Tag Archives: zombies

Surprise! This Book Just Transformed Into My Worst Fear

I love Halloween because it’s the one time of year wearing a costume is socially acceptable. It’s the time you can be someone or something you’re not. You can taste what it’s like to be a monster, or your favorite fictional character, or a concept.

zombinatorLots of people in Pittsburgh, pretty much everyone apparently, wants to “taste” what it’s like to be a zombie—there are zombie walks, massive humans vs. zombies games on college campuses, zombie literature, a zombie store, and new zombie movies all the time.

Before I go any further, let me say this: I don’t scare easily.

Spiders? I put them outside so they can eat annoying bugs. Snakes? I had a pet snake when I was a kid, and the only reason I don’t have one now is because my dogs would probably try to eat it. Bats? I squeal with delight when I see one because I think they are super adorable (and they eat half their body weight in insects per night!). Insects? As long as they aren’t trying to bite me, dive bomb me, or fly into my mouth or ear, I don’t bother with them. And I love the ones that help my garden, like bees and lady bugs.

I do have one mortal fear, though: Zombies.

That’s right. I think bats are the cutest things ever, snakes make great pets, and spiders are my friendly household helpers, and yet I’m Terrified—with a capital T—of zombies.

It’s the idea that a monster could scratch you ever-so-slightly and yet still infect you with a disease that turns you into a mindless husk of a body with cannibalistic leanings. It’s the slow and relentless onslaught. The overwhelming numbers. That once they start coming, you can fight, but humanity’s demise is inevitable.

Walking Dead Book OneOnce, I tried reading The Walking Dead, and got ten pages in before I slammed the book shut. “Nope. No way. Not going to happen,” I told the book.

Miniature WifeLately, I’ve been stumbling onto zombie stories everywhere. This past weekend, I was reading The Miniature Wife and Other Stories by Manuel Gonzales, and BAM, surprise zombie story! I had to read it, because I have this compulsion about finishing books, and aside from the surprise zombies, I really enjoyed the delightful weirdness of the collection.

That night, I made my husband hold my hand after we turned out the lights, because I couldn’t stop thinking about the zombies and their gray teeth and slurping sounds.

bprdhellonearthoneLast month, I was reading B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth, and BAM, zombies! I’ve encountered the traditional slow-moving raised-from-the-dead zombies in Hellboy before (and those don’t really scare me), but these were mindless mutated half-animal creatures that got turned into zombies from breathing a gas released from a gigantic monster. UBER CREEPY.

weliveinwaterEven Jess Walter’s seemingly normal collection about class and race issues, We Live in Water, contains a surprise zombie story. It’s not a typical zombie story—people are turned by taking a recreational drug that changes their brain chemistry—but it’s still a zombie story.

stitchedIf you look at the cover of Stitched by Garth Ennis, a writer I greatly enjoy, it looks like a war comic with some scary reaper dudes. NOPE. It’s about voodoo zombies who can’t be killed. I read this one anyway, but man did it freak me out.

All these zombie stories act kind of like zombies themselves. You think you’re safe and comfortable and then all of a sudden your best friend has become a flesh-eating monster, and you have to fight for your life. I think I’m safe and comfortable reading fun quirky short stories about miniaturized wives or class issues in a decaying city, and then all of a sudden I’m reading a story about zombies and I’m terrified.

I guess this is one of the risks of being a science fiction and fantasy reader in the zombie-obsessed 21st century. It makes a kind of sense—lots of people believe we’re all turning into zombies because of too much work, because we listen to the same talking heads and don’t think for ourselves, because there is always a new virus that does scary, scary things to the human body.

So I’m not going to stop reading these types of stories, even though they make me want to hide under the covers like a five-year-old afraid of the monster in the closet.

How about you? Do you love zombies? Hate them? What’s your favorite zombie story?



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Confessions of a Wanna-Be Doomsday Prepper

You wouldn’t think, to look at me, that I worry about disasters as much as I do. I seem normal enough, I don’t belong to any organizations (religious OR political) that believe The End is Near, I highly doubt there’s going to be a zombie apocalypse, and you wouldn’t catch me dead wearing survivalist gear. So what’s a nice girl like me doing flirting with doomsday prepper-dom?

