Editorial: "Z" for Zombie

24 March 2016 Alan Attwood

Editorial: "Z" for Zombie

THIS JOB IS an education. I learn somethingnew every edition. Most recently, I have become familiar with a new term: “Zom Rom- Com”. Which denotes – I am assured by those familiar with such things – a romantic comedy featuring…zombies. Of course. Once “Z” stoodfor Zorro, or was simply the letter differentiating Liza Minnelli from anyone in showbiz named Lisa. Now there’s no argument – at least none that anyone with any sense of self-preservation wants to tackle – that “Z” means one thing only. Zombies. Hence this edition.

Full disclosure: I am not an expert. Though I do recall that, back in the 90s, the Irish band The Cranberries, featuring a lead singer and songwriter with the mellifluous name Dolores O’Riordan, had a big hit with a song called ‘Zombie’. Working on this edition, however, has made me receptive to all references. And suddenly they’re everywhere… For starters, there’s a new movie called Pride, Prejudice and Zombies – described by one reviewer as “an ill-conceived production: the film never establishes the basic zombie ground rules – walkers or runners? What kills them?” I hadn’t realised there were zombie ground rules, but I accept that it’s crucial to get them right. There’s also a successful TV series called The Walking Dead. I recently fell over an interview with one of its stars, actor Andrew Lincoln, who says of his role: “I’m employed to go on a zombie frenzy killing spree.” Of course. In the same Guardian story, Lincoln expanded on something local zombie aficionados have patiently explained to me: zombies are often a metaphor for something else. “In Western culture, we have ignored death,” says Lincoln. “We’re running the other way – everything is about life and youth… Zombies are the visible embodiment of death staring at us with our own faces.” Who am I to argue?

But it’s not only on the entertainment pages or channels that you will find zombie references. ABC TV recently aired a documentary filmed in the US on what they termed “zombie mortgages”. The housing loans that triggered the Global Financial Crisis of 2007 and were the subject of the Oscar-nominated movie The Big Short still exist. That’s right: they’re not dead yet. They’ve stomped into the world of finance and walked down Wall Street. Further proof of that is a book called Zombie Economics, by Australian academic John Quiggin. The book’s sub-title, ‘How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us’, encapsulates Quiggin’s argument. As with the ABC’s exploration of American housing markets, Quiggin maintains that flawed theories about the economy still have their adherents, despite the GFC and all the damage it did. In Zombie Economics, he argues that “we must find a way to kill them once and for all if we are to avoid an even bigger crisis in the future”. The book is now a few years old; that future is even closer than it was.

In our cover story Andrew Nette traces the term “zombie” back to the early 19th century and explores the many, many zombies in popular culture. He also has a crack at explaining what it all may mean. Danielle Gori, meanwhile, chips in with some research about zombie computers and a zombie running app, and Melissa Cranenburgh waxes lyrical about a coming-of-age zombie movie. It all reminds me of something we did in 2009, when the cover of Ed#338 featured Bela Lugosi as Dracula in the 1931 movie of that name. “Drac’s Back”, we proclaimed: thanks to Buffy, Twilight and True Bloodvampires were cool again. Maybe they still are, even though they’ve now been upstaged. Vampires. Zombies. This job is an education. Also, sometimes, monstrous fun.

Alan Attwood, Editor