Tobold's Blog
Thursday, January 05, 2023
The Zombie Apocalypse

As a scientist I can think of a long list of possible scenarios on how humanity might undergo an apocalyptic downfall, or even extinction. The scientific probability of the actual apocalypse involving any zombies is exactly 0%. Unlike nuclear explosions, pandemics, or exploding suns, there is no known or even hypothetically possible scientific pathway which turns people into the sort of zombie frequently depicted in literature, movies, or games. You can turn a person into a near-comatose entity that you might call a "zombie", or you can turn him into a bundle of uncontrolled aggression, but you can't possibly create a shuffling zombie army hunting down everybody else. While the chance of an alien invasion is very slim, it is infinitely higher than the chance of a zombie apocalypse.

As I don't find the scenario very believable, I don't like movies or games featuring a zombie apocalypse very much. And I had hoped that the trend would sooner or later lead to an oversaturation of the market, and then disappear. Unfortunately it seems that in 2023 we will still get a lot of zombie apocalypse content. HBO will air a The Last of Us TV series. The long list of upcoming 2023 video games contains quite a lot of games involving zombies, from The Day Before to Dead Space, to a number of sequels of zombie games. Even the previews I saw of upcoming board games had zombie games, as if the million different versions of Zombicide weren't enough.

In the end it is all part of a greater trend: Lack of creativity and imagination leads to reheating of old ideas. While you certainly could come up with an enemy for a game which fulfills a similar role, being dangerous mostly in large groups and thus satisfying to kill in large numbers, nobody is bothering to come up with a better story. It is just easier to reuse the existing zombie apocalypse trope.

I thought that this is how things generally work in almost any field - people iterate on the creations of others and fads are real. Why do you think it's a lack of creativity and imagination rather than people creating what is intriguing to them? I like Zombie movies, games, etc. I particularly like the ones that come up with novel ways to explain Zombies. I've never believed any of them, I just like the concept. The same way I like the concept of a force wielding Jedi - not believable to me, but fun.

I actually do see a potential Zombie horde possibility (or at least a show I'd like to watch) - In the future the government of a large country requires all citizens and newborns to have a "Citizen Chip" embedded in their brain as a way to uniquely identify citizens. The chip programming is "corrupted" by hackers looking to overthrow the government. That "corruption" results in Zombie like behavior including unsurpressable aggression, including the desire to mutilate. We can even make the creator of the "corruption" be a rogue AI to really spice things up and link in to one of today's existential threat discussions. How's that sound? :)
Damn it Janous, you beat me to it! You could probably fit in a 'Number of the Beast' plot too - crazed Bible Basher turns out to be right but everyone ignores his warnings...

In five years Tobold can complain about all the 'chip-zombie' plots :D

Of course we've had alien zombies too - remember headcrabs?
Just switch them out in your head for violent junkies going to extreme lengths to get their next fix. Drugs give them terrible skin and the variable mobility is based on the dosage they're on. More realistic but definitely less "correct" to the point that people might complain... :P
As for Janous and the chip idea: already done in Ghost in the Shell I think. Also, if its just an ID tag that's not going to affect brains at all. I mean, most pets have those implanted already so... go hackers, make "zombie" pets? xD Or you know - pacemakers - same thing. Wrong organ though.
I can totally understand that people does not like a genre like the "Zombie apocalypse" genre but while are you using the 'unrealist' argument ? Fantasy, scifi, fantastic,superhero, 'urban fantasy', apocalypse, etc... are not credible except for very few scifi work.

I am trying to understand why it is more unacceptable to you than for any other genre ? It is not like they try to make it more realistic than a simple handwaved ' it is a virus' or 'it is caused by Necromancy', or 'it is a E.T. virus' ?

English not being my native language, the comment might seem virulent, while I am just honnestly interested in understanding what make you feel it is the most pain point for this genre.
I think the interest of science fiction is to extrapolate science to the limits of the possible. Exploring the galaxy or having cybernetic implants that give you superhero powers isn't "realistic", but it is theoretically possible. Pure fantasy of the elves, orcs, and magic sort doesn't make a claim to be possible. For me, the zombies of the zombie apocalypse (unlike the zombies of fantasy) always occupied an uncomfortable space in between. They are made to look as if they could happen, but the science says otherwise.
100% agreement here. I have always hated zombie stories for just the reasons you cite and I am also disappointed that they're still inflicting them on us.
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