#9 Super Zombies!
People (and by people, I mean quirky zombie nerds like me) often love to speculate about which superpowers they'd like to have during a zombie apocalypse. Popular choices include flight, invisibility, and super speed. Some people will answer "time travel", but to me, that's sort of cheating the game. That's like finding Aladin's lamp and wishing for infinity wishes on your third wish, or not wearing underwear to school on a day when you're expecting the big kid who had his puberty three years early to give you a wedgie in gym class. Sure, it's smart and strategic, but by doing so, you're essentially hacking the system. It's almost like you're playing hide and seek, and while the seeker is counting to ten, you leave your house and drive off to the mall.
Life isn't a video game, with endless cheats and re-dos. Life is all about learning to deal with reality's crappy limitations, then spending a few decades complaining about them. And maybe getting a bunch of ironic bumper stickers to validate your gripes. Then you die. If you're lucky, there might be some decent egg sandwiches at your funeral to reward the people who indulged your years of complaints.
My own post-zombie apocalypse superpower would probably be very modest. Shooting lasers out of my eyes might look super cool, but how often would that actually come in handy? I'd have a constant lineup of post-apocalyptic survivors asking me to reheat their cans of beans or warm their bucket baths all the time. I'm a pretty friendly guy, but that would probably push me over the edge. When all you need to do is blink to vaporize somebody who's annoying you, people usually stop thinking of you as a nice guy. And Wolverine claws? Nuh-uh, not for me. I can barely take care of my own facial hair and toenails. If I had adamantium claws, I would survive approximately 4.7 seconds before some random belly itch made me disembowel myself.
For my superpower, I think I would choose never having to sleep again. I'd be the mighty Captain Insomnia. Behold! My costume would be some sort of ironic, bite-proof spandex pajama, but probably covered in a pattern of amusing, colorful kevlar patches. I'm willing to give up a lot of things to survive in a zombie-plagued, post-apocalyptic wasteland, but whimsy isn't one of them.
Why would I choose this seemingly impotent superpower?
Well, for starters, I'm already a terrible sleeper. Right now, to get a good night's sleep, I need a pillow-top mattress, a weighted blanket, air conditioning, a running fan, white noise, a thick body pillow, a cervical neck pillow, a blackout sleep mask, a pair of carefully worn-down non-restrictive boxer briefs, and my automatic Cpap machine. To this embarrassing buffet of bedtime handicaps, I also often include a melatonin gummy and a mandatory half-hour of reading in bed.
The only way I could level up from this bizarro set of self-imposed sleep limitations would be to buy a sensory deprivation chamber from NASA. Or maybe keep an anesthesiologist on retainer to place me into an artificially induced coma every night. But anesthesiologists earn about forty kajillion dollars a year, so that's way out of my price range. I checked. Surprisingly, you can't find anesthesiologists on Craigslist. There are a few ads for people who'll come over to your house, tie you up and do a whole bunch of weird things to your body, but I don't think any of those services would help me sleep any better, to be honest.
Maybe I could become a vampire. That would be pretty cool, come to think of it. Especially if I get to be one of those brooding, smouldering, melancholy vampires like in Interview with the Vampire. Sexy vampires are very popular right now. If writing zombie stories doesn't pan out, maybe I'll branch out and write some reverse harem vampire billionaire alien invasion erotica. Kind of like Twilight, except way more confusing. Also, I would replace all those werewolves with arousing, shape-shifting, bloodthirsty CEOs from Uranus. There's a story in there, I feel it.
Anyway, all this to say that I probably wouldn't get much shuteye after the fall of humankind, especially if we all live in a world filled with stinky, moaning humanoids who spend most of the night growling, banging into nearby garbage dumpsters, setting off abandoned car alarms, and making people gurgle and scream in mortal agony. I don't think there are any earplugs on the market that can completely block out the soundtrack of live cannibalism, unfortunately. Although that would make for a fantastic pitch on Dragon's Den.
Who would even want to sleep in a post-zompocalyptic world? We'd all probably smell like earwig excrement and forgotten meat packaging. We'd be clustered together like sardines in moist, rusty shipping containers. We'd be too terrified to close our eyes, and when we did, horrific nightmares would haunt us every single night. Who wants an afternoon siesta when your power nap is a fifteen-minute waking dream recap of how Bob and Jeanine got torn apart-slash-eaten alive while trying to refurbish a porta-potty into a zombie-proof treehouse? There's simply nothing reinvigorating about that.
Poor Bob and Jeanine. They didn't smell very good, but they always did let me snuggle up between them in our makeshift communal cardboard box down by the swamp.
