The undead, a very lively genre

Why? Why did it happen? Why has not anybody predicted it? Why were we suddenly, from one day to the next, literally invaded by zombies that tried to eat our brains storming our senses through every way they could use in order to reach us? Well, to be honest it might not be such an unexpected phenomenon if you had ever paid attention to a couple of very simple evidences.


The ‘golden age’ of zombie literature, both Spanish and Anglo-Saxon (the former landing a bit later), is a cause and a consequence of that boom that everything vaguely related with the undead had experienced since the last years of the 2010’s: In Spain, for those few ones who had not realised it yet, the most clear and unmistakable signal of this outburst was the profusely announced and anxiously expected arrival of the American TV series The Walking Dead in the mids of the year 2010, based on an already famous comic written by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore since 2003, immediately followed by a comical miniseries made by Berto Romero, the popular collaborator (nowadays co-presenter) in Buenafuente’s late night. Famous were Marvel Zombies too, and if we talk about video games the market has been plagued for years with titles such as Resident Evil (brought 5 times to the big screen) and others like Doom, Dead Rising or Alone in the Dark.

Internet Forums such as amanecer zombie or somos leyenda abounded too even before the series appeared on the Spanish TVs. There, besides countless discussions and debates, participants used to post their own tales freely and openly. Many of the Spanish authors that have filled local bookstores with dozens of zombie books (see The Golden Age of the Iberian Zombie) began their literary careers posting in such a kind of websites. And if that was not enough, even the avenues of many large Spanish cities were periodically invaded by undead mobs in the so called ‘Zombie Walks’, events in which hundreds of people dressed like zombies and gathered to march through the streets, as it has been going on every October in the Catalonian town of Sitges as part of the Sitges Film Festival or in Las Palmas, in the Canary islands, on every Halloween’s eve. Even board games were invaded by zombies, as in Zpocalypse, Zombie State: Diplomacy of the Dead or Zombies!!!

Cinema, a genre plagued by zombies

If there is any field where the success of these creatures is categorical and durable though this is cinema, since over 160 films about the undead have been produced in the last half century, from bizarre B Series footages to large Hollywood productions. Only during the last decade an average of 5 to 6 films per year have been being released (only during 2005 around 13 appeared), a revival started by the well known 28 Days Later in 2002 and followed by many other like its weaker continuation 28 Weeks Later, the five adaptations of the popular video game Resident Evil or the film Dawn of the Dead. Even in Spain some national titles have been produced such as REC in 2007, and its sequel REC 2 (2009).

Zombies vs. Vampires

The recent wave of zombies have overthrew what used to be the last reigning literary trend in terms of supernatural creatures: vampires. These creatures, literary centenarians, were last time catapulted to fame by the American writer Anne Rice and her 1976 book Interview with the Vampire (also made into a movie in the 90’s), and experienced again a recent takeoff thanks to the new wave of teenage vampires who came up with the Twilight saga, engendered in 2005 by the also American writer Stephenie Meyers.

No one knows for sure the reason of this change in public’s taste, but everyone has a theory. According to David Gonzalez, editor in Almuzara (the publishing house that brought World War Z to Spain), “the last vampires were teenagers, and that was their wise move. Zombies, meanwhile, are more critical and reflective, and raise many questions about our lifestyle, about a society sickened with mediocrity and the dangers of our scientific-technical race, where the hero here is who fights against a mob of zombies who want to eat him.”

Juan de Dios Garduño Cuenca, author of another Spanish zombie book Y pese a Todo… (And despite all…) does not avoid comparisons too: “Let’s say vampire is a more aristocratic, elegant, powerful monster, sexually attracting too, while zombie represents misery and repudiation. It is said vampires are in fashion in good times and zombies in times of crisis … the fact is that the two may well be a reflection of our own society.”


Some Spanish authors and their books in detail:

An example of what could be considered as a pioneer among all the Spanish authors who have started writing about zombies during the last 5 or 6 years more or less could be Manuel Loureiro, from Pontevedra (Galicia), who premiered with Dolmen publishing house in 2008 with his novel Apocalypses Z, a tale originally born in an Internet forum and that eventually had a second part. This is an example of classic narrative about zombies, telling the story of a young Spanish lawyer who becomes a witnesses of both the collapse of civilisation and the carnage caused by a global horde of undead.

