- Random strangers you meet are not, however tangentially, related to your Destiny
- You are not athletic
- You are not flexible
- Physics has pretty solid limitations
- You are probably not highly skilled with a bow, handgun, or rocket launcher, and definitely not all three
- You do not manage to carry a nearly unlimited number of items in only an outfit that has no obvious place for pockets
- You will not be in a situation where you need to craft a gun from spare parts you “found” in an ancient temple
- You are not encouraged to break pots in other people’s houses
- You should not disturb artifacts. They belong in a museum
- Your grandfather does not come back as a ghost to judge you on your farm quality
- You are unlikely to be The Chosen One
- You are not likely to survive an apocalyptic event
- You will not be asked by said strangers to go on a fetch quest
- You cannot fast travel
- Cut scenes are unskippable
- Resource boxes are not located conveniently just before the Big Boss location
- Respawn is highly unlikely and unpredictable
- Save points are possibly nonexistent
- You do not get to choose your baseline appearance or personality
- Leveling up does not come with any obvious sound effects and only rarely with badges
- Additionally, most achievements cannot be shared with friends
- You will not be known and respected across the land
- If you slaughter a village of peasants, you cannot load a saved game to restore your honorable reputation
- Not all merchants will trade with you
- You are unlikely to make a living by selling natural resources you found by the road
- Your companions do not have to listen to you or follow your leadership
- You need to eat just because you burn energy, not just because you got punched in the face or otherwise injured
- Do not light fires unless you know what you are doing
- You do not have an awesome, inspiring soundtrack at key moments
- If you tire of your storyline, you cannot put it aside or switch to a different game
- Getting a date and getting married are somehow both more and less complicated
- You are not required to give people gifts in order to make them become your friend
- You have to take bathroom breaks
- You are unlikely to encounter werewolves, zombies, or mechasoldiers
- Weather lasts more than five minutes
- Climbing a mountain is not the fastest way from A to B. Just stick to the road
- The controls can be tricky to learn and operate, and the rules seem to be continually changing
- You cannot draft players onto your sports team. You do not own a sports team, and even if you do, it doesn’t work quite like that
- Drinking “potions” with unknown ingredients is a good way to get sick
- Healing takes more than a mouthful of herbs
- Call for help if you jump in a pipe and end up in a dungeon
- No one is giving swords to 10-year-olds, and people in caves who try to should be reported to the authorities
- Important objects do not highlight when you look at them
- Plants are a poor defense against the undead
- If you think you are fighting the Greek pantheon, a horde of demons, dragons, or aliens, please consult a mental health specialist
Tag Archives: undead monsters
Ways Real Life Is Not Like Video Games
Filed under video games
Movie Review: 28 Days Later — 4 Juicy Brains
I’m a peering-through-my-fingers kind of horror watcher (which is to say, I don’t). But I wrote a zombie novel, so it’s kind of expected that I’ll know, you know, something about some of the major zombie movies. While I don’t think my ignorance has held me back at all, really, it is a little embarrassing to admit. (This is how I explain: “I’m more of a Shaun of the Dead kinda gal than a Living Dead…”)
But I’m working to remedy things. Last month I watched Zombieland. I’ve continued my education with modern cult classic 28 Days Later.
Premise: Jim wakes up from a coma 28 days after a zombie outbreak (related to scientists and chimpanzee experiments on “rage”) has swept through London. After stumbling around in confusion, he links up with other survivors: the tough, no-nonsense Selena; the bad-joker Mark; young girl Hannah; and Mark, her father. They seek sanctuary, and Jim hardens from soft, confused coma patient to badass survivor.
Zombie Characteristics: Zombies are technically infected with this “rage” virus. Outwardly, they pretty well match your basic zombie template, with perhaps less rotting flesh. They’re fast, or at least as fast as a human would be. They seem more inclined to rip and tear than actually eat, and there is no indication that they’re after brains in particular. They’re dumb but not totally moronic. The infection is spread by saliva (being bitten) and blood transmission.
Apocalypse Level: Severe. Jim wakes up to a totally abandoned London. It’s pretty eerie. It looks like there may not be any other people at all, but he gets lucky. There aren’t hordes or roaming undead, but it doesn’t take many to be a real problem. Though the radio/TV services are all down, rumor has it that the zombie infection was not contained… perhaps the whole world is infected. There are, however, hints of other survivors.