No thank you. I'll be Sleepless in Bedraggle. Give me the red-eye guard duty, no problemo. I've always wanted to take up knitting and Sudoku. Zombies, beware. Captain Insomnia is here, in all of my unblinking, stare-at-you-while-you-sleep glory.
What about you? What post-apocalyptic superpower would you take? Hit Reply and let me know! I read all of my emails, even the freaky ones.
Superhero/zombie apocalypse crossovers are a real thing, by the way. They match up really nicely, like beer and pizza, tacos and tequila, hot dogs and baseball, or cats and cucumbers. (That last one is a joke, actually. Most cats are hilariously terrified of cucumbers.) I've plunged into several superpowered zombie worlds, and if you haven't already, I'd really recommend you try them out also. If you're anything like me, pairing superheroes with zombies is pretty nerdgasmic. It floods your synapses with enough geeky fun to last you for weeks on end. If somebody ever manages to combine this with Star Trek or Dungeons & Dragons, I'd probably lose my frigging mind.
One of my favorites so far has been Peter Clines' Ex-Heroes novels. This five-book series creates a whole new detailed universe of superheroes and supervillains, but stages most of the action a year after the undead have taken over the planet. The story is about a group of superheroes (Stealth, Gorgon, Zzzap, Cerberus, The Mighty Dragon, Regenerator) who scout, scavenge and fight to protect a community of survivors who've transformed a Hollywood film studio into a survival enclave. Problem is, many of the zombies banging at the gates are super-powered also, creatures who used to be superheroes or supervillains. The format is engaging, because it toggles the timeline between present-day post-apocalyptic events and individual superhero stories as they played out when the dead started to attack the living. Ex-Heroes is a really fun, well-written, immersive series, and if you're into audiobooks, the audio versions are very well narrated. (Note: The link above leads to the five book collection, which is a little cheaper than buying each book individually, but they're all available as stand-alones also.)
If you'd rather delve into established superhero universes, Marvel has devoted a lot of creative energy over the years to build up the Marvel Zombies storyline. In fact, Marvel has a new show coming soon on Disney Plus called What If?, and from the looks of a rotting Captain America in the trailer, it looks like Marvel Zombies might be coming to TV. Pretty cool, since Robert Kirkman (creator of The Walking Dead) is one of the authors involved.
Marvel Zombies is set in an alternate universe/timeline where a zombie apocalypse spreads across the Marvel Universe, and infects many of the original superheroes we all know and love. Most of them remain self-aware, and keep all of their memories, but they're so overwhelmed by undead hunger they can't help but hunt and eat any human being they come across, despite their growing sense of self-loathing. If you like Spider-Man, the Avengers, Hulk and all those characters, you'll have fun diving into this universe, even if it doesn't take itself too seriously. Spider-Man is a zombie, but he's still cracking jokes left right and center, for instance. The storyline is very spread out in multiple editions of different comic book series, so it's a little hard to collect everything to read it chronologically. Instead, you can get Marvel Zombies: The Complete Collection, which has taken all of those individual comic books and compiled them chronologically into three massive graphic novels. They're super fun, collectible, and hugely re-readable.
And then there's my favorite superhero-zompoc mashup, DC's two-year old world-destroying extravaganza DCeased. Same idea as Marvel Zombies - a zombie apocalypse spreads across the planet, and involves all of the established superheroes and supervillains (including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and many more) - but DCeased takes a much deeper, darker approach to the idea.
It's a phenomenal series - it really blew my mind, and I talk about this one all the time - but be ready to see some of your favorite superheroes turn into mindless, ravenous, undead monsters, virtually unstoppable in their quest to exterminate humanity. I don't want to give away any spoilers here, but wow. As far as zompocs go, this one is as ferocious as they come. Again, you can go around and hunt down all the individual comic books, but DC has been kind enough to compile them into four massive stand-alone graphic novels, available in paperback or hardback. Start with DCeased, then move on to DCeased: Unkillables, DCeased: Dead Planet, then wrap it up with DCeased: Hope at World's End.
Sometimes procrastination can be productive. It's a little bit like passive parenting. Usually, if my kids are bored out of their minds on a rainy day, they'll crash around the house whining and stomping their feet, begging for me to entertain them like some sort of uninspired court jester or trained dancing monkey. Normally, I'll comply and whip out a board game, drive them to the pet store or pretend to be a zombie and chase them around the house. But sometimes I'll just sigh, sit on a chair, stare at the wall and start rambling about pants, fuel additives or variable mortgages, something like that. Eventually, when they come to the temporary conclusion that their father is the least stimulating creature on earth, they'll magically come up with an activity all by themselves, scamper off and play together. And then we all win.
Writing zombie fiction is slightly similar. Sometimes you accomplish more by doing less.
