The Ever-Changing Zombie Narrative

One of the interesting aspects about the modern day zombie genre is the representation of the monsters in the artifacts in which they are presented. Zombies have represented more than just flesh-eating ghouls to the legions of horror fans that have catapulted the genre into a $5 billion industry (1). However, the course of the conversation had always been laid out for the zombie fan through the direction that the creators of the artifacts provided. This left little room for dialog between those who provided the content of the market, and those who would buy the books and see the films. The zombie fan has little recourse if he/she wanted to continue to enjoy the object of their fandom. It was either they participated in what was offered, or be excluded from the debate. The voice of the individual was lost because they did not have access to the community at large. Enter modern day technology.

Through the use of common media spaces and social networks, the average fan of the zombie genre can now participate in the dialog and become active in shaping the future direction of the zombie sub-genre. Walter Fisher’s narrative theory “proposes that human beings are inherently storytellers who have a natural capacity to recognize the coherence and fidelity of stories they tell and experience” (2). Today’s technology has allowed for the fans to tell their own zombie narratives. The ability for authors to self-publish their own literary works or for filmmakers to use fund raising sites like IndieGoGo or Kickstarter to fund their films has influenced the direction that the genre has taken.

The modern zombie genre has returned to its independent roots. Today’s technology has allowed the narrative to return to the public and they now direct its future. Some examples of this phenomenon are the podcast We’re Alive, an audio docu-drama in the style of the 1940's radio serials that details the struggles of a group of survivors of a zombie outbreak (3), or the novel The Reaper Virus, which started out as a set of blogs by author Nathan Barnes. Barnes self-published the book and was offered a writing contract by Pemuted Press, a publishing company that specializes in horror-related novels (4). Fans are now able to inject their vision of what constitutes a zombie into the public discussion of the zombie genre. The zombie narrative is changing and it is technology that will allow the fans to dictate its future.

1. Ogg, J. (2000, October 10). Zombies worth over $5 billion to economy. Retrieved from and economy/t/zombies-worth-over-billion-economy/.

2. Fisher, W. R. (1984). Narration as a human communication paradigm: The case of public moral argument. Communication monographs, 51(1), 1-22. doi: 10.1080/03637758409390180.



Image on front page by juco and available on Flickr. 


I was so excited when I saw the title of this post. I have been teaching a zombie literature/composition course for the past few years. The course traces the zombie (narrative) from the first zombie stories to the present. I require the students to write a zombie story at the end of the course. Many of the students post and share their stories on zombie fan sites. Some have even turned their stories into YouTube videos.

Prior to this, I never considered technology's impact on the zombie narrative beyond improved graphics in zombie films. Technology has provided zombie fans agency that many other fan cultures have had for several years. This post has started the wheels turning in regards to how the change in zombie narrative will impact the apocalyptic rhetoric often associated with zombies and the rhetoric of zombies in general.

I wonder how these fan-made versions of zombie narratives both differ from and mirror the mainstream zombie narratives of the Romeros, Kirkmans, and Boyds of the world. Are genre conventions typically subverted or is the opportunity used to expose, play, and/or circumvent the tropes of the genre?

Additionally, what is it that makes zombie narratives such an appealingly fertile ground for fan-made or independently-funded projects while other horror genres (vampire, lab monsters, etc.) don't enjoy that sort of attention?

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