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Remember the Donner party?

In 1846, a wagon train was mired in the snows of Sierra Nevada. Thirty-six of the eighty-one people died of disease, trauma, exposure. Some of the survivors ate some of the dead. The loss of pioneers in the western US wasn’t, frankly, all that noteworthy. It happened a lot. This particular event, though, has become legendary as an appalling footnote, putting on display the depths of depravity to which humans can sink under dire circumstances.

How much differently would history look on the Donners if they’d had a popular comic book and cable show?

Today, zombies and recreational flesh eaters rule. The Walking Dead in comics and TV. Hannibal in books, movies, and now TV. World War Z.

A Harvard professor and physician named Steven Schlozman wrote a novel called “The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks From the Apocalypse” laying out a medically viable, though totally fictional, zombie scenario.

I’ve seen the movie Hannibal. I’ve never watched The Walking Dead. I may or may not read Schlozman’s book. Zombie stories just don’t grab me as much as they do some people. Maybe it’s the ick factor – mmmm… brains… – or maybe it’s the fact that zombies have no real motivation other than survival. They’re not an invading alien army bent on destroying humanity. There’s no more thought involved than a spider has before it takes out a fly.

The killer creatures in my entertainment don’t have to be remorseful or even conflicted, but they have to have some sort of thought process going on. Maybe I’m just too old for relentless, mindless destruction.

And that may be the saddest part of this story.


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  1. Zombies should not be viewed as monsters but rather a plague or nature culling the herd. A good spoof on the zombie genre is the flick Return of the Living Dead.

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