Gore Level: Medium. There really aren’t that many intense zombie attacks, but when they do show up, they can be visceral. Most of the “gore” and scare factor seems to come from the setting, and the rough film techniques. Isolation is the biggest danger here…after you’ve outrun the zombies. The worst parts may be the violence of the other survivors.
Overall: It turns out the scariest parts of a zombie apocalypse may be the other survivors. The parts with the soldiers… were deeply unsettling to me. I mean, they’re supposed to be, but I found it more upsetting perhaps than was intended. That was the part that made me mad/scared, more than any of the creepy zombie parts. Zombies are scary and should be avoided, but trust for other survivors may be the hardest thing to come by in the apocalypse. Women, bring your Tasers and pepperspray when the zombies start rising up.
But I can see why 28 Days Later got so much attention. I’m grateful that the creators allowed a speck of hope at the end (though I did watch the two alternative endings, for science). I wouldn’t call it “fun,” but it’s a great movie. Plus it introduced the world to Cillian Murphy, and for that we should all be grateful.
For that, and its importance in zombie lore, I give this movie 4 juicy, blood-splattery brains!
Filed under Movie Review
Zombie Love Song
In which we ask the age-old question, “Is there room in your undead heart for me?”
Plus it’s quite catchy.
Need more zombies? Go buy Undead Rising: Decide Your Destiny, available in print and on Kindle. Your choices shape the story! When you die in the book, sometimes you rise again as a zombie, unlocking new adventures.
Review: Zombies, Run! 5K Training
I typically exclusively review books, but…I’m gonna make an exception for Zombies, Run! Yeah, it’s an app, but it’s an app that tells a story — it just also happens to teach you how to get in shape and motivates you to run.
It turns out, someone yelling “zombies, run!” in your ear is powerful motivation to get running.
Zombies, Run! is an app for iPhone/iPod and Android devices. I, being a complete non-runner and couch-potato enthusiast, just finished with the beginner level, Zombies, Run! 5K Training. When I bought it, it was $2.99 — the best $2.99 I’ve ever spent.
Basically, it’s a interactive story, in that the voices in your head(phones) will tell you to do things and you’re expected to actually do them. In participating, you unlock more of the story. It’s great motivation if you a) like zombies, b) like British accents, c) have no idea how to run and d) are bored by normal workouts.
In other words, what’s not to love?
Zombies, Run! 5K Training begins when your helicopter crash-lands outside one of the few remaining human settlements. You’ve got to shuffle to the base before the zombs get you. From there, the doctor looks you over and breaks the news: everyone on the base has to earn their keep somehow. Luckily (or, unfortunately, depending on perspective) a slot among the runners has just opened up. Over the next 8 weeks, you will train 3x a week with the doctor until you’re in prime getting-supplies-and-fleeing-from-zombies condition.
Fun, yeah? It’s great. Zombies, Run! 5K Training has action, adventure, romance, tragedy, mystery and tons of humor. It’s so good, I started having dreams that the base needed me on the days I wasn’t running. I hate having to skip a day because I want to know what’s going to happen next.
If you think you have even an inkling that you might like learning how to run while hearing a zombie story, download it. Right now. You won’t regret it.
Now, because I was a total newbie to all things running, I screwed up a couple of times. I’ve made notes that might help someone else. Learn from my mistakes, people!
- Don’t try to run when the temperature is over 105 degrees.
I didn’t finish the program in 2 months, as scheduled, because Texas summers are so hot you feel like dying every time you inhale. I had to take a break for a few weeks to let things cool down, totally throwing off my momentum.
- Buy some cheap athletic clothes.
When I first started, I had the attitude “I’m just going to sweat in it, who cares what it looks like?” Well, it turns out that stuff made for running is actually more comfortable to run in. Who knew, right? Besides, if you only have one shirt, you are not going to want to put it on by the third workout after it’s been twice christened by sweat. Buy yourself some shirts.
- Don’t run on uneven paths.Another mistake that delayed my workout–in trying to hide from the painfully scorching sun, I once switched my jogging path to the unpaved, but far shadier, one nearby. Turns out your ankles aren’t supposed to move horizontally when you step down. I was limping for weeks. Don’t do it, kids.
