Alt.Weekly Special Issue of the Dead


The strong Amazon performance of Los Angeles-based writer Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies gives the LA Weekly an excuse to put together an admirable suite of undead material. Gendy Alimurung's cover story is a rambling search for the Big Meaning of It All among eggheads, authorities, state and federal health agencies, and participants in the SoCal Zombiewalk. The film critic Scott Foundas has a good but potted history of the genre, and Steven Mikulan does a strong memoir of a childhood spent trying to keep the walking homeless at bay. Also included: a gallery featuring some second-place-movie-capital-worthy special makeup effects from local walkers.

There's plenty of the intellectual hooey you've come to know and love in these types of appreciations. Alimurung keeps insisting there's some kind of recessionary economic anxiety acting as a stimulus to the current fad — which raises the question of why zombies have also been beloved in the seventies, the eighties, the nineties, the beginning of this decade, and at all other times. It's also clearly false to say that "Cerebral, sexy vampires with their decadent lifestyles are out for the moment." Foundas retcons U.S. history to inform us that Day of the Dead was a depiction of the "potentially radioactive fallout of Ronald Reagan's Morning in America." Every success is in some way a product of its time, but I don't think you need any zeitgeisty explanation for the popularity of Grahame-Smith's book — which apparently changes only about 15% of Jane Austen's original. (I'm encouraged to see how much bang a writer with a clever concept can get for his buck, but I now understand Cory Doctorow's objection that the book contains "too much Austen and not enough zombies.")

This stuff goes with the territory, however, and there's plenty here even for peaceful, non-flesh-eating zombies who just want companionship.