What do zombies represent?

Author Mira Grant and comic writer Robert Kirkman offer alternative views on why zombies are scary

At Comic-Con in San Diego last week, SFX spoke to two different writers of zombie tales and each had a different view of what zombies mean. Why do we fear them?

First up, Robert Kirkman who created The Walking Dead, the brilliant comic series about to be turned into a TV series starring Andrew Lincoln.

Kirkman: "The appeal of zombies is that it plays on everyone's fear of death. A zombie represents death to the characters, and to readers and viewers. Death will always be in the back of their minds. It's an unrelenting, unstoppable force, just like death. Zombies are out to get you; no matter how hard you try, eventually everyone has to succumb to it. It's really an exploration of everyone's natural fear of death."

Later the same day, Mira Grant , whose Newsflesh series began this year with zombie story Feed, offered an alternative opinion during a chat on the SFX stand about her work.

Grant: "Zombies are our fear of contagion and infection. For most people they aren't the fear of death. It's personal, but on average they're not about death - they're the antithesis of death! They're anti-death! You get up and keep going, death has been averted for a bit! Zombies are more about losing your identity. About the loss of self and about infection. You can't see it coming, but once it's there it's everywhere all at once... and your loved ones aren't themselves any more."

So which one is the source of fear, do you think? Are they simply a shambling symbol of the unavoidable grave, or do they represent the loss of identity to disease? All thoughts welcome in the comment thread.

Dave Bradley

Dave was once the Group Editor-in-Chief for Future's film group, but now he's the COO of Pocket Gamer and Pocket Gamer Biz. He also freelances for SFX Magazine and hosts the Robby The Robot's Waiting podcast with a couple of friends.