Sergi Llauger, resident in El Masnou (Barcelona), was an exponent too of this new generation of writers and also a clear example of its great diversity. His first book, Diario de un Zombi (Diary of a Zombie) (2010) is a comical and sometimes touching story that takes the original approach of someone who has became a zombie but who, somehow, managed to retain his human reasoning and personality in a Barcelona devastated by the undead. This cynical main character, who always attempts to make fun on the other living dead within his new condition, one day happens to meet a little girl who survived the catastrophe, a fact that will force him to be, paradoxically, more human than ever before, even more than when he was still alive. Llauger admitted his book tried to “give a twist to the genre”. Beginning in the epic-fantasy literature, fan of Ken Follet and the apocalyptic genre, he had very clear that his success was due mainly to what he himself describes as a ‘fad’ because, and according to himself, “success does not only depends on being good at writing, but also on the context and on what people likes and demands at a certain moment.”

A different case was Alejandro Castro Guerrero, from Malaga, pioneer author in this Spanish zombie spring but who already had some other books published before. He joined the zombie wave with La Guerra de la Doble Muerte Z (The War of the Double Z Death), a novel published by Almuzara in 2008. This writer, a dedicated science fiction and classic horror reader (Poe, Lovecraft, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker), admitted that what led him to this genre was a gamble: “I needed to prove to others and myself that I was able to face the challenge of writing a novel in a genre I had never cultivated before, although it is clear too that the natural predisposition of the public towards it also helped me to persevere in my attempt.” Atypical was also his own approach to the story, acquiring both the point of view of a smart and conscious wave of zombies spreading all over Andalusia and of the humans resolved to eradicate them, although, unlike Sergi Llauger’s book, his novel was a raw and distressing tale. “In my work,” said the author, “the ‘resurrected’ (the way zombies are called) have stopped being the executioners and are now the victims of a situation they cannot control and that is running through their fingers.”

The Sevillian Juan de Dios Garduño Cuenca is the father of Y pese a Todo(And despite all…), his first novel published in 2010, and very close to have become a film by the producers of Celda 211 (Cell 211). Unlike many other plots among the Spanish zombie his particular story does not take place in Spain but in the US state of Maine, as a tribute to his favourite writer Stephen King. Here the books talks about the misadventures of two men and the young daughter of one of them in an America destroyed by World War III where the use of chemical weapons has led to the emergence of a more intelligent and deadly type of undead, a Post-apocalyptic story that focuses primarily on survival. “It seemed very interesting to me to exploit a story where survivors do not mutually help each other, but right the opposite,” said the author: “Normally, in all the stories about zombies, people often join to make common front against the horde but not in mine, something I think makes it very different from the rest. ”
Juan de Dios declared himself an unconditional fan of the horror genre in all its aspects: Stephen King’s follower, also read the classics, played several video games, read comics and watched zombie movies. For him “a zombie is horror in a pure state, is a dangerous creature who wants to eat you and that will not have any consideration no matter how much you beg or make a fuss. It could be anyone from your family, friendships or acquaintances.” He also recognised that the current undead fad influenced his own career: “When the boom started I already had a zombie novel written, so I sent it to Dolmen. Meanwhile I started writing a story about two enemies in a post-apocalyptic world. When I finished I realised that I liked it much more than the one I had delivered before, so I sent it too and this is the way the book was born.”

Not enough signals of an announced invasion then? Seeing all this all we can do is to humbly recognise that the horde was everything but unexpected, even if the question about the cause of its raise still remains unanswered. Besides any unequivocal truth, the only certainty is that, for some reason, there had been a real ‘zombie golden age’ during the last decade or so, which is not finished yet, and which had its prolific and sometimes brilliant reflection in many varied fields.

Here you have some more examples of how even South Park was well aware of this supernatural phenomenon. It could not be otherwise anyway, when it comes to those irreverent and foul-mouthed children from Colorado…

(read the first part of this article here)

(read this article in Spanish here)

3 responses to “The undead, a very lively genre

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  2. Pingback: The repetitive fever brought by the millennium: endless series, pounding music and a frenzy of irreverent fads | marcosmarconius·

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