Monday, March 12, 2012

To borrow a zombie analogy....

Spambots these days seem to be stumblers rather than runners.  And not very numerous, either - as if this is the very early (or very late) stage* of the infestation.  Only a few feeble, slow and dim-witted ghouls have been battering at my door with their improbable advertisements.

And the Blogger filters seem to be well on top of them.  Since I removed the word-verification defence last week, the feared tsunami of spamming has not materialised; it's scarcely even been a tidal bore, in fact. Just five or six lame attempts per day, all of them reliably ending up in the Spam Bin. And the number of these attempts seems to be dwindling already, down to a couple a day over the last few days.

It's almost disappointing - and, indeed, somewhat of a reproof, I suppose, that even these automated marketing tools recognise the limited advertising potential of my blogs.

*  It occurs to me that I might here attempt to recreate the brief popularity of this post from two-and-a-half years ago on the population dynamics of vampirism. The great - usually unaddressed - question that undermines the credibility of most stories in the zombie genre is how long do zombies 'live'?

In most representations, they are still subject to decomposition. And their compromised intellect usually renders them almost entirely heedless of their physical safety: they are not only woefully inept in defending themselves against any human survivors, but prone to inflicting grotesque injuries on themselves by accident.  It wouldn't be long before such creatures rendered themselves completely dysfunctional - even if undead 'life' still somehow persisted in the crippled remnants of their bodies.

And then, of course, there's the issue of what they would eat. Usually, they seem very hung up on only eating live flesh - live human flesh, and, in most cases, even more specifically live human BRAINS. Could they actually get by quite happily on canned goods, once the stock of live humans starts to run low?  Can they eat animals?  Or vegetables?  Or would they just have to start cannibalizing each other?

28 Days Later is about the only film I can think of that makes even a passing attempt to assess the longevity of its zombies. And that, of course, is a special case, since the 'zombies' here are still live humans - infected with a virus that reduces them to homicidal berserkers. I believe the conclusion was that the hyperactivity induced by the 'Rage' virus would burn out a zombie - kill it with exhaustion or heart strain - within a few weeks.

For the more conventional 'walking dead' zombie, these days we seem to be assuming some kind of super-virus - or nanobot - that can miraculously reanimate (recently) dead tissue, and sometimes also has considerable powers to regenerate damaged tissue; these wondrous animating agents may even have some unexplained capacity to generate energy from a source other than food. But however formidable their powers of regeneration are, and however limited their need for food, zombies in general still seem to be quite fragile creatures - they get damaged too easily, they will wear out.

The typical end-game of the 'zombie apocalypse' scenario is that the whole world turns zombie, that the handful of human survivors must inevitably be overwhelmed eventually. My suggestion would be that the zombies would quite quickly 'die out' - exhaust themselves, destroy themselves, decay, run out of food.  And so - unless the viruses/nanobots/whatever that caused the outbreak can survive and propagate when their hosts are no longer active - any remaining humans will have a good chance of survival... albeit in a ruined and depopulated world.


John said...

Never took you for a nerd Froog.

Froog said...

We are all nerds in our own way.

Besides, the fact that certain aspects of the horror or sci-fi genres excite my curiosity occasionally doesn't make me a major enthusiast, and certainly not an obsessive one.

Zombie films enjoy a broad popularity - they are good, gory fun. But, as with the vampire genre, they seem to have suddenly exploded into over-proliferation, near-ubiquity in recent years, and this becomes rather tedious. The insanely popular (but very dull; there just aren't that many zombie stories to tell) Walking Dead TV series may perhaps mark the high-tide point: it may force people to the realisation that the idea has now been, if you'll pardon the expression, done to death, and we'll have a bit of a let-up for a while. I would have been much happier if everyone had dropped it after Shaun Of The Dead - which was both a very funny parody of the genre and the best zombie film ever made.

What I find particularly intriguing and worrying is that many people - American survivalists, in particular - have latched on to new developments in technology like gene therapy and nanobots and persuaded themselves that a zombie outbreak is indeed "possible", perhaps even likely... or inevitable.

That is completely nutso. Frankly, nanobot-driven vampires seem far more plausible to me.

JES said...

Have you seen any of the Walking Dead series? The Missus and I missed it all of last year, but this year we've been, er, consumed by it. One thing which has most interested us about it is how little zombie interaction there actually is; the great bulk of it seems to focus on how the not-yet-zombie humans cope with one another. Like she pointed out the other night, the very title is a play on words: "obviously" it refers to the infected already-dead... but in fact could apply equally well to all the characters in the foreground.

