Let’s Talk About Zombies—and Masks and Comics

lynsey g as a zombie by jayel draco
That’s me as a (fae) zombie, as imagined by Jayel Draco.

Zombies Are Fiction! Right?

I’ve been thinking a lot about zombies lately. One of our most popular fiction tropes in movies, TV, books, comics, and art. Because it’s speculative fiction. Right? Fun!

Except it doesn’t really feel that way anymore, does it? It’s hitting home how easily the nightmare scenario can become true? Of being afraid of people because they might spread an uncontrolled contagion that brings death and societal collapse? It’s interesting, right? Watching the ways that the United States is collapsing, and in an I’m-totally-dissociating-right-now way, comparing it to zombie fiction.

One day we were all going about our business, living our lives. Then suddenly—blammo! Global pandemic! Everybody ordered indoors! All your neighbors are scary and suspicious! The slightest sign of illness is reason to panic! Hospitals overwhelmed! Economy is shut down! Holy crap it’s the end of the world! All of which I expected.

There are unexpected and weird parts, though. Zombie fiction has led me to believe that the main thing to fear was the infected themselves. The zombies. In the fiction, there’s hardly any incubation period. When people are bitten, it’s hard to hide, and they’re easy to isolate or, you know, dispatch. But in Covid-Topia (aka the United States of America), you can’t tell who the infected are. Because they’re just walking around, pre- or asymptomatic, looking for all the world like the non-infected. It’s confusing and scary. There’s no clear differentiation between those who can and those who can’t hurt you with their droplets.

Masks Are Great for Us! And Zombies!

Except for masks, of course. Those who wear masks technically can still infect and possibly kill you, true. But the likelihood is so drastically reduced, especially if you’re wearing a mask too, that the mask basically becomes a way for people to signal to other people: Hey, I value your health and safety, as well as my own. I’m therefore less likely to be infected, myself, because I’m careful. And I’m therefore highly unlikely to infect you. It’s a tacit signal of consciousness and care. It’s pretty cool.

And! Extra super double-plus bonus of mask wearing: If you do get turned into a zombie (hey, nobody said a double pandemic can’t happen!) while wearing a mask, it’ll be much more difficult for you to bite people others. So you’ll be less likely to spread that contagion, too! Win-win!

So Here’s the Thing…

Anyway, I bring all of this up because, as I’ve mentioned before (several times) I’m fund-raising for a comics collection about zombies right now: Mr. Guy: Zombie Hunter, written by Jayel Draco, and illustrated by Jayel Draco, Walter Ostlie, Diana Camero, and Jacey Chase. And edited by me! And it’s…well, it’s weird. On the one hand, I feel like maybe we could all use some zombie fiction right now to help us work through all of this. But it’s also scary, because it’s so close to home, you know?

four images from Mr. Guy Zombie HunterThat’s why Mr. Guy is great, though. It’s about some dude who was going about his business, getting by in the gig economy like so  many of us, when one day—wham! He gets bitten by some decomposing jerk. Suddenly, he’s got to figure out how he’s going to ride this thing out—give in to the infection that’s now personified in a sidekick who lives in his bite wound? Or fight back and try to cure himself—and the rest of the world? Do the right thing by trying to help himself and everyone else? Or let it run its course and probably infect more people and make everything worse? Interesting, familiar conundrum, right?

Zombies = Barrel of Butts

The best part is that the story isn’t nearly that serious. It’s as funny as a barrel of butts. Plus it’s illustrated by four different artists, each of whom brings their own unique perspective to their short story arc, whether it’s a puzzle scene or a splatter fest. I’ve always thought that one of the things that draws people to zombie fiction is the gleeful violence. Zombies must be destroyed. They look like people but they’re not. So we get to indulge in the catharsis of relieving our most troubling violent tendencies with no consequences via the fiction. And, you know, these days, a lot of us have quite a few troubling thoughts. Letting zombie fiction help us work through those feelings could be exactly what we need right now.

So, uh. Just saying. Maybe come support this Kickstarter. We’ll give you a fabulous zombie story to enjoy—plus a second collection that I haven’t even talked about because it’s so packed full of amazingness that I don’t have room here. But you can watch this video for the scoop on that, too! And then you can go support the campaign with a pledge or a share or a like or a comment or all of the above! Thanks, folks.

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