Zombie Literature

An Introduction To Zombie Writing

Zombies have been popular with readers for almost a century now. The 1929 book The Magic Island by Richard Seabrook is generally considered to have been the first to popularise the Haitian vodou style zombi in the English speaking world. Since then there have been countless stories written about the mindless undead. Some people say that we’ve passed ‘peak zombie’, but the stories continue to be written and – more importantly – read.

The popularity of zombie literature is often linked to successful movies. Seabrook’s book and the 1932 Bela Lugosi movie White Zombie ushered in the first Great Age of zombie stories. Then George A Romero reinvented and reinvigorated the genre with the classic Night Of The Living Dead (1968). I would argue that the success of Zack Snyder’s 2004 Dawn Of The Dead began the Third Age. Along the way we have other classics such as Return Of The Living Dead (1985) and 28 Days Later (2002).

If you look at those three examples, you’ll notice how their zombies differ considerably. Haitian zombies were reanimated by evil magicians; Romero zombies reanimated spontaneously and the condition could spread; Snyder, controversially, popularised running zombies. Return Of The Living Dead was a comedy that also made ‘Brains…’ a zombie catchphrase and in 28 Days Later the zombies weren’t actually dead.

All these variations – and many more – have been anticipated or reflected in written literature. So when you write your zombie story, you’ll have to decide what type of zombie you want. There are many aspects to consider in designing your undead. The Zombie Design Guide on this site will take you through the most important questions that you, as a writer of zombie fiction, need to ask yourself. There will also be plenty of possible answers. You need to know the answers, even if your characters don’t.

Once you have your zombie mythos worked out, you’ll actually need to write the story. To help with that I’ve put together a special zombie themed thesaurus and word list. After all, there are so many times you can use the words ‘shamble’ and ‘brains’ before you and your readers get bored!