Froog said...

In the sense that they're doomed, or that they're just 'braindead' and uninteresting people? I saw a couple of episodes of it in hotel rooms when I was travelling last year, and it bored me to tears. I've found the same with the few episodes of True Blood I've tried to watch.

Actually, I fear it may be a growing problem with American TV. The short turnaround time per episode has always put insane pressure on the writing team, but lately very few people seem to be rising to the challenge. Even Luck, despite the presence of Dustin Hoffmann, I find to gobsmackingly bad, almost unwatchable. Is there really an equivalent of The West Wing or The Sopranos today, where the writing really sizzles, rather than fizzles? I've heard good things of Mad Men, but haven't seen any of that. Anything else? Boardwalk Empire, maybe?

Froog said...

Do you have a view on the 'stumbers v runners' issue, JES?

Or on how long zombies - and a zombie plague - could last?

Or on whether nanobot-sustained vampires might be more credible?

In the early 2000s, I happened to pick up a rather entertaining no-budget Canadian zombie film called Meat Market in which the zombie-slaying saviours of mankind on whom the story eventually came to focus were a trio of lesbian vampires and a retired Mexican wrestler (their former nemesis) named El Diablo Azul.

Froog said...

If the clinging to life after the collapse of society as we know it theme is what really appeals to you, try to dig up an early 1970s BBC show called Survivors (three series, I think, of 10 or 13 weeks each), which examined the new violent society which emerged after 90% of the world's population had been killed in a few weeks by a super-flu virus.

It was particularly popular in my hometown, because the crew was based nearby - most of it was filmed on location in the Welsh border countryside round about.

Froog said...

My good buddy The Choirboy has just become infected. With zombie mania, that is. Apparently as a result of watching some episodes of The Walking Dead.

Yesterday, he was bombarding me with questions like, "Can zombies use elevators?"

My response is that in recent zombie stories, it does seem to be becoming more common for zombies to have 'residual skills', particularly in regard to habitual or subconscious activities. Both Shaun of the Dead and Romero's Land of the Dead used this idea.

However, I suspect they'd not be very good at choosing a floor. Or at remembering to get out when they got there.

So, tall buildings are probably pretty safe. So long as you remember to booby-trap the fire stairs.

JES said...

The 1970s edition of Survivors may not be available in a form in which I can readily, er, consume it. BUT they've apparently recently remade it -- 2008-2010 -- and mirabile dictu, I already had it in my streaming-Netflix queue, based on its description (and its closed captioning!).

The runners, I think, are scarier than the stumblers -- the (first?) two 28 Days films were pretty good in that regard (and in some others, like the deserted-cities settings).

But with anything that moves so fast, it must burn out much more quickly, especially in the absence of fuel. (The hummingbird metaphor.) The relentlessness of stumblers would offer its own special sort of terror, I think. Espcially once the ammo ran out. (Because, really, eventually the survivors would just lose all enthusiasm for sledgehammer-or-bayonet-to-the-head combat, even against slow movers.) They're like debt-collection agencies.

We were thinking of "walking dead = doomed living," but I can understand the other point of view too. :)

We watched the first episode or two of Mad Men when it premiered, and then stopped. In fact, The Missus doesn't even remember having done so. But then, about 18 months or so ago, we for some reason decided to start going back to look at it again. We're hooked. We must've watched the first four seasons' episodes in about 2 months' time.

I've got the first season of The Wire on DVD; have heard many many good things about it. But still haven't opened the box!

You might like the HBO Deadwood series. Luck, you may have heard, has been canceled -- not because its ratings were lukewarm (although they were), but because three horses died during filming. Ewww.

(I wonder why no one has -- or have they? -- tinkered with the zombies-eat-only-people stereotype. A plague of vegan zombies might be worth a film.)

(And zombies are never satisfied, are they? They don't seem in any way revitalized by eating brains or other organs. No, they just start searching for more of same.)

Froog said...

A remake of Survivors? Sacrilege!

My discussions with The Choirboy moved on to the question, Can Zombies tweet?

It seems a suitably brainless activity for them. But presumably they don't have much to say. Probably only "BRAINS!!!" This would be an extremely popular message, endlessly re-tweeted. In fact, I suppose monitoring the number of zombie tweets might be a useful way of tracking the scale of the outbreak.