for
Weird Tales
and other pulp magazines by writers like Hugh Cave, Seabury Quinn, Robert E. Howard, Jane Rice, Henry S. Whitehead, and others was at least partly inspired by Seabrook’s book. But such stories were relatively rare, of no great literary merit, and made little impact on popular culture as a whole.

The first feature-length zombie movie,
White Zombie
(1932), and later films provided a far more lasting cultural influence.

Ultimately much of what Western culture
thinks
it understands about Voudou is still based on Seabrooks’ depiction, films like
White Zombie
and
I Walked With a Zombie
(1943), and consequent pop-culture fantasies.

Voudou/voodoo also played a role in more recent Haitian politics during the oppressive regimes of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier (1957-1971) and his son Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier (1971-1986). Papa Doc exploited Haitian belief in Voudou, reputedly practiced sorcery, and even claimed to be a loa (spirit) himself.

Canadian anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis theorized in his 1985 book
The Serpent and the Rainbow
that tetrodotoxin (TTX) is used in Haiti to place people in a pharmacologically induced trance by use of “zombie powder” containing TTX. (A horror movie directed by Wes Craven,
The Serpent and the Rainbow,
very loosely based on the Wade’s book, was released in 1988.) Wade’s ideas have been both challenged and defended. Most recently, Terrence Hines [“Zombies and Tetrodotoxin,”
Skeptical Inquirer
, Volume 32, Issue 3: May/June 2008] refuted Wade’s claims on a physiological basis writing that TTX does not produce the trance-like “zombie” state.

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