Undeclared Dead

Illustration by Derek Zimmermann
Illustration by Derek Zimmermann

The fever rises, the coma deepens. Final, desperate breaths pass cold, dry lips and then, death.

But what if death wasn’t the end and the body came back to life, now a flesh-eating ghoul who leaves a cannibalistic bloodbath behind as it shuffles off to join the mindless horde that is slowly taking over the world. This is the cultural zeitgeist that’s infecting a generation. This is zombies.

Zombieism occurs due to some form of contagion acquired before death, causing a recently deceased corpse to reanimate, becoming a purely instinctual walking virus, whose sole purpose is to turn you into one of them.

At SUNY New Paltz, the undying love of all things zombie is in full-on pandemic mode. Zombiephilia can be found in any dorm, what with video games like “Left 4 Dead,” shows such as “The Walking Dead” and popular movies like “Zombieland” and “28 Days Later” being all the “rage.” Zombie lovers who are also closet Nerf Gun enthusiasts can rejoice as well, knowing that if their trigger finger is twitching to blow some brains out, an on-campus game of Humans vs. Zombies will be just what the doctor ordered.

The recent obsession with the walking dead has created numerous theories that try to explain what all the hubbub is about. Temple University Professor Peter Logan said in an interview with PhysOrg.com that he believes the recent obsession with all things undead, including vampires, stems from a social landscape not seen since Victorian England, the time period when such legends and folklore first became popular with the general public.

“It was the beginning of the world as we know it today, and it was beset with some of the same problems associated with being a world power that we are currently facing,” Logan said.

While Logan said the popularity of zombies is just history repeating itself, others like Max Brooks, the mind behind the highly popular books “The Zombie Survival Guide” and “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War,” believe the popularity of the living dead to be fear-based as well.

“Other monsters may threaten individual humans, but the living dead threaten the entire human race,” Brooks said in an interview with USA Today. “Zombies are slate wipers.”

With international travel and exchange becoming easier and more common, and contagious diseases such as the Avian flu and H1N1 virus becoming global concerns, it’s no wonder people are afraid and mesmerized by a disease that not only wipes out the human race, but conquers death as well.

Nicholas Andersen, a second-year music theory and composition major and vice-president of the Humans vs. Zombies club on campus, has been a longtime Zed-head and it is his belief that as the amount of zombie-related media grows, so will the movement’s popularity.

“I think that there’s just a fascination with the supernatural that always captivates people… Vampires just recently had their fun in the spotlight and now its time for the zombies to take over,” said Andersen.

Although zombie lust is at an all-time high here in the U.S., across the pond the craze has yet to reach the same level of devotion. Natalie Baker, a second-year English and theatre major from England, said that until she came to America, zombies never crossed her mind. Although she had seen films like “Shaun of the Dead,” the whole fad never really captured her attention.

“I’m not really into watching things that aren’t real. If I watch a film, I’d watch one that I’d actually get something out of. I’ve just never been interested in it,” said Baker.

Baker said while vampires are pretty big in the U.K., other undead entities are less popular. Baker also said that zombies don’t even creep her out, instead they just look off-putting.

“They’re just not very nice to look at are they?” said Baker.

Still, the fear and uncertainty caused by a zombie apocalypse serves to nourish the imaginations of many fans.

“I guess the thing about zombies that I love most is endless possibilities… zombies just appeal to my imagination,” said Andersen.

The ability to make people create scenarios where a zombie attack is occurring is an impressive quality even for a fad. For zombies to have such a distinct effect on the populace is a testament to how long the present day “zombie nation” might last.

“Sadly even zombies have to decompose sometime,” said Andersen, “but I don’t think that day will be anytime soon.”