Thursday, August 30, 2012

Craig DiLouie Talks Zombies

Today our one-question interview is with Craig DiLouie who has been enjoying much-deserved success with his apocalyptic visions.

James Robert Smith: What do you think are the social implications of the popularity of zombie fiction?

Craig DiLouie: Some literature simply shows up at the right place at the right time. We don't know it at the time, but it is reflecting the popular zeitgeist. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is a great example of that. The remake series, which launched several years after the World Trade Center attacks, played upon a popular feeling in America at the time--that we were alone and under siege. 

Now it's zombies. Zombies are huge in movies, TV, books, pop culture. Most of this is simply pent-up demand for material they've wanted for a long time but the powers that be ignored. I think it's more than that. I think zombies scratch a deeper itch.

People have been fascinated by the idea of the end of the world since virtually the dawn of civilization, and this fascination has revealed itself in literature. The only thing that has changed is the mechanism of the apocalypse that was prominent in the popular psyche. In the old days, it was mostly religious. In the 50s, it was alien invasion, monsters in the 60s, asteroids and natural disasters and environmental collapse in the 70s, nuclear war and killer machines in the 80s, exotic viruses in the 90s, and terrorism, EMP and, yes, zombies in the 00s.

Zombies are a particularly frightening mechanism of apocalypse because people you once knew and loved are now turning on you, and you must stand alone and be tested and survive. So you not only have the traditional elements of the end of civilization--using survival skills to beat the odds and stay alive in a depopulated, ruined world--but you also have the aspect of violence, being hunted, and fighting back--against monsters that look like people. Our society has finally reached the point where our deepest paranoia is set not against technology or environmental degradation, but against everybody else.

George Romero popularized the idea of zombie as consumer or underclass, and I think there's merit to these associations. Beyond these obvious connections, however, there are even more important considerations. I believe people today feel like their world is out of control. Let's face it, the last ten years have been depressing, and the average American has felt like he was being strangled by a corrupt system controlled by a small elite. The natural American paranoid streak has grown even stronger, that sense there's an us and there's a them, and the them are many, evil and strong, and want to hurt us. With this kind of stuff in the back of your head, the idea of the zombie apocalypse provides much needed catharsis.

Imagine not having to go to a job, pay taxes, worry about bills and credit cards, shuck everything in your life, and hit the road to play hit and run against a slow, mindless monster that looks like people. That idea is appealing to many, which reflects the popular zeitgeist. Instead of living in a constant sense of insecurity in the shadow of numerous vague, veiled threats--terrorism, job security, paying the mortgage, kids need braces, higher taxes, global warming, possibility of flu pandemic, etc.--your life becomes very simple, the threats in your life crystallize into a single enemy, and you can respond with a gun. Tomorrow doesn't matter anymore. You truly live for today.

Oddly, as horrible as such an event would actually be, I think the idea of the zombie apocalypse provides a much-needed sense of relief for people. Many would welcome it. What do you think that says about how well the world is going?

- Craig DiLouie

Craig DiLouie is the author of THE KILLING FLOOR and THE INFECTION (Permuted Press) and TOOTH AND NAIL (Salvo Press). He blogs about apocalyptic horror media regularly at

Breakout Novel by Craig DiLouie.

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