I'm still plugging away at Zombie Vale, planning to launch the full series in the fall. I'm about 210,000 words in, which technically speaking, is about three books' worth of content already. But I still have quite a lot of work to do before it's ready to go to the editor, and my other book Zillionaire: Zombie Apocalypse Survival for the Rich & Famous has to be wrapped up first.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to reorganize Zombie Vale's three-book structure and write a whole new prologue to the book, a chapter to help establish the background of how and why the zombie apocalypse starts in the first place. But then I found out that a gentleman named Brian Lane - who apparently was one of my fans (which kind of blows my mind given how little writing I've actually put out so far) - passed away recently. Brian sounded like a really great guy. I asked his daughter if I could use his name and create a new character loosely based on him, and she agreed. So my little opening chapter for Zombie Vale 1 suddenly got way meatier than I had expected, and I quickly realized that I wasn't going to tell this small story in just one chapter.
Two weeks and twenty thousand words later, I now have the first draft to a brand new stand-alone novella set in the Zombie Vale universe, same as Dom of the Dead. I'll be polishing it over the next few weeks, and I'll send you all the link to download it for free sometime soon, probably in August. My working title is: Better Dead than Red.
Now I just have to write a brand new prologue to Zombie Vale 1, so please, don't any of you die in the next few weeks.
OTHER ZOMBIE STUFF
Have you been watching Black Summer yet on Netflix? If not, I strongly suggest you check it out. Season 2 just came out a couple of weeks ago (check out the trailer here), and it's a madhouse. Stephen King himself loves the show, saying: "Just when you think there's no more scare left in zombies, THIS comes along. Existential hell in the suburbs, stripped to the bone."
I'm totally hooked by this non-stop horrific roller-coaster of a zombie series. Created by the same people who produced Z Nation, it stands as one of the scariest zompoc worlds I've ever come across. It's fast zombies, but to make things worse, everybody who dies turns into a zombie without any delay. Your heart stops beating and BAM, you're screaming and roaring, running after the living at breakneck speed. It's terrifying, and although it's not the kind of zompoc I like to occasionally fantasize about, I can't stop watching. The show is often confusing, disjointed, and the timeline hops around, to make things even more challenging. It's occasionally hard to make sense of what's happening, who the characters are, and who you're supposed to be cheering for - everybody in the show exists in a moral grey zone, where nobody's a good guy or a bad guy, not exactly. But I think all the confusion is deliberate. In a post-apocalyptic world like this, where you're constantly running around for your life, everything would probably feel totally chaotic and discombobulated, just like the show depicts. Anyway, it's edge of your seat drama, horror and action, and it's absolutely captivating. I'm a fan.
ALSO: did you know that Margaret Atwood - the renowned, multiple-award-winning author of The Handmaid's Tale amongst many other works - wrote a zombie story?
That's right - a few years ago she paired up with author Naomi Alderman to co-publish a post-zombie apocalypse novellette called The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home, which they wrote in alternating, surprise chapters from two characters' perspectives, kind of like an undead ping-pong tournament. It's a funny, offbeat story set in a world where humanity has mostly managed to continue operating despite the plague of zombies everywhere - it's kind of a half-pocalypse. It's ann oddball zompoc tale, but I really enjoyed it. It's absolutely free, and I recommend you check it out right here, or by clicking the book cover.
FREE BOOK PROMOS
TREEHOUSE, by J. Sharpe
A treehouse isn’t always a safe place to play!
When Grace is driving on the highway with two screaming eight-year-olds in the back seat, she’s frustrated to say the least. So when she sees a sign for a Rest Area, she’s more than happy to pull over. The boys see the treehouse first. And when they climb its ladder, it’s already too late.
Then the screaming begins.
Treehouse is a short suspense/horror story. An introduction to the works of award nominee and bestselling author J. Sharpe.
NEMESIS, by Sam J Fires
Scott’s an ordinary nine-to-five guy with a regular family, trying to scrape a living. But his life’s about to get blown apart. Desperate times call for desperate measures as Scott is compelled to accept a job which is offering the sort of money he’s never seen before in his life. But at what cost? The stakes are high and if you’re not careful, this can see you thrown in jail.
Scott’s a victim. It’s not his fault of course. He’s brimming with fury and needs to take revenge. He’s going to kill the guy who sent him to his jail sentence.
Little does Scott know he’s about to meet his Nemesis. And suddenly the world is thrown into a spin as the urban landscape is transformed and millions of people wiped out. But Scott’s an opportunist and he sees an opportunity. Will this see him killed or will he escape with his life?
JUMBO FREE BOOK BUNDLES
That's all I have for now. Thanks so much for reading! I hope your month of July is warm, fun and maybe a little silly, with plenty of lazy sunny afternoons where you can relax and plunge into a good zombie book.
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