Episode 404: Secrets

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Zombie Cliche Lookout: Perspective

If a crowd of ten people witnesses an event, odds are you’re going to get ten very different descriptions of what happened. Eye witnesses, as it happens, are kind of terrible. Our minds do all sorts of things to the stimuli we take in, ignoring some, focusing on others, and maybe twisting a few through the lens of our preconceived notions. In the words of Chico Marx, “Who you gonna’ believe, me or your own eyes?”

That perspective, while flawed, is very important. It can turn a hero into a villain, an honest mistake into a terrifying conspiracy. When tension is already high, it can make mountains out of molehills. On the other hand, if we’re conditioned to expect something, we may end up ignoring all sorts of evidence to the contrary.

What does this have to do with zombies? Well, obviously everything is worse with zombies.

About this Episode:

A lot of you guys called this little twist, although we haven’t actually seen what’s behind the store so we don’t have anything in the way of specifics.

Discussion Question: Your Zombie Rules

I recently asked what everyone’s favorite type of discussion question was, and a few people pointed out some potential issues with questions about how zombies work. Specifically, they stated that most people just follow the rules from whatever media is the most influential (e.g. The Walking Dead, Left 4 Dead). Essentially, there are no hard and fast rules.

This is one of the things I really like about the genre. A zombie from your short story can have completely different rules than the zombie from my RPG, but they’re still both zombies. Of course, it’s easy to overdo it with the unique zombie rules, but that’s a whole other topic.

So today’s question is: where do your zombie rules come from? Do you stick to one source? Mix and match? Come up with some on your own?

14 thoughts on “Episode 404: Secrets”

  1. Typo alert: second paragraph first line last word, and should be an.

    No sarcastic comment unintentionally insulting your intelligence this time. (It was unintentional!)

    • Ah, thank you. Fixed.

      No worries on the unintentional sarcasm, I have thick skin 🙂

  2. Typo Alert: Zombie Cliche Lookout It’s “Perspective”! 😀

    • Good good, how’d I miss that?

  3. My zombie rules come from facts more than anything else.

    Bone/Body decomposition have to be realistic, meaning that no one zombie is going to last more than the first initial half year. Nerves die, senses become non-existent, muscles fail, and bones begin to grow weaker due to pure exposure.

    They also don’t get any ‘super sensory’ abilities as it makes no sense. Humans get a lot of neat senses which many are completely internal, but they are mostly limited in range. So for a dying person to get some sort of super sensory is ridiculous.

    Parasite/Virus/Bacterial transfer would take varying days. Viruses are quick and multiple quickly but they are genetic so how do they completely alter a person? Bacterial is a close second but the worst we’ve seen of it mentally controlling is making the host very aggressive. Parasites make the most logical sense but it’d take them awhile to take full control of the target, and more than likely the take over would kill the host and destroy the brain before domination.

    • Excellent thoughts here.

      I remember reading or watching (it may have been a documentary) that the main issue with the “rage” zombies is that disease simply can’t replicate that fast. It’s impossible.

  4. How do you define a human to Zombie death? The heart stopped beating? The blood stopped flowing? The soul left/lost control? Brain dead? The muscles are obviously still working but the skin being grey is not oxygenated or is it just polluted. Is the blood still circulating but by othe means than a pump/vavle system? I guess if they bleed out any wound then it must be. Is there hardened tissue rather than mussy tissue on internal organs? Do they have a body temperature if not then no need for a liver. They dont eat, digest or pee no need for urinal and intestinal systems. They seem to see & hear so nervous system is functioning but how? I have no resources just questions as to what is and isn’t operational. Do they have functional tear ducts since they are using their eyes? Hows their mouth health since they seem to be able to bite? What if the whole body is actually just preserved, auto embalming and controlled by some other parasite being sending signals through the nerves.
    Is the Zombie contaminent crystalizing and/or preserving like smoking beef jerky? Sensory feedback from cells is obviously still functioning

  5. Why do you have to shoot them in the head to kill them? From which film did that particular bit of zombie lore come?

    I’d like to write a story, or better yet, run an RPG, with zombies that didn’t “die” simply because one pierced the meninges. How about zombies that don’t spread their condition through bites and scratches? Maybe they’re just an unstoppable shambling horde of rotting undeath. Want to shoot them? Fine. They can absorb everything you throw at them.

    Would fire destroy them? In some mythos it does; in others it just makes them barbecued self-propelled undead killing machines.

    I really enjoy the notion that you are willing to make the zombies into something that works for you, Dave. Keep the readers on their toes. Make them say “But! But! But! That’s not how it’s supposed to work!”

    First rule, Buttercup: No plan survives first contact with the enemy. What happens when the zombies don’t “die” when you pierce the skull with a claw hammer? What then?

    • In P&PRPG’s, adventurer’s have to use slashing weapons against all zombies to kill them. You have to cut them to bits and pieces to a point where they just can’t do anything. Magic zombies are pretty fun to fight because they can have so much different done with them. Including the use of weapons with out intelligence, using them as zombie magic bombs, and creating a mobile wall.

      • Funny you should mention pen and paper RPG’s. I have started working on my LEGO-based GURPs campaign. It’s a sort of X-Files/Fringe-esque campaign, with multiple factions, secret and double-secret government agents, and, well, I don’t want to give it away. The characters’ minifigs are done, as are a few of the set pieces. I am working my way through the 4E characters book now, trying to get the framework for the characters and principal NPC’s down before I begin recruiting players.

  6. It would depend… if I were to write a zombie story, I’d be pulling from a lot of different sources. One, I’d want to figure out how it started and spreads. So that it may not be revealed at the beginning, but characters may have a chance to learn it later on.

    I like the ideas of different stages of decay and that having an effect on the behavior of the zombie for fast or slow.

    I also like an article posted up on io9, assuming the disease (and is a disease in origin) doesn’t jump species, that the animal kingdom would make short work of zombies and end a plague.

    I also like the questions brought up for methods of decapitation or destruction.

  7. Typo alert: In the popover, it should be “behind” instead of “being”.

    Also, I guess I don’t care as much about the details. I just need to know how to kill them. Now, I know someone is going to call me on this. What if they have a chance for being saved?

  8. Well, yesterday my Fire Axe arrived. I attached it to a door and now I’m off to France for the weekend.

    • Pics, please.