Thursday, October 1, 2009

Welcome to Zombieland...

Not the movie, which I'm seeing tonight, but the world in which we live.

The Zombie Explosion

Twenty years ago, it seemed like all we had were three Romero movies, a few Italian oddities, CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS, and that funny one that convinced the public that zombies love to eat brains. In the printed realm, there was Skipp and Spector's BOOK OF THE DEAD, and Philip Nutman's novel-length expansion of his short story, Wet Work. DEAD/ALIVE came along and moistened things up a bit, but, beyond that, there really wasn't much for a zombie fan to chow down upon...

Today, one could say that our cup hath runneth over: zombies are everywhere. In less than five years, we've gotten three new Romero movies. Over the past decade, Skipp, Spector, and Nutman have been scooted down the shelf to make room for tomes by Max Brooks, Brian Keene, Kim Paffenroth, and a shambling and varied host of other zombie novels.

Romero predicted the zombie apocalypse, and it is here: the living dead are everywhere. Slim pickings have given way to an embarrassment of Rhodes-style open-belly feasts, and one has to wonder: how much is too much? Is the grue-filled balloon about to burst?

Yes and no.

Gamers have shown no sign of zombie fatigue. After a decade, Resident Evil--the spark behind today's zombie craze--is still going strong, and its progeny (LEFT 4 DEAD, DEAD SPACE, DEAD RISING) are among the most popular games on the market.

In movie theaters, zombies have yet to take a serious chunk out of the box office. Films like [REC] and DIARY OF THE DEAD receive limited theatrical runs, and a modern classics like SHAUN OF THE DEAD produce less-than-stellar box office numbers. Zack Snyder's remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD remains the reigning zombie box office king, and it's popularity is due more to the fact that it's a balls-out action packed horror film than to the fact that the movie-going public at large were champing at the bit to see zombies on the big screen.

As far as books are concerned, the public will move on. Some new trend will pass over the cultural landscape, and a few major publishers will get burned, having dumped too much money into a zombie book simply because Pride and Prejudice and Zombies sold well, and Max Brooks may very well never outsell The Zombie Survival Guide.

There will, however, always be an audience for zombie books. Zombies have niche appeal, and I don't believe the core audience--the folks who purchased 20,000 copies of DAY BY DAY ARMAGEDDON, for example--is going anywhere. They've been around for quite some time, and while their numbers are not strong enough to put anyone on the NY Times Bestsellers List, they are more than powerful enough to keep several small presses afloat for the foreseeable future.

Outside of games, movies, and books, zombies continue to disappoint nut-jobs the world over by simply insisting upon remaining fictional.

Big Book News

We're about to find out just how strong the zombie book buying audience really is: George A. Romero, the real Big Daddy, has reportedly been paid a $300,000 advance by UK publisher Headline to pen two zombie novels. The first, aptly titled The Living Dead, will reveal "the origin of the zombie realm," and will give us "glimpses of increasing chaos from around the globe."

A decade ago, Romero dipped his toe into these waters, with a serialized e-book, the somewhat Vonnegutian The Death of Death. The plug was pulled on that project one hundred pages in, but elements of the story have shown up Romero's recent work, and I suspect the minute-by-minute, around-the-globe time-line style of Death will carry over into The Living Dead and its sequel.

Click here for more.


Thanks to the fine folks at Sony Pictures and Moroch, I'll be attending a press screening of ZOMBIELAND tonight. Based on the trailers alone, I have pretty much decided that this is my favorite film of all time.

Stupendous advance word isn't helping, but I should probably lower my expectations...

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