I blame my amygdala, the warrior princess of the limbic system, which processes emotions, and doesn’t respond well to logical arguments. It’s complicated, and you can learn more about how it works in one of the many, many books we own on emotions and the brain, but basically, it boils down to this: you have to give your lizard brain something to do so it won’t hijack your logic center and ruin your day. In the case of my prepper tendencies, I’ve found that teaching myself a new skill makes my amygdala feel like it’s doing something to thwart apocalypse, and while it’s happily pre-occupied, I can go about the business of regular life!

Here are a few skills I’d like to learn in 2013, for science, and also, just in case…

Gardening. We moved into our house too late last year to do anything major with the back yard, but this year, the sky’s the limit. Tomatoes! Potatoes! Herbs in pots! Besides, having lots of plants back there will slow down any zombies that might come crashing through the fence (seconds can count in a zombie war).

Start with: The Virgin Gardener, Jonathan Edwards


Canning and Preserving. There’s something about the thought of neat little jars of tasty things, lined up in a row in the basement, that warms the cockles of my heart. Also, since I hate to waste food, the canning project dovetails nicely with the gardening project. Canning, experienced pros tell me, requires patience and attention to detail, also good skills to refine, impending doom or not.

Start with: Food in Jars, Marisa McClellan.


Martial Arts. Wait, what? Although it may seem like quite a leap, learning a new physical skill is actually also a great way to train the mind, and become calmer in stressful situations. Who couldn’t use that, right? I’m actually drawn to aikido, with its emphasis on peaceful defense, and concern with the well-being of the attacker. But before I make a spectacle of myself in a public class, I think I will practice at home with some library books first.

Start with: First Steps in Aikido, Wendy Walker


I feel so much better now that we’ve talked about this. What kinds of irrational things do you worry about, and how do you keep your fears at bay? What useful skills do you have that would make you the hero/ine in an emergency situation?

–Leigh Anne

mostly joking, but still irrationally afraid of zombies


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Read It Before You See It

Let’s face it, a movie based on a book is nothing new. Some adaptations manage to translate the story to film very well, and some… eh, you know. (One of my favorites is Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake – beautifully written and acted.) Before you head to the multi-plex in the next few months, check out a few of the books that are making the jump from page to screen.

Gangster Squad – From journalist Paul Lieberman’s book, this is your “based on a true story” offering. In order to take down one mobster, Sgts Jack O’Mara and Jerry Wooters form an uneasy alliance with another. With a backdrop of 1950s Los Angeles, this tale explores a time when police could be almost as lawless as the criminals they were chasing.

Warm Bodies – Isaac Marion’s book was one of my favorite reads from last year. The story itself is a loose take on Romeo and Juliet, with zombie R (all he can remember of his name) falling in love with the very human Julie. R’s internal dialogue is much sharper than his outward abilities, but as he spends more time with Julie, his humanity begins to creep back.

Beautiful Creatures – First in a growing series, this YA book is part paranormal fantasy and part Southern gothic. Beautiful Creatures is told from the perspective of Ethan, who is drawn to the new girl in town – Lena. Lena has just moved into an appropriately creepy, falling-apart plantation, and is dealing with magical powers and a family curse that has lasted generations.

The Host – This was Stephenie Meyer’s stab at an adult sci-fi novel, post-Twilight. Earth has been invaded by an alien species that takes over the minds of a human host. Melanie is now carrying Wanderer, but is fighting it with all she can, especially for the memories of Jared.  Melanie and Wanderer become reluctant allies as they search for one of the last human safe places.

Safe Haven – I’ll be honest – Nicholas Sparks is not my cup of tea at all. I certainly don’t mind some schlock-y romance every now and again, but everyone has their limits. In Safe Haven, the very mysterious Katie moves to a North Carolina coast town to start her life over. Between Jo, her neighbor, and Alex, the handsome widower with two kids, Katie begins to find a reason to settle down in this new town.

– Jess


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Books and Braaaaaaains

Admitting this will never make me popular, but I actually like Mondays. If you “did” your weekend correctly, your first day back to work should find you wreathed in an invisible bubble of awesome, satisfied with your lot and fortified to take on another week in corporate America. At least, that’s my theory.