- Download some heavy-bass music.
In between story sections, you’ll be able to listen to music. You want to pick something that has a beat you can fall into step with. Look up some running music suggestions — the internet is full of them–and pick the ones that make you happy; you’ll be hearing them a lot. My personal favorites (it’s possible I had a theme in mind):
- “Bad Moon Rising” -Creedence Clearwater Revival
- “Toxic” – Britney Spears
- “Another One Bites the Dust” – Queen
- “I Ran (So Far Away)” – Flock of Seagulls
- Buy yourself a case so you don’t have to hold anything.
The one time I had to hold my phone while I ran was the most stressful sucktastic thing ever. Don’t do it. Besides, you’ll get your sweat all over it. It’s not worth it.
- Do it!
It’ll be great, seriously. I feel so much stronger than I did before I started, and I have more energy, too. I can’t recommend this app enough.
Filed under Reviews
Killer Craft: Build Your Own Zombie
My grandmother is the perennial thrift store shopper, and periodically she finds something wonderful and weird. This time, I was the recipient of her bounty: my very own Gorgeously Gruesome Zombies kit!
Basically it’s a little craft booklet with instructions and templates on how to make 8 plushy “zombies” (they’re kinda liberal with what constitutes a zombie, though, thus the quotation marks. Personally I don’t think a construction cone should qualify. Nor a caterpillar, though I guess that’s scary-ish?)
But it combined two awesome things! Crafting + zombies = fun, right?
So, for your viewing pleasure, my very own DIY zombie, in step-by-step process.
First, prepare your supplies.
Second, read the section on the “zombie kid” and discover it doesn’t include all the supplies you’ll need. Be annoyed but grateful you have a ridiculous assortment of scrap/craft supplies.
Third, trace templates from back of the book and then pin to felt.
Fourth: Cut out clothing and body parts. Feel ghoulish.
Fifth: Build your little Frankenstein’s monster body with the help of craft glue. He’s a spiffy chap.
Sixth: Sew monster’s front to his back. Be annoyed that he’s apparently wearing body paint clothes as his back is flesh-colored (grey). Add some blood to his stumpy arm.
7: Tell your zombie to stuff it.
8: Make a face. Ignore weird instructions to apply gross eyeball after head is complete and do it now because it makes way more sense. Be squicked out by the dangly eyeball. Love your zombie even more. 9: Sew him up.
10: Make sure he has a fat head.
11: Make a hat! Wish you also had a dashing red top hat of your very own. Be jealous of your zombie creation.
12: Attach head to body.
13: Make him fancy.
Just kidding. Don’t add electricity to your zombie. It won’t work, anyway. They’re undead by nature.
Do store your zombie in a safe place to keep your cotton-stuffed creation away from your BRAIIIINS….
You’re Equal to Me in Every Way…For A Lady
In fighting the late-summer heat, I recently picked up a new-t0-me video game: Dragon Age: Origins. It’s pretty cool; you are on a hero’s journey to become a Grey Warden and travel from town to town fighting monsters and trying to save the kingdom. There’s a lot of customization, and the choices you make throughout will affect the outcome of the game.
And you have to make a lot of choices. (It’s almost the Starbucks of video games: and would you like whip with that? (I’m easily overwhelmed by Starbucks….can you tell?))
The very very first choice, though, is building your character: Will you play as a male or a female?
In some ways, the fact that it’s even an option to play as female is a great thing; in some games, forget it. You’re just a white-ish athletic dude no matter what. So I always enjoy games that give you more versatility in that way.
The prompt as you choose your playable gender says Fereldon, the world, is a pretty equal place, with opportunities for both men and women in the three playable careers–warrior, mage, and rogue. That’s important, because I like to know when I’m cutting myself off from parts of the game with my choices.
So I built my female human mage with red hair and dark eyes and went happily on my way.
Except I was constantly reminded by other characters (non-playable characters, or NPCs, for you non-gamers out there) that woah, hey! You’re a lady!
In some cases, it made sense and fit with the story: when Morrigan the wild witch met me, she was more friendly because she carries a general dislike for men, having grown up in isolation.
