Tag Archives: zombies

(Did You Hear That? They Shut Down the Main Reactor.) We’ll Be Destroyed for Sure.

Doom!  Gloom!  Stormtroo–wait, no, zombies!  Zombies!  If you’ve ever wondered how well you might fare in a zombie apocalypse, there’s a new tool to add to your arsenal now: the Map of the Dead.

It was inevitable, really.  The Map of the Dead uses Google Maps and its associated API to overlay crucial survival information over maps of, well, anywhere.  The red zones are, obviously, more dangerous, with the dark red cemeteries being the most dangerous, while the black areas of the map are allegedly safer.  Given that the dark areas on the map nearby my current location are still pretty densely populated, I’d debate their assessment somewhat, but your mileage may vary.

Whatever the case, this is certainly a neat site, whether you take the threat of a shambling apocalypse seriously (and some of you readers already know how bad shamblers can be) or just want to use this as a tool to flesh out your next horror RPG.

EDIT: Further food for thought (you see what I did there?)

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In Which Things Are Only Vaguely Related

Blah, blah, blah.  School’s eating my life but the term’s almost over.  Etcetera, etcetera.

You may, however, be interested in my semester project for my computer science class, a graphical zombie infection simulation.  The final program, along with its source code and some other random crap, is available online under a
Creative Commons License
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

The program and all associated files can be found here.  Simply download the zip, extract all the files, and run GUI Zombies.jar from the root folder.

EDIT: The location of the graphical zombie simulation has been changed.  It has been migrated over to its own page at <www.HilaryBisenieks.com/zombies/>.


Opportunities (with Pictures)

Sometimes I go out looking for things to inspire me, sometimes I research a place and go there if I can, sometimes I just stumble into an opportunity to go someplace potentially inspiring.  Recently, I had that last thing happen to me, being taken to “the zombie basement,” the basement of a warehouse art-space where one of my friends does a lot of his creating.  I did have enough warning about going that I could grab my camera, and now you can reap the benefits as well.

Outside, it’s a gorgeous almost-spring day.  The sun is shining and people are sitting out on their front steps, taking in one of the first warm days after a long, harsh winter.  The temperature drops several degrees as soon as I step through the warehouse door, and begins to creep further downward as I descend the steps into the basement.  I duck reflexively as I go through the doorway, panning the beam of my flashlight across the dank room in front of me, my ears sensitive to the slightest sound, lest it be the last that I hear.  What is revealed to me piecemeal by the light of my flashlight and the bursts of my camera flash looks like the set of a horror movie or the cramped vistas of a nightmare, but the credits won’t roll on this place, and I’m already awake.

Pictures after the break.

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Zombies!

Though I’ve covered creatures before, I thought that zombies deserved a bit of special attention, partly because they have a special place in my heart as my first movie-monster love.  Other creatures may be pretty good, but nothing quite says horror to me like a shambling reanimated corpse.

Those of you who have seen the original Dawn of the Dead will remember that the movie opens in the projects in north Philly.  The movie then gets away from Philly (though staying in PA), but let’s just imagine that rather than following survivors to a mall, we stay in the city.  Where would be safest?  Where would an initial outbreak be likely to spread?

When I consider the prospect of a zombie outbreak in Philly, I think time and again that the most secure place stay, at least for the short term, would be Eastern State Penitentiary.  Certainly it’s creepy as all get out in there, but the place is built like a castle.  Yes, the primary purpose was to keep people in, but it was also important to keep people out of the place.  Another advantage is that the guard towers are good vantage-points from which survivors can track zombie movements on the surrounding streets and, if worst comes to worst, a decent location for a heroic last stand.

There are other places which would be fairly secure spots throughout the city.  The federal detention facility on 7th and Arch is another such location, although it does have the disadvantage of being full of prisoners, for it is an active facility.

When considering places where an outbreak would spread quickly, it’s a bit hard to know where to start.  Cities are terrible places for surviving a zombie outbreak because you’re at such close quarters most of the time.  This does give some clues as to the places to avoid most if you or one of your characters is trying to avoid the living dead.  The subway, especially the concourses around Suburban Station and Market East Station, is a really good place to become zombie food because there are relatively few options for escape.

Abandoned buildings, especially those which play home to vagrants, are another likely place for an outbreak to spread, and they’re one of the places where an outbreak is likely to go unnoticed for a time.  In general, anyplace which is generally ignored by much of the city except when it becomes a problem is a good place for the outbreak to spread.

One final place which is a likely breeding-ground for an initial outbreak is any of the wooded regions of Fairmount Park.  There are miles of trails in the city limits alone which run through wooded areas where someone could easily disappear or be attacked and bitten, and the woods are a good place for zombies to hide.  Remember the initial outbreak in the outskirts of Raccoon City (which, according to some versions of the back-story, is somewhere in central PA)?


Creatures Great and Small

In my continuing series on not writing the same old same old, I think it’s well worth mentioning the role of fantastical creatures.  Certainly you can have an urban fantasy without any creatures, but they’re a nice touch.  The trick, of course, is to use them right.  You cannot rely on the existence of elves, vampires, were-creatures, ghouls, goblins, or zombies to carry your story.  They’re all so damn common, even overused, that readers will get bored quickly if there isn’t something else there to hold their interest.

George H. Scithers, editor emeritus of Weird Tales magazine, put it this way: “Werewolves and vampires can’t carry a story any more than being in space can.  You can use them as a setting, as it were, but it’s got to be ‘you’re in space and something funny happens’ or ‘there are werewolves and vampires and something funny happens.'”  I’ll freely admit to having used werewolves in stories before, but their existing in my setting wasn’t remarkable.  Rather, they were a tool that allowed me to tell the real story.

A story can only really support one fantastical element.  The Lord of the Rings has its one ring, for example; the various races are just tools for telling the story.  If they were anything more than that, they would detract from the story.

In a more relevant example within the context of urban fantasy, Harry Dresden’s being a wizard allows his stories to be told, but nobody would have read past the first book if his wizardliness were the only thing to the books.  This is an important thing to learn and apply to your own writing.  If you spend much time reading fantasy and science fiction, which you ought to if that’s what you’re trying to write, then you’ll start noticing that there’s only one real focus of any story, and everything else is subordinate to this element.

So what does this mean if you want to apply your cryptozoological knowledge to your writing?  First, don’t be cliché.  We’ve all seen enough sexy/angsty vampires, including the sparkling kind, to last us a lifetime.  Second, make sure that creatures aren’t the only thing holding your story together.  There should be some plot other than “there are zombies, OMG!”  Third, establish why there are creatures.  You don’t have to stick in huge amounts of exposition to do this, but you should have a clear idea in your mind why there are creatures, and you should put enough of this on the page to satisfy readers.  This can be as little as “there have always been creatures, people just learned to un-see them,” or as much as an entire history of where and when the creatures came from.

Whatever you do with creatures, do it deliberately.  If you’re slap-dash with your creatures, your readers and editors will know, and they’ll stop reading.


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