Tag Archives: undead monsters

Appealing Undead

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.
    …. Right?

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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.)

herb garden

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.

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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

1. Food

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.

3. Defensible

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’?

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High School as Hell: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

This summer, I’m taking time to do something I should have done a long time ago: watch “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” I know, I know, I’m way behind on this one. The first season came out in 1997, when I was not cool enough to watch amazing television, apparently.

So I’m making up for lost time, thanks to the wonders of Netflix and the ability to binge-watch shows.

Years ago–probably when everyone else was busy watching good TV–I remember hearing Joss Whedon say his vampire-slaying, demon-fighting, world-saving show was actually about normal high school drama. I remember smirking and being all “pssh, whatevs. The only vampires in my high school are teachers who suck out our lives with too much homework.”

Well, Mr. Whedon, I finally get it, and I apologize for my teenaged smart-aleck sass. This show really IS about high school being hell. For every vampire-related monster-of-the-week catastrophe, Whedon folded in some kind of completely normal high school problem.

So, to distract me from the crop tops I’m developing an unnatural desire for thanks to this show, I’ve made a list. For your viewing pleasure, this is all the episodes of the first season; the monster story and it’s real-world allegory.

  1. “Welcome to the Hellmouth”– discovering a den of vampires/being the new girl at school
  2. “The Harvest”- group of vampires have some kind of prophecy/making friends
  3. “Witch”– body-snatching voodoo-working witch/dealing with parental expectations and fitting in
  4. “Teacher’s Pet”– teacher eaten by a mantis monster/struggling with schoolwork
  5. “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date”– pack of vampires are after you/struggling to balance dating vs. friendships
  6. “The Pack”-demonic hyenas eat the principal/changing friend groups and dealing with bullying
  7. “Angel”-falling for a vampire who claims he no longer feeds/developing a crush on and trusting a “bad boy”
  8. “I, Robot…You, Jane”– internet demon bent on taking over the world/online dating and the obsessive use of computers (guilty!)
  9. “The Puppet Show”– being bullied by your ventriloquist dummy/stage fright and mandatory school participation activities
  10. “Nightmares”– nightmares become literally real/test anxiety and fear of abandonment because of parents’ divorce
  11. “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”– invisible girl on a rampage/cliques and feeling like an outsider
  12. “Prophecy Girl”– fear of a deadly prophecy/not having a date to the big dance

Crop tops! So many crop tops! And ugly sweaters for Xander. At least Willow is *supposed* to look kinda dorky.

Not only is watching this show a lot of fun, it’s been helpful to remember these kinds of teen pressures as I start a YA story. I’m not much older than the YA audience, but those years might as well be decades in terms of how my priorities have changed (and hormones settled down!).

It’s also great to see a master creator like Joss Whedon develop his work. I’m a familiar Whedon-ite by now, and he was certainly already good in the Buffy days, but this show isn’t as developed from the get-go as some of his work. It’s nice to know that even the pros can learn and grow.

It’s also a helpful reminder that no great story is just about the surface level. If Buffy were really about slaying vampires–and only that–I wouldn’t be looking forward to season two. But there’s a lot of emotional depth beneath each monster fight because of this “high school as hell” subtext. Sure, she may be in a fistfight with an invisible girl, but really she’s dealing with feelings of loneliness and isolation. And I’m not much of a fighter, but I can relate to feeling invisible.

I look forward to the rest of the show!


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Beyond the Great Beyond

What happens after we die?

Depending on your background, you will have a different answer. A biologist may say your body decomposes; you have no life after you are brain dead. A spiritualist may say you return to oneness with nature. A religious person may say you go to heaven (or maybe somewhere else). A zombie aficionado may say “hopefully you stay dead so I don’t have to shoot you in the head.”

But no one really knows for sure.

That’s why I found this article on “Consciousness After Death” so incredibly fascinating. A doctor and researcher specializes in bringing people back to life after their hearts stop. And sometimes, they say they’ve heard and seen things that defy the understanding of science.

The article says:

At the same time, experiences reported by resuscitated people sometimes defy what’s thought to be possible. They claim to have seen and heard things, though activity in their brains appears to have stopped.

It sounds supernatural, and if their memories are accurate and their brains really have stopped, it’s neurologically inexplicable, at least with what’s now known.

Chills, right? I mean, this whole idea sounds like it’s straight out of science fiction (and it inspires a good bit of science fiction, too). But these are real doctors, real researchers.

This is part of the reason I’m so inspired by science fiction. It’s the genre that best blends the line between real and fiction, in a way that fantasy just couldn’t. I mean, when 50,000 Leagues Under the Sea was published, no one thought we might one day actually have ships that could travel under the water and discover massive squid. There’s this fantastic interplay between fiction and reality, this great chicken-egg situation, that is so exciting.

But back to the article. What do you think: is there something beyond the electric activity in our neurons, something that sticks around after we die?

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Review: Leviathan Wakes

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse, #1)Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you like space operas, you are going to LOVE this book. If you don’t know if you like space operas because you’ve never encountered one before (they’ve gotten to be a bit rare), that’s ok: If you like “Firefly,” or “Alien,” or “Armageddon,”and maybe a bit of “The Walking Dead” and “Law & Order: SVU,” you’re going to like this book. Heck, if you like “Star Trek: The Next Generation”‘s interaction with the Borg, or if Gaius on “Battlestar Galactica” was your favorite character, you’ll love this.

If you see “Leviathan Wakes” in the bookstore and are terribly intimidated because it’s a monstrously thick book, get over yourself and buy it anyway. Or buy the ebook. But you should absolutely read it.

“Leviathan” is a bit slow to get going. There’s a weird mystery from the very beginning, but it took me awhile to “get it” and to really understand the monstrosity of it. You’ll start out getting acquainted with the rough-and-ready crew of an ice hauler, just going about the normal efforts of transporting ice from Saturn to the colonies out in the asteroid belt. But of course, things go wrong.

You’ll also meet Detective Miller, who shows you a thing or two about how to deal with crime in a Belter colony. (Hint: Mess with the atmo, get thrown out an airlock). He’s a space version of your tired old tough-guy TV cop, and you’ll love him for it, even as he slowly breaks apart.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the rest of the book involves:
-terrifying monsters (hint: zombies)
-sentient alien weaponry
-the challenges of dating in space
-intra-galactic battles
-cunning diplomats
-against-all-odds scenarios

I think that just about covers it–but, admit it, I had you at “sentient alien weaponry,” didn’t I?

This book is a heckuva lot of fun, and really defied my expectations. Just when I thought I knew what was coming, it took another shocking turn. I really appreciated the respect for the science; you get a really good look at the many challenges of living in/colonizing space, and how that would change not just the solar system, but the people, and how those challenges might be overcome.

Great read. Cannot praise this story enough. Go get it!

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Do the Shuffle: Zombie School

Whattya think? Could you make it through zombie school?

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May 11, 2013 · 10:08 am