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Zombies

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I was watching Bones the other day—I know, I know—and there was a man poisoned with tetrodotoxin. Which instantly reminded me of The Serpent and The Rainbow, the book by Wade Davis, and zombies. If you have not read the book, it is a fascinating scientific inquiry into the basis for Haitian zombie stories. Davis is a great science writer: he makes science graspable to people outside his field. And he makes science interesting (though how you can screw up and make zombies boring…Diary of the Dead…) without lowering the intelligence of the presentation.

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It always seemed to me, with no disrespect to Romero, that contemporary Zombie movies are never about Zombies. They are, instead, about ghouls. Zombies had not, traditionally, feasted upon the flesh of the living. I suppose, even more to the point, though they contain ghouls, the movies are about people. And, if Italian, about ocular damage. Preferably with pointy sticks. The movies come from a proud tradition of stories of a small group of people facing overwhelming odds.

Night Of The Living Dead resembles Rio Bravo, which, along with Night, was the inspiration for Assault on Precinct 13 (I recommend the Carpenter Version.) The story is the story of a small group of people under assault by a large mob of mostly nameless enemies. It focuses upon the group dynamics, the individual faults and foibles, the heroic and the cowardly. A small event spirals out of control and the next thing you know...siege

As a scenario there are few better for the role-playing part of RPG than a group of characters trapped and surrounded by vast numbers of enemies. Abilities are tested, intellect is tried, strategies dreamt, and the drama comes from the characters. Not that they should be trapped every session, but a day or two of slow simmering can make for an interesting change.

And if it happens to be they are trapped by flesh eating undead, all the better. What doesn't go better with zombies?

I have The New Dead, both of Max Brook's books (The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z) and Book Of The Dead (a book of short stories so entitled not the actual Book of the Dead, in case anyone was wondering) sitting on the table next to me. I will get to an entry on how the dead illuminate the living. As I listen to Jonathan Coulton's Re:Your Brains I shall ponder the best approach to wrangling zombie literature.

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When ever I think of the movie Serpent and the Rainbow, the part that stands out for me is the torture scene with the eaves trough spike. (You know the part I mean) smile

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