One time each year, children, adults, and child-like adults push aside their fears of the horrific and dress as their favorite monsters. For decades many folks transformed themselves into Frankenstein, Wolfman, Dracula, the Mummy, or Donald Trump. Over the last few Halloweens this trend has changed. People bypassed the adhesive bolts and vampire fangs and headed straight for the white and black makeup. While some have used this to become zebras, most have donned the pasty combination to metamorph into....Zombies.
Zombies have become the de rigueur monster for the 21st century. While known in the past through the George Romero Living Dead movies and Michael Jackson's classic Thriller video, they turned fashionable right around the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Since then, zombies have appeared in countless movies, television shows, and, of course, books. Writers have taken to these brain-eating creatures like vampires take to a rare piece of meat.
While other monsters have the potential of lengthy and dramatic histories, zombies can be created at the click of a mouse key. Crazed government scientists who releases a deadly virus...zombies. Tainted cheeseburgers from the local fast food joint...zombies. A world where there is nothing on television but reality programs and Maury...zombies. You think of it, you can turn it into a zombie story.
There's another reason why these appendage-deficient creatures appeal so much to writers -- we're very much like them. A few comparisons after I devour some strands of upper lobe.
Similarity #1: We're dead
All right, this isn't technically true. Most of the zombies created via artificial means, as opposed to natural evolution, are reconstituted dead people. On the other hand, writers died a little inside each time their manuscripts are rejected. Of course, if writers get a few of the rejects in a short period of time, zombification could quickly occur.
Similarity #2: Empty looks in our eyes
Have you ever seen a writer who has emerged from their dimly lit basement office after days staring at their computer screen in the vain hope they could complete just one damn chapter of their manuscript? The look they have as they shuffle up the stairs into the blinding daytime light is one of emptiness and complete despair. This can also be seen at the end of National Novel Writing Month or when an author they despise gets another book on the Times' bestseller list.
Similarity #3: Non-verbal communication
We writers are a cerebral bunch of characters. Much of our creative process comes from the bursting of synapses within our craniums. Due to these internal arguments on how to piece a chapter together or design a character, our verbal skills tend to be lost. Many times people see us shuffling down the sidewalk, moaning and grunting, as we pull together a story. If we're interrupted, we may growl at the interloper who disrupted our train of thought.
Zombies, on the other hand, have lost a tongue or lower jaw at some point in their journey from the grave. Hence, the lack of verbal communication.
Similarity #4: We lose appendages
Okay, this is a bit of a stretch -- we don't lose an arm or a leg in the creative process. Although, I'm sure many authors feel like they've lost these body parts when their editors ask them to delete five chapters of their manuscript deemed 'unnecessary'. The only serious loss of a body part we have is the hair we pull out of our heads when we have writer's block. If you doubt me, do a Google search on all male authors with full heads of hair. You won't get many results back.
Similarity #5: We eat brains
This is more of a wish than a truth for us writers. I'm sure many of us have wanted to smash in the skulls of famous authors, dead or alive, to chew on their cerebrum for inspiration. However, there are some brains we would want to avoid. For example, those of Ernest Hemingway or James Joyce are too pickled from alcohol to be useful. Dining on Emily Bronte's brain would be too depressing. And Snooki's...well, we'd have to snack on the other brains around us due to the lack of intelligent material.
Happy Halloween to one and all!