But most of the time, it doesn’t. It’s more like “wow, you’re a fighter and a lady? Whodathunkit?!” In a world that is supposedly equal. And where I periodically see other female warrior/mage/rogues running around.
It just got tiresome. So this happened:
Think about this in your writing. If your character is something different, that’s fantastic! We need more minority characters–not just female, but also non-white nationalities. And that should affect the story where appropriate–as in the case with Morrigan in Dragon Age.
But when all the “NPCs” in your book take time to comment on the difference, you aren’t showing that there’s equality. You may be telling the reader that there is, but what you’re showing is exceptionalism. And it’s pretty tiresome, both in our stories and just to read. (See: Repetition)
(There may be stories of exceptionalism where it is still relevant–“wow, she’s the only one who can do that!”–but I personally think the gender-based exceptions are played out. Do something different.)
Don’t tell me how equal I am: just let me get on with the monster-fighting and world-exploring. That’s how I KNOW I’m equal–because I can definitely kick some undead monster butt if you’ll just let me get on with it.
Filed under Feminism, video games, writing
Zombie Bug-Out Bag
In my last post, I talked about the real-life preppers who kinda sorta maybe believe the zombie thing is real.
This guy probably doesn’t, but he provides a cute look at why the zombie apocalypse works as a good trope.
Also, he’s just sorta silly. And I approve of that.
I have a secret: I don’t actually believe there will be a zombie apocalypse. Not soon, not ever.
I know, I know, gasp in horror. How dare she?! What a fool! And some of you are rolling your eyes. But I felt I had to clarify, because there are people, casually known as “preppers” who think some kind of doomsday scenario (even extending to zombies, because why the hell not?) is not only possible but imminent.
I’d guess that most people who enjoy zombies and even go so far as to prepare for a “zombie apocalypse” aren’t actually of this sort. I mean, there are bunches of people running away from folks in makeup, discussing their plans for survival, and going to see zombie movies. Even the CDC got in on it. Basically, what’s so appealing about staggering, rotting corpses?
- Relentless- Unlike other monsters, zombies don’t stop until they completely rot and fall away. Vampires have to hide from sunlight. Mummies can be locked in tombs. Werewolves only come out during full moons. Trolls stick around bridges. But a zombie can just keep going, regardless of the circumstances. They don’t need to rest or hide or wait for ideal circumstances, they just keep coming. Sure, you can lock them in a closet, but they’ll eventually break out, given enough time. That’s scary in an entirely different way.
- It’s Nothing Personal- Zombies are usually mysteriously infected, like a disease and when they’re contaminated, they lose mental capacity. This means that they can chase anybody, not just the big-breasted blonde girls who wind up in the woods in the middle of the night; not just the bad guys who deserve righteous punishment; not just the one who disturbed the mummy’s tomb. With zombies, you could be moving right along, minding your own business, when *bam* monsters. That’s pretty unique.
- No One to Blame-Similarly, because of the nature of the problem, pointing fingers would be totally useless. There’s no one who lit the black candle, no Frankenstein who built the monster. It just is. And by the time it is, it’s probably too late to start blaming anyone anyway.
- Contagious- Because of the way zombieism spreads (acting much like a disease), it’s hard to slow down or even isolate it. This makes it really interesting for the folks who actually care about preventing infection (that’s what got the CDC interested, after all). But it’s interesting for the rest of us because it means you have no idea who could be next. It could be anyone–there’s really no way to protect yourself against that kind of threat.
- Wide-Ranging Problems– Various apocalyptic circumstances will create a cascade of problems, but the zombie question is unique in that it will eventually directly impact just about everything. As the zombie outbreak spreads, every part of modern life will slowly be destroyed. There won’t be an obvious “safe place.” We’ll have to work together to build safe spaces, and good luck with that.
- Like Life- We like to think we’re all individuals, but in reality, humans are really big on herd behavior. In short, a lot of the time, we act like zombies. Sometimes that feels like a problem, like we’re all trapped in this mindless existence, that it’s too late, we’re already IN the zombie story and, bad news guys, we’re the monsters. I think that’s the biggest appeal here, overall: zombies provide killer social commentary.
- Fun- Also, it’s just fun to pretend. And zombies provide a pretty good way to talk about things that are scary while keeping a bit of levity, because everyone knows there won’t really be an apocalypse.
