Zombies have become the big thing over the past couple of decades, especially since The Walking Dead has taken over our TVs. Something I’ve begun to wonder though is where zombies fit into our literature, especially the Fantasy genre.
What’s In a Name?
For the most part, zombies have belonged to the realm of horror, being a metaphor to whatever we believe is “brainwashing” our society or people are blindly following. But from a Fantasy standpoint, we don’t see or use the word zombie often. Why is that?
Mainly because they aren’t called zombies outside the Contemporary Fantasy Genre. Though no matter what, Necromancers remain the same, zombies when in the High Fantasy genre are called ‘undead’.
Normally ‘undead’ is a broad term applied to creatures who return to animation after their death. Technically this term can be applied to Vampires and the Lich, but if you see the word undead in a High Fantasy story it refers to a zombie.
Magic or Science?
How a zombie returns to animation is completely up to the writer.
If the magic route is how you want to go, normally a Necromancer is somewhere in the picture, and when the Necromancer is defeated so are the zombies. On the other hand zombies can be created in other ways, general magic, or even a deity can cause the dead to rise.
With the choice of Science, take cues from World War Z. No need for a Necromancer when your zombies can run the show on their own. Here it’s a bacteria, virus, or parasite that restarts animation. But if you decide to go with a scientific approach, you have to think it through completely, but don’t forget to include the mysterious patient zero.
What They Bring to the Plot Plate
Zombies are better when used as a sort of added obstacle, than the main issue. When you have zombies as your main antagonist, you run out of ideas. When you watch zombie themed TV shows and movies they all end the same way. The zombies are still there, and you end up having to worry more about the rest of humanity than surviving the zombie onslaught. This is because there is only so much that zombies can bring to the plot on their own. Hence why Necromancers are a good to include when doing this because you have something to end the story. For me it brings a kind of hopelessness that doesn’t appeal to me as a reader.
But what do you think? Do you include zombies in your work? How do you include them? Let me know in the comments below!