The Walking Dead is gonna up and shamble back into our living rooms in just a few more days. As a member of that small and nevertheless weirdly increasingly known world of "zombie experts," I must admit that I always view the return of this program with a certain amount of trepidation. I know that to some, any critical appraisal of the show is akin to legally punishable slander, while to others the whole zombie juggernaut-things remains a mysterious and yet, well, undying force.
But I will watch the show.
I always watch the show. I sort of HAVE to watch, given that the whole premise of the show exists around a genre in which I continue to dabble. Also -- who am I kidding? I love the metaphors that zombies bring to our culture. A true zombie story is awfully hard for me not to enjoy.
But if it sounds like I'm hedging, then that's because I am.
You see, I worry about all this zombie stuff. I worry because I've met folks at horror conventions who have attended panels on which I've had the privilege of participating, and I've had to convince them that stock-piling weapons for what they somehow view as both a fictional and therefore paradoxically and illogically inevitable zombie apocalypse is a bad idea.
I've actually had arguments with fans. I'm pretty sure we were kidding around, but then, like I said, I worry. Do they WANT this? Do they WANT to have to carry around swords and worry that grandma isn't grandma but is instead a ravenous crocodilian humanoid (who nevertheless still wears her apron) and who will never, ever again bring you a holiday present? Do they WANT us, off the screen, to succumb to our most primal and baboon-like instincts?
It IS strange, when you think about it. No one was tying axe blades to the sides of their cars when The Road Warrior screened. And Mad Max, in many ways, is a much more plausible scenario than zombies.
Because zombies are not at all plausible.
Therefore, as a zombie genre writer, as a putative zombie "expert," and as someone who has a professional investment as well in both public health and my obligation to the Hippocratic Oath, may I offer the following five caveats to keep in mind as The Walking Dead gets underway this Sunday night?
1. Zombies, as they are depicted in The Walking Dead and in all of George Romero's films and in all of what feel to me to be the best zombie films, ARE NOT REAL. (Enough said.)
2. Zombies are not real. (Apparently I have to say it again.)
3. You can never, ever safely re-sheath your bad-ass samurai sword the way Michonne does. She doesn't even look. I have friends who are experts in this kind of thing, and I've asked them. Michonne's back ought to be sliced to ribbons by now. She swings that thing over her head and never ever misses as she places it back into its carrier. Her cavalier ways with that sword are gonna get her killed way before the zombies do.
4. While we're on the subject of Michonne, let's consider as well this vexing issue: she cannot humanly maintain that grimace for much longer. While it is a myth that your mother likely told you that if you cross your eyes and someone hits you in the back your eyes will stick that way, I worry for Michonne's facial muscles. She is in genuine danger of being truly unable to smile. That isn't good for her, or for the mirror neurons of her good friends and allies. And, Michonne? I don't want a coy little grin. You need to guffaw. It's just that important.
5. Finally, to my biggest concern, let me tell you a little story. I had the honor of giving a lecture about the spread of zombie lore on the Internet at North Georgia State University a couple of years ago. Afterwards, a very cool kid approached me with the most musical Georgia hills accent I've ever heard. This is what he said: "I tell you what. If there was a zombie outbreak, I'm gonna hole up with my granny, 'cause she's a better shot with the shotgun than most of the boys on this here campus." I laughed and reminded him that this wasn't the best plan, that she'd of course eventually run out of ammo. Silly me. He smiled and shook his head. "Pardon me, sir," he replied, "but you ain't seen my granny's basement."
So, I have strongly held public health concerns about stockpiling ammunitions and weapons. My personal belief is that it is in general a bad idea. However, if you choose to legally do so, you should not do so because of zombies. (See numbers 1 and 2 above). Nevertheless, I am waiting for a paucity of ammunition to declare itself on The Walking Dead. Darryl is excluded from this concern because A) he has a cross-bow and B) he is a bad-ass
So, zombies, here we come. With these five easy to remember steps, I hope the show can be more safely enjoyed by all of us.
Schlozman's novel, The Zombie Autopsies, has been adapted for the screen by George Romero.