My Three Favourite… Zombie Stories

13th Nov 2012


Since Margaret Atwood got involved in social media, literature has been turned on its head. We’ve talked before on For Books’ Sake about Atwood’s small collection of free poetry on Wattpad, Thriller Suite. She’s championed the site again and again, influencing thousands of people to finally release their novels, short stories and poetry on to the world wide web.

She’s now began another venture with the social writing website. The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home is a co-written novel between Atwood and her protégé Naomi Alderman, and the chapters are released once a month on Wattpad.

Why zombies? Well, why not? To find read their firsthand responses you can check out this interview with The Guardian, but I can give you a good few reasons why this is awesome as well.

Zombie video games and films have featured in cult and mainstream culture for years. World War Z is due to be released in the very near future starring none other than Brad ‘Chanel’ Pitt, so it doesn’t really get any more mainstream than that. Zombie video games are so popular that Nintendo are releasing their new Wii U system with the, ahem, originally titled ZombiU.

Literature is a little less mainstream when it comes to the walking deceased, but there is some great literature out there. Even better, it’s written by awesome women just like Atwood and Alderman. Let’s take a look at my three favourite literary zombie adventures written by women.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

YA novel The Forest of Hands and Teeth focuses on protagonist Mary and her life surrounded by said forest living in The Sisterhood. Haunting, moving, and ridiculously scary at times, Ryan has created a novel depicting a world where zombies, or The Unconsecrated, are not the only threat.

It’s interesting to see a novel, especially a YA novel, tackle such surprising issues all at once. The outlook for Mary can at times seem bleak, but then I personally don’t read this stuff for light hearted whimsy.

It’s an unavoidable trope of zombie narratives to leave the characters feeling secluded and trapped, but the manner in which Ryan constructs the world around Mary emphasises this point in an original and poignant way. It’s a classic case of everything never being as it seems…

Zombie vs. Robots: Women on War! 

Zombie graphic novels are hugely popular for many reasons. The visual representation of horror which makes the film and video game franchises so popular is mixed with the kind of narrative only straight up literature can provide. Often the illustrations can only add to the messed up stuff your brain comes up with, making this anthology a must have for any living dead lover.

With contributions from the likes of Amber Benson, Brea Grant, Nancy A. Collins and Rachel Swirsky (to name but a few), and with art work by Ericka Lugo, this anthology really is one of a kind.

Beyond the big horror names to contribute to this anthology, one of the greatest things about the collection is that it celebrates an under appreciated form of writing and artwork by women. The graphic novel scene (and zombie scene in general) is overwhelmed with men, so such fabulous work by women can only be a positive thing for the culture as a whole.

Their Last Holiday by Zoe Lambert

I never read or watched any zombie stuff before I read this short story, part of the Short Stack collection. I was too scared. Then I read this short story and realised what a fantastic world of writing I was missing out on, and exposed myself to as many zombie narratives as possible until I became a bit less of a wuss.

Many zombie narratives are all about the fighting, the initial impact, and lost life. But what about life after the apocalypse? The zombie might still be roaming but hey, life goes on.

Set during a caravanning holiday eight years after the initial outbreak, Lisa and Mark are trying to get on with life whilst dealing with a bad case of the walking dead. The narrative is intriguing, and manages to do what few short stories can – take you on a complete adventure with only a dozen or so pages.

It’s tense and scary, as every zombie story should be, and works as a great introduction to the whole zombie scene. If you’ve never duelled with the fictional dead before, make this your first stop.

So those are my suggestions of a novel, graphic novel and short story to get you into the mood for some Atwood zombie drama. You might be sleeping with the lights on tonight…

Which other authors can you recommend for brilliant zombie fiction? Do you prefer the traditional novel, the innovative graphic novel, or a quick fix with the short story?

Gina Kershaw

(Image via Grmisti)