For those of you who think my theory belongs in the wastepaper basket, consider this: if you make it through today, you can spend your evening hanging out with interesting people, talking about zombies, and perhaps enjoying a refreshing adult beverage. If that sounds appealing to you, join us for Book Buzz tonight at Remedy in Lawrenceville. where the reading selection on tap, as it were, will be Max Brooks’s World War Z, an extremely detailed examination of what the world might be like ten years into the zombie apocalypse so many of us secretly worry about when we should be updating a spreadsheet. The discussion starts at 7 p.m., and your hosts will be library staff who are fluent in all matters zombie-related – possibly more so than you, so you should definitely go and test their mettle!

Zombies and Pittsburgh go together like chocolate and peanut butter, so if you can’t make the discussion, check out some other brain-muncher picks from the Book Buzz staff. And keep your eye on their blog, as well as our website–you never know what the library staff will dream up next to keep your Mondays interesting.

–Leigh Anne

who frequently thinks about how the desks in her department could be used to barricade the front doors, if necessary


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I happen to be a pretty big zombie enthusiast.  Even if I haven’t watched, read, and played every zombie-related thing in the world, I thought that I at least knew what was out there.  And yet, it completely slipped past me that The Walking Dead graphic novels are going to be a show on AMC this October.  (Warning – if you don’t like creepy graphic zombie gore, don’t click this link to the show’s official website.)

If you could use a fix to keep you going until then, we have you covered!  (Not surprisingly, I am nowhere near the only zombie enthusiast at the library.)  Here are two thorough examinations of the library’s collection –  Pittsburgh: City of Bridges, City of Zombies by Amy and Zombie Invasion by MA.   Wes wrote a lovely birthday tribute to George Romero, and specifically mentioned The Walking Dead series in his Graphic Novel post.  The Walking Dead also appeared on Renee’s list of 100  Best Graphic Novels.  On the Carnegie Library’s website, there are two booklists about zombies and a list of movies by George Romero.

And if you’re caught up on the canon and looking for something new, there are currently over 100 books listed under the catalog subject heading Zombies — Fiction, 67 things under Zombies — Comic books, strips, etc., and 36 under Zombie Films.   I can’t vouch for most of these titles personally, so if you check any of them out, let me know what you think!


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(Birth)Day of the Dead

From wikipedia.org

Today is the 70th birthday of Pittsburgh’s own “Grandfather of the Zombie,” George A. Romero

To say Romero’s work changed my life would not be an overstatement. As a kid growing up around Scranton, PA, I spent a lot of late Friday and Saturday nights watching horror movies. Two favorites that I watched again and again were Romero’s Night of the Living Deadthe movie that defined the modern zombie—and its incredible sequel, Dawn of the Dead. Little did that young, horror-crazed version of myself know that years later I would (fatefully?) move to Pittsburgh, where Night and Dawn were born, and where I still have nightmares (and daydreams) about zombies.

Shortly after my move a friend took me on my first tour of the Monroeville MallDawn’s arena of zombie mayhem—where I walked around with my mouth agape, finally seeing in person the locations of the film’s important scenes that I had watched so many times before on my television. More recently I was able to visit Night’s Evans City Cemetery, resulting in another jaw dropping experience as I approached the hilly cemetery entrance made famous in the film’s opening scene (shown around 1:24):

I eventually came to strongly appreciate the finale to Romero’s zombie trilogy, Day of the Dead. Though often forgotten in the shadows of Night and DawnDay is arguably the best looking film of the trilogy, and it’s a terrific final (and gory!) statement in the trilogy’s allegorical assessment of the human condition. (Out of respect for Romero’s birthday, I won’t talk about my feelings regarding the post-trilogy Dead films, Land of the Dead and Diary of the Dead. Let’s just say that I hope his upcoming Survival of the Dead sees him return to form).

Yes, Romero has made more than zombie films. His filmography includes some of my favorite horror movies of all time, including his creepy Pittsburgh-filmed take on the modern vampire, Martin; his horror comic book inspired Creepshow, which was written by his pal, Stephen King, and had some scenes filmed right up the road at Romero’s alma materCarnegie Mellon University; and the Edgar Allan Poe-inspired Two Evil Eyes, which was co-directed with another horror master, Dario Argento. Yet, for better or worse, Romero will always be most memorable to me—and surely many others share this feeling—as the guy who started me down the road to zombie obsession.

