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There are two types of Zombie Fiction that are defined by the cause of zombisim. The first, and most relevant to us, is the Science Fiction side that has a scientific explanation for zombies and often reflects environmental, political, or societal concerns. The second type has a supernatural or magical explanation for zombies.
Zombie Fiction has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years with a slew of big money films (including the recent World War Z Brad Pitt film and the hit TV series The Walking Dead), and with this new popularity the zombie has been reinvented. Zombies were once merely re-animated corpses—as in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Indeed, it wasn't until George A. Romano's Night of the Living Dead movie that zombies were anything but placid figures. Since Romano, zombies have turned from slow, shambling brain-eaters to hordes of mindless flesh-eaters or in some cases, thinking creatures who are forced to exist (Warm Bodies) as a Zombie.
There is a lot of overlap between the Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction genres when it comes to Zombies. If the explanation for zombies existing is scientific, it's Science Fiction. If it's supernatural, it's Fantasy. If the story is scary or aims to scare, it's Horror (Fantasy Horror or Sci-Fi Horror). Confused yet?
You can view the crowd-ranked "Popular" Zombie Books list and vote and/submit entries to it.
Other Features of Zombie Fiction
- Level of Real Science
Variable. When zombies have a supernatural or magical explanation for their existence the level of science is non-existent. However, when the explanation is scientific, the level of science can be a well researched and seemingly plausible cause. The result is a high level of real science because the cause of the outbreak scientific and so is the cure (should one be found before everyone dies).
- Level of Grand Ideas/Social Implications
While zombies have become a cultural icon, they are rarely the focus of a Zombie story, just the propellants of the plot. The truly interesting aspect of Zombie fiction is what happens to humanity and relationships when loved ones are turned to cannibals, when death awaits you at every corner, when the normal social order collapses. An environment such as this strips away facades and presents humanity in its most basic and gritty form—a desirable place for writers to explore grand ideas.
- Level of Characterization
High. Zombie stories focus on how characters react to an extreme, world-altering catastrophe. As the story unfolds, readers can see how the personalities of characters are altered and how actions in a zombie infested world differ from a 'normal' world.
- Level of Plot Complexity
Moderate. Zombie stories have a typical plot: a zombie outbreak occurs causing panic, response from authority figures is just a bit too slow, zombisim spreads, society collapses, survivors try to stay alive on their own. This typical plot provides room for character development and the exploration of social implications.
- Level of Violence
High. Blood, guts, and brains part of Zombie fiction's scenery. Zombie stories are about death and surviving the zombie horde—expect guns, baseball bats, and anything else characters can get their hands on to be used as weapons to facilitate their own survival, not all of which may be directed at zombies.
Related Science Fiction subgenres
Apocalyptic / Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction. Zombie apocalypse! A zombie outbreak causes mass destruction and catastrophe and so most Zombie stories are also stories about life during and after an apocalypse.
Social Science Fiction. Zombie fiction provides space to explore social issues (anthropological, psychological, sociological) and speculates about behaviour and interactions.
Sci-Fi Horror. Zombie fiction can be used as means to scare, if that is the intent of the book.
- 1 World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
By Max Brooks. A plague, first thought to be rabies, but then discovered to resurrect the newly day spreads around the world. This novel has a unique format as a collection of individual accounts about the zombie apocalypse.
- 2 Autumn
By David Moody. A hybrid of War of the Worlds and Night of the Living Dead, this novel tells a zombie story without using the word zombie. 99% of Earth's population is wiped out by a deadly disease within 24 hours.
- 3 Patient Zero
By Jonathan Maberry. Follows a detective with a new mission to prevent the release of a biological weapon that turns humans into zombies.
- 4 The Rising
By Brian Keene. Zombies are intelligent and caused by demonic possession.
- 5 Cell
By Stephen King. Cell phones create a zombie outbreak.
- 6 Book of the Dead: A Zombie Anthology
By Anthony Giangregorio. A true collection of Zombie fiction with contributions from various writers.
- 7 Newsflesh Trilogy
By Mira Grant A zombie invasion through the eyes of a blogger and a good dose of politics.
- 8 The Walking Dead
By Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore. Made popular by the television series, this graphic novel series is a dark story about a zombie outbreak and its aftermath.
- 9 Monster Island: A Zombie Novel
By David Wellington. The first of three books where zombies are not all alike—some can even speak.
- 10 I Zombie I
By Jack Wallen. I. The story of a reporter who is turned into a zombie, told from his perspective.