As I write this, I recall the introduction of the stellar anthology The Living Dead 2, released this September, in which editor extraordinaire John Joseph Adams theorized on the wide range of reasons why zombies are now so popular in literature – and pop culture:
• an enemy that used to be us, that we can become at any time;
• a canvas writers can use to comment on almost anything;
• a morality-free way to fulfill a world-destruction fantasy;
• a monster that remains scary and cannot be easily romanticized.
I’m sure that’s all part of it, and we could continue to speculate ad nauseam – I’m sure there are dissertations being written on the subject as we speak. But one thing is clear: Zombies aren’t going to be dying off any time soon, and we’d better learn how to live with them.”
I wholeheartedly agree with all of John's points, especially the utilization of zombies as allegory. Zombies can be representative of humankind’s sheep-like tendencies or political and religious prejudice or just about any human defect… greed, rampant consumerism, apathy, etc. I also think he is absolutely right about the longevity of this latest literary zombie uprising – I’ve looked at a couple dozen publisher catalogues covering releases in the first quarter of 2011 and there is a healthy dose of walking dead amongst the vampires, shapeshifters, demon hunters and alien invaders.
So do I think that this zombie fiction craze will eventually burn out and go away? If I were asked a similar question a decade or so ago, I would’ve quickly answered “yes” – everything in genre fiction is seemingly cyclic – but the landscape of genre fiction has changed dramatically in the last ten years. Paranormal (ie: urban) fantasy is in the midst of its own Golden Age and readers clearly cannot get enough of genre-blending storylines that feature vampires, werewolves, fairies, zombies, etc. And while an eventual drop-off in mainstream popularity is inevitable, I think zombie fiction will continue to evolve and expand and slowly grow its core readership. Just look at the thematic diversity of storylines in this year’s elite releases – it’s literally breathtaking. There are introspective zombies, loving zombies, hate-filled zombies, and irreverent zombies – zombie stories for hardcore horror fans, speculative fiction aficionados and even elementary school kids!
The authors and editors listed below have elevated zombie fiction to a height it has never been before and every single one of these remarkable novels and anthologies should be treasured for what they are: and that is literary masterworks that have redefined – and reinvigorated – zombie fiction.
So, without further ado, here is my list of the very best zombie fiction releases of 2010...
1. Feed by Mira Grant
2. The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer
3. Night of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall
4. Dust by Joan Frances Turner
5. Dog Blood by David Moody
6. Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist
7. The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten by Harrison Geillor
8. The Living Dead 2 anthology edited by John Joseph Adams
10. Desperate Souls by Gregory Lamberson
11. The Book of the Living Dead edited by John Richard Stephens
12. The Zombie-Wilson Diaries by Timothy W. Long
13. Ten Little Zombies: A Love Story by Andy Rash
Do you think zombie fiction is going away in 2011? I’d say that you’re dead wrong….
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for almost the last two decades and has written more than 6,000 reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, and BarnesandNoble.com. In his free time, he reads.