Because zombies are typically represented as mindless, rotting cannibals, they wouldn't be expected to rank highly in anyone's esteem. Based on the slew of recent entertainment releases featuring the undead, however, they've got their share of fans.
Even the publishing industry has seized on the rising popularity of the living-dead book, a genre that's historically been the province of film and video games.
Next week, Quirk Books will release the "deluxe heirloom edition" of its Victorian parody, "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." The title spices up Jane Austen's original plotline by flooding the English countryside with undead.
Yes, it's an incongruous combination, but the book's success has prompted other writers to splice zombies into their own titles, said Quirk's executive editor, Jason Rekulak.
"I received tons and tons of zombie book proposals, and a bunch of them have been sold," he said. "If we've heard one criticism about ('Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,') it's that, 'There's too much Jane Austen in it.' "
Not only are the living dead popular, their fans are organized.
Living dead gaining ground in pop culture
NOTABLE ZOMBIE-RELATED TITLES
Even though they've seen a surge in popularity recently, zombies have long held an honored place in pop culture.
* "Zombies Ate My Neighbors" (1993)
* The "Resident Evil" series (1996-present)
* The "House of the Dead" series (1996-present)
* "Dead Head Fred" (2007)
* The "Left 4 Dead" series (2008-present ["Left 4 Dead 2" releases Nov. 17])
* The "Dead Rising" series ("Dead Rising 2" releases March 30)
* George Romero's "... of the Dead" series (1968-present)
* "Evil Dead" trilogy (1981-1992)
* "Dead Alive" (1992)
* "28 Days Later" series (2002-present)
* "Resident Evil" series (2002-present)
* "Shaun of the Dead" (2004)
* "Zombieland" (released Oct. 2)
* "Zombie Survival Guide" by Max Brooks (2003)
* "The Rising" series by Brian Keene (2004-2008)
* "Cell" by Stephen King (2006)
* "World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War" by Max Brooks (2007)
* "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" (released June 1, deluxe edition releases Nov. 1)
NAILING THE ZOMBIE SHUFFLE
Local horror fan and veteran