Zombie Pandemic Preparation

I was more than a little thrilled to hear about a new potential pandemic. I was more than a little disappointed when I found out it didn’t involve zombies.

I should admit up front that I am a doom-and-gloom sort through and through. I’m also a fan of spectacular collapses, disasters…and zombie fiction.

Zombies, you see, are the pop culture manifestation of our fears of plague, societal breakdown, and the extinction of our own species. These are the very topics that have consumed my interest and shaped my worldview. Heck, I’ve even managed to parlay writing about them into my visible means of support.

I don’t, however, cheer on death and disaster; I just recognize how woven into the course of events they are. And in addition to this zombies have a very special place in my heart. In modern American lore they are often the result of a virus—quite literally a walking plague. They devour without actual need of nutrition. Each victim they masticate rises again in a ghastly parody of life to join the indefatigable, shambling army.

There’s something reflective about their reproduction and consumption. It’s not just the viral base or their walking corpse shtick that strikes a nerve. Their efficiency at needless, destructive consumption is downright American. We’ve met the enemy…and they look awfully familiar.

Zombies individually really aren’t that scary, however. It’s their amazing efficiency and speed at reproduction combined with the slow but relentless advance of their growing horde. The genre’s power isn’t in the glamour of a single horrible monster; it’s in the horror of the collapse of civilization. Cities fall…life becomes a very uncertain struggle…humanity gives way to much baser behavior. And against it all looms the likelihood of extinction. Good stuff!

Societal order isn’t quite as thick and binding a chain as folks like to believe. Chaos rears its ugliness pretty frequently. The more ordered and complex the system, the more shocking the unwinding when it inevitably occurs. In fact, size and complexity invite monstrous bushwackings by chaos. Chaos is like a Midwest tornado eyeing the Trailer Park of Order. It just can’t stay away.

So we don’t get zombies…this time…and frankly we don’t need them. Fate has always done just fine with the usual four horsemen and can afford to spurn such fiction. I think zombies would be a nice way to spice things up, but I’ll probably have to settle for the run of the mill plague or two. And it will be hard enough to fight my neighbors for food when energy prices squeeze supply lines and drive the price of agricultural inputs through the roof. This could be especially true in urban centers dotted with federal reservations housing wards of the state. Those folks could get especially restive when the going gets rough…and they’d be a lot faster than zombies.

Still, I find it helps to think in terms of a zombie infestation. How would I survive if my post-industrial built environment were to become unserviceable? How would I fare should basics like food and clean water become scarce enough in megalopolis to fight over? Really, how useful would gold be in the thick of collapse?

Well, we make our stand where we can. Most of us won’t be able to secure an escape to a well-prepared countryside retreat. We’ll have to make dothe best we can in our urban or suburban wilds. Some non-perishable food, some soap, toilet paper, water…a little whiskey…some gold if things stay fairly sane, some lead in case they don’t. A bit of philosophy would help, too. As Matt Savinar has written, we should be ready to kiss our asses goodbye.

Times are getting rough and all bets are off. It won’t be zombies, but it’ll be interesting.

Gary Gibson
Managing Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder

May 4, 2009