What defines a zombie?
I find myself asking these questions the further I get into book three.
When I first started turning the Matthew and Epp stories into a book, I didn’t give much thought to how I might classify them. I never have any idea where a story is going to lead and trying to shove a book into a set category in the early stages has never resulted in a product I’m happy with. So I didn’t set out to write any particular genre.
It became obvious pretty quickly, though, that with an undead ronin and a two-thousand-year-old Roman slave interacting in present-day Manhattan, these books were going to land somewhere in the supernatural category. And once the framework of the testers started to fall into place, some part of me thought it would be fun to take various famous monsters and see how I could go about including them in this new world I was discovering.
I mean, who’s to say that every boogeyman the world over isn’t, in reality, a tester crossing paths with a human in some manner? The different ways that testers can show up in a human’s life are widely varied. On one end of things, the testers occupy a ghostly area. They are basically pure energy, and if a tester crosses a human’s path in this form it can result in that human having crazy thoughts or wildly volatile emotions. At other times it can result in the human seeing things as if their eyes were playing tricks on them. Such examples, were they to get more and more extreme, might very well get explained away using a notion like ghosts or vampires.
But testers aren’t confined to just being whispy things that humans must explain away. They can also pop into human form. And since all of the testers were alive at some point, maybe they’d be recognized while they were walking around. And if you’re seeing someone you know is dead, only they’re up and about and eating a cheeseburger, well your going to think that the dead have risen, right?
So it’s possible for the world of testers, and these books, to move more into the zombie side of things.
And yet, just having the dead in motion doesn’t really classify something as a zombie book. At the very least that would push things into the world of monsters, but it feels like zombies require something more. They require a transformation of the person who once was alive. Zombies are the body of a person, only the essence of that person is gone and what is left is that body under new programming.
Also? Zombies seem to need a bit of rot about them. At some point a zombie ceased being alive for a time, and that time period of being just a corpse is central to the concept of a zombie. They have been exposed to the elements. They have been lying in dirt. They have begun to decay.
I sell the Matthew and Epp books as zombie books, but I always wonder how correct that is. I mean, the bad guys are rotted, undead creatures. That’s zombie enough for marketing purposes. I’m not going to pick nits when it comes to bringing new readers in.
But I do like to pause and mull over what defines a zombie book at times. My books are not straight the-dead-start-walking-and-our-heroes-hide-in-a-bunker-type zombie books. Plus, the zombies in my books think. They are smart, well some of them, and articulate.
Yet the notion that something has passed out of them while they sat and rotted is still present. Even the one’s that side with our heroes feel estranged and distant from the world they once belonged too.
In the end, for the characters that are classified as zombies in these books, something was transformed as they lay in a graveyard…and that is very zombie sounding to me.