A while back I ran a post-apocalyptic novel book club on ye olde blogge, which was a lot of fun. It allowed us to get our doom on at low stakes. Now I’m not, strictly speaking, a hard doomer. I suspect most of the likely scenarios involve gradual declines in resource availability and increasing poverty. In some ways this is more depressing than the grand and more dramatic scenarios that writers love to create – you can win against the zombies, but it is tough to win against the enemy “crushing national debt and gradually increasing world temperatures.”
I think most apocalyptic novels are fun thought experiments, but they go for big and shiny when what we are facing is dull and slow. But I retain the right, as your Apocalyptic Blogiste, to occasionally amuse myself with “when the zombies come” scenarios like those commonly found in novels. “When the Zombies come” on this blog basically means “when the really bad-ass stuff hits.” It covers meteors, war, collapse, ice age and reversion to mammoth hunting and, of course, the undead. I find it extremely useful, given that rather dreary nature of the real disaster going on, to get my zombie on once in a while.
What I’ve been thinking about lately is what the ideal zombie scenario would be. I mean, sure, it would be awful and all, but most post-apocalyptic novels work on the premise that Our Heroes are 1. super and 2. extremely lucky. That is, they get all the good stuff mostly going their way – they weren’t standing under the meteor. They had a genius astrophysicist on hand to fend off disaster by figuring out something no one else could have. They are smart enough to respond immediately – they never think “well what if the power goes back on and we’re embarrassed that we went straight to cannibalism.” They are always right. Unlike the myriad of red shirt characters invented to die horribly, they get to live, and usually there’s some kind of happy ending – that is, in the end, they get to Zombietopia.
Now most of the novels focus, on some level on Zombietopia and its ideal principles (not dead yet, reanimating society), and what struck me, when I was thinking about my own vision of Zombietopia involved some of the same major miracles (not being under the meteor or on top of the volcano, having my own private astrophysicist), but I’m much more concerned than the characters in novels with very small quality of life issues, which IMHO, can make the difference between leading a mostly happy and plucky band of survivors in your silver lame suit and saying “fuck it, I’m joining the cannibals and getting a prion disease.” It seems clear to me that the characters in novels are much more high minded than I am. They are thinking of much more important things in their utopias than laundry.
So what are the requirements for my own, personal zombietopia, the very best case scenario for me and mine (the rest of you have to get your own zombietopia, but I’ve no objection if they exist simultaneously ;-))?
1. The zombies have to come ashore somewhere else, ideally somewhere inhabited only by the only grizzled old seaman to have actually known zombies before, who then recognizes them for what they are, and raises the alarm. This will give me time to get my zombie-preps ready. This is particularly important if they come in the middle of the night, since I’m not a fast waker. I need a few minutes and a cup of tea so that I’m not completely betwattled.
2. My children need to stop bed wetting and I need to be caught up on laundry, so that I don’t immediately have to face the pile of hand washing that will inevitably result from this grid going down.
3. I want there to be a 12 hour period where we know the disaster is occurring, but most people don’t, where the power is still on and the merchants are still taking credit cards that will never be paid off (assuming, of course, that the collection agents aren’t already zombies). Then I can get one of those “shopping for the end of the world” scenes that pervades every single apocalyptic novel. These scenes are like porn for doomy girls, and hey, I want one. In the books, miraculously, no one ever declines your credit card and you’ve always been able to get out plenty of cash, or perhaps the grocer is just extraordinarily noble.
4. When I have to go out on night zombie hunts, I’d really rather not be partnered with my neighbor who will explain to me at some length how this is all Obama’s fault.
5. I don’t actually want to wear silver lame.
6. I would like to discover a secret talent for ninja fighting that I never knew I had. And scrabble.
7. I want to develop the secret knowledge that all book characters have. The moment the grid crashes or whatever, they know. They know that it will never come back, and act accordingly, unlike all the rest of the stupid fools who hang around waiting to see if this is doom or just a power outage. Moreover, I want this knowledge to be absolute and certain, so that I never accidentally begin leading my plucky band across a smoking landscape, only to see the lights come back on and everyone go about their normal work.
8. I also want the special gift for meeting exactly the right people. It must just happen that wandering down my rural street is an expert in zombie demolitions, or a doctor who has previously treated the zombie plague. It seems much more likely that on my street, we’d run into a couple of construction guys who had read World War Z and maybe a hairdresser who definitely saw Night of the Comet, but if the novels get the Navy Seals and the master-archers, I want them.
9. My neighbors and I will instantly pull together and form a noble group of pure-hearted allies who always do what’s right. What is right will instantly be clear, and if someone occasionally points out that it would be easier to do the wrong things, whoever is leading us will always speak for the, the truth and the goodness. We will never get into stupid debates about whether Josie’s ex was an asshole or not, who is in charge or who broke the scythe blade. More importantly, it will not be me who broke the scythe blade.
10. My children will recognize that this is a heroic and important moment, and rise nobly to the cause, behaving gracefully under pressure. They will not whine, pick their noses at meetings or distract us from zombie fighting by fighting with each other.
11. We will find the secret stash of goods that we really, really needed. Whether taken from a recent museum exhibit or found in an old attic, we will never be without the pre-modern tools needed in this new age.
12. Bruce Springsteen will not be killed by the zombies, but will live and write awesome songs about the heroic resistance. Leonard Cohen, who writes awesome songs but already looks kind of undead will rise again to write (but not sing) the zombie’s soundtrack lyrics.
13. In my Zombietopia, all the women of middlish age will not have to bring coffee to the hot warrior chicks and guys in their 20s, the way they do in all the books. Indeed, it turns out that middle aged geeks with agrarian tendencies will somehow be just what is needed.
14. That which does not kill us will make us stronger. I’m hoping that that which doesn’t kill me also makes me thinner, more organized, less irritable and more heroic.
15. My zombietopia will bring people together – while the zombies can be DWMs if they like, the side of good is always multi-ethnic, non-heterosexist and culturally diverse. My little rural town will be the nexus at which the Rebel Amish, the Agrarian Radical Fairie Zombie Hunteres, the asian-american neo-pagan society for the destruction of the undead and even a few members of the Republican party come together in a new era of understanding and common interest. After the undead are defeated, they will create a new Utopia, based on the cultivation of turnips and love of their fellow men.
16. Publishing will reanimate in time for me to write a kick-ass memoir of my days as a zombie fighter. Zombie-Oprah, kept around for sentimentality’s sake will have me on her show.
That’s my fantasy – what’s yours?