Happy birthday, Master . . . I mean, George!


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Things Could be Much, Much Worse

Worried about the swine flu? Read some of these novels about horrific plagues to remind yourself that things could be much, much worse!

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson – The classic novel about a plague that causes vampirism. Apocalypse ensues.

World War Z by Max Brooks – There’s nothing more terrifying than a zombie plague, unless you’re able to come up with a clever new way to write about it, as Max Brooks has done.


Some plagues are scarier than others...

Some plagues are scarier than others...

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan – Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro teamed up with thriller writer Chuck Hogan to write this soon-to-be-released novel that can be described as I Am Legend meets Dracula. Destined to be a feature film.

Infected: A Novel by Scott Sigler – Here’s a book that proves that plagues invented by aliens can be just as scary as plagues spread by the marauding undead.

The Stand by Stephen King – A timely tale about a deadly flu that leads to an end times battle royale between good and evil.

Are there any other plague-ridden novels you’ve enjoyed and would like to share?


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Safety at last? (BLITEOTW 2008)

I’m glad I thought of moving the Eleventh Stack team up to the Special Collections Room. It’s cool, quiet, and so out of the way that not even the non-zombie public can find it. We’ve raided the vending machines and Crazy Mocha, brought up the mini-fridges from the staff offices, and we have plenty to read. And heck, this building used to be a public fallout shelter so a few zombies shouldn’t be a problem.

The few who made it into the building were easily driven out by our new policy signs: no food, no cell phones, and no zombies. The rest are waiting patiently outside for us to reopen (our “closed” sign is keeping them at bay), which is very polite of them, I must admit. It’s nice to see that the undead still respect their library.

Now we’re just waiting for our Delivery Services crew to arrive – normally they haul books and DVDs around the county, but this time we’ve got something special planned….


(Totally confused? Check here.)

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Pittsburgh: City of Bridges, City of Zombies

Ah, the zombie. Thanks to George Romero, they’re one of Pittsburgh’s most famous exports!

  • Dawn of the Dead (1978)
    Two members of a S.W.A.T. team and their friends land in a shopping mall occupied by the living dead. They secure the mall through brutal battles with the creatures, but can they escape both the bandits and the zombies?
  • Day of the Dead (1985)
    A nightmarish, flesh-eating army of walking corpses rules the Earth, while a small band of scientists desperately tries to domesticate them.
  • Land of the Dead (2005)
    Zombies have become the dominant population, and they’ve begun to show signs of undead intelligence and gathering power. The wealthiest human survivors ignore the horrors of the outside world while armed scavengers stage raids in the zombie-zone to gather food and supplies.
  • Night of the Living Dead (1968)
    A simple, peaceful countryside is being terrorized by killer zombies with only one thing on their minds–destroy all humans. A small stronghold of survivors must hold the zombies at bay outside an old, abandoned house for any future hope of humanity.

Believe it or not, there are some zombie movies that don’t take place in Pittsburgh.

  • Fido (2006)
    Timmy’s best friend in the whole world is a six-foot tall rotting zombie named Fido. When Fido eats the next-door neighbor, Mom and Dad hit the roof, and Timmy has to go to the ends of the Earth to keep Fido a part of the family.
  • Graveyard Alive: a Zombie Nurse in Love (2001)
    When a zombie-infected woodsman checks into Patsy’s hospital, she is transformed into a flesh-eating sex kitten. With newfound powers, she aims to win back her old flame, the handsome Dr. Dox, from her archrival Goodie Tueschuze.
  • Shaun of the Dead (2004)
    When flesh eating zombies go on the hunt for a bite to eat, it is up to Shaun and his best pal to save their friends and family from becoming the next entree.
  • Shock Waves (1976)
    In the dark days of World War II, the Nazi High Command ordered its scientists to create a top secret race of indestructible zombie storm troopers. No member of this horrific SS unit was ever captured by the allied forces–and, somewhere off the coast of Florida, they have survived.

Malls full of zombies? Smitten zombie nurses? Aquatic Nazi zombie storm troopers in Florida? I love my job!

– Amy


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