Filed under Uncategorized, writing
Zesty Survivalism; or, Container Gardens
Awhile back I wrote about the importance of having non-writing hobbies. One that I’m repeatedly drawn to despite a habit of forgetfulness, a lack of space, and incurably hot weather is gardening.
My dad is an incredible garden. He knows so many things and has shelf after shelf of books on how to do gardening better. And he’s a science teacher, so as a kid, we did a lot of backyard “experiments” on his garden to try to find the optimal growing conditions for things. I joke that I am a gardening apprentice.
But a friend of ours just started gardening at the community garden. And while that is great (50% of the produce goes right to the food bank!), it’s made clear the massive divide between my dad’s gardening knowledge (epic) and most people’s. Even my basic understanding of how to water things (and how much) so they don’t die is far superior to Average Joe’s gardening know-how. And part of me thinks that is sad–gardening is a very useful skill–but I know that it’s just not something a lot of people have exposure to.
I mean, I guess there’s a reason they call experts “Master Gardeners.”
However, it is so useful, you might as well consider it a survival skill–in the event of some kind of, oh, I dunno, zombie uprising or other catastrophic dystopia (plus it’s a hobby that requires continual minimal upkeep and gets you outside and away from your computer. That’s a good thing.)
So here is my new herb container garden, and I thought I’d run down the basics.
This is a really easy design and that’s good for my no-space patio. It’s three corrugated metal tins picked up from the hardware store, potting soil, and herbs. There’s also a just-in-case trowel in the back there for future gardening needs.
I think the whole setup, herbs and all, cost me maybe $25, but then I did have my Master Gardener dad with me to help on a few steps, so your mileage may vary.
This kind of setup is great for small spaces and leafy plants like these herbs. A tomato, for example, needs a lot more soil and a lot more water than this arrangement could provide. Pumpkins practically require acreage. The kind of plant you want to grow really determines how much space you are going to give your garden.
If you want a garden like this, you’ll need to buy your supplies. Then, the first thing you’ll need to do is drill holes in the bottom of your tins, at least five in each layer. If you don’t drill holes in your pots, water will be trapped and can drown your plants from the roots up. That’s a good way to get rot. So it’s important that the water have a way out, though that can make it inconvenient and frustrating when you have to water a lot. It’s really important.
Then, put in potting soil. Unfortunately, due to a lot of environmental reasons and basic pollution, regular dirt from your yard isn’t going to be very good for plants. (This is my first fundamental problem with the end of Wall-E… it takes a long time to recover from that kind of pollution!) Plus, potting soils have a lot of whiz-bang add-ins that can really help your garden. My potting soil has water crystal things in it that absorb water and slowly release it, so that my plants can go a little longer between waterings before drying out. That’s very useful!
Put in your plants. This garden has: spearmint (top), oregano (2nd left), thyme (2nd right), sage (3rd far left), rosemary, chives, and basil (3rd far right). The middle part that is currently empty is actually some purple clover, which is not an herb and is just decorative, but will hopefully grow in and become a nice waterfall effect that should be pretty. I picked my plants (except for the clover, which was a gift from my dad) for practicality. This is a lot of what I cook with, so it’s what I wanted to have on hand. You should pick your plants based on your requirements: are you going for pretty? Practical? Do you hate basil? Etc. Herbs are fairly easy because they grow in similar circumstances, but ask at your garden shop to make sure you are getting plants that can be happy together in the same conditions.
When you put your plants in the soil, you’re going to want to dig a little hole so the base of the plant comes flush to the top of your soil. Then you’re going to want to add a little potting soil all around, so each is wrapped up all nice and cozy. Don’t cover the leaves, but don’t let the roots show, either. You want snug, and then maybe just a little more than that.
Then, water them. A lot. You’re just introducing these plants to a new home, so you want to make them feel welcome. The first time you water them, you really want to saturate the soil. I put in three full pitchers of water in this planter. And yes, some water ran out–but remember, that’s a good thing!
To care for them, now I’m going to water my planter every day or every other day. I’m going to just stick my finger in the dirt to feel whether or not it’s damp, and if I’m even not sure, I’m going to put some in any way. In an herb garden with proper drainage, it’s better to overwater just a little than to let it dry out.
When I want to cook with something, I can just pick it off! As long as I leave about 3 inches of plant, it’ll grow back. As long as I keep the plant well watered and the weather stays suitable, they’ll just keep growing, and I can just keep eating them. Now, they will die out when it freezes, but that’s ok. Some of these will go to seed and might grow back, all by themselves!
I think this is one of those “life skill” things people really ought to know. Not just for the zombie apocalypse or whatever, but just because it is easy to get away from the Earth, to get so completely engrossed in technology and things with screens, and forget how important it is to our survival. We need to have a healthy respect for it. And fresh herbs taste way better, too.
And everyone knows zombies hate rosemary, so there’s that.
Filed under Science, Uncategorized
My Plan for the Zombie Uprising
The other day I was talking to my Significant Other about how we would best survive the zombie apocalypse (you know, like you do), and I think we’ve hit on a winning strategy. See, my brother has already identified the Home Depot-next-to-a-grocery-store he’s planning to hole up in–his plan is to use the construction materials to build a giant elevated platform on which to live and store his oodles of canned goods which he’ll be stealing from the grocery store next door. I’d bandied about several ideas, but until that conversation, I hadn’t decided (though I know all the reasons it’s a great idea to go to your favorite bar…)
But now I’ve got it. I’ll be riding out the zombie outbreak at…the nearest pharmacy.
It’s perfect. Here’s why.
Reasons to Ride Out the Zombie Apocalypse in a Pharmacy
Most retail pharmacies not only carry drugs and stuff, but they also have a lot of ready-packaged food. This kind of crap grab-and-go food is normally a terrible thing to eat, but this is going to be exactly the kind of food you’re going to need in the event of a no-power, no-water situation. Plus, there’s lots of candy!
2. Other Assorted Goods
The downside of a grocery store is a) a lot of other people are going to think of it, b) a lot of that stuff is going to spoil pretty quickly, c) they’re really big and therefore hard to defend and d) other people are going to think of it and try to get in, too. But they also mostly just have food, which is good for when you want to buy dinner but bad when you are trying to ride out an outbreak in some kind of comfort. But your local pharmacy has all kinds of bizarre stuff! Sure, you may be making a bed out of three pillow pets and a dog bed, but you’ll have that option, and that is great!
2a. Camping Supplies
They sometimes even have random camping supplies in my pharmacy. Why? I don’t know, but I won’t ask too many questions in this situation. Plus they have hair spray, too, so we can combine that with a lighter for some awesome zombie barbecues.
Your average pharmacy is a bit worried about theft, so there aren’t many doors and the locations I know of don’t have huge walls of windows (unlike Walmart, Target, or any grocery store). You’ll have to bar the door at the back and the two glass ones at the front, but otherwise, you’re set, no problem!
4. First Aid
In addition to worrying about zombies and possible infection, you’re going to have a lot of non-zombie injuries. You’re going to need a sanitary way of dealing with that, and you’re going to need supplies. Hopefully your average zombie survival kit comes at least with a first aid kit, but that will eventually run out. A pharmacy as your home base will ensure you have a lot more supplies when things start to go bad.
5. Prescription Drugs
Until this week, I actually thought my survival odds for an uprising were pretty danged slim, but not for reasons directly related to zombies. No, my problem is a reliance on things you can’t get when the normal distribution channels are disrupted: prescription drugs. I take two drugs every day just to keep going, for things I was born with (thanks, genetics!) and a third because my allergies are over-the-top. I doubt I’ll be good at fighting off zombies when I’m gasping for air with snot dribbling down my chest–this is a very practical concern. So I need to find a way to maintain my access to these medications as long as possible…and that means taking over the pharmacy. They have a much bigger storehouse than pretty much anywhere else, so I’ll last longer with this supply near by.
Plus, in the long term, having access to prescription medications of all kinds is going to be highly valuable. You won’t be able to see a doctor when there are zombies slogging through the streets, so you’ll have to fight off that cold on your own–or make friends with the folks guarding the pharmacy. I figure that will be really handy if it comes down to a barter system for survival.
So that’s my plan, and retail pharmacies seem common enough that I don’t mind sharing the idea. Where will you be hiding out when the zombies come knockin’?
Filed under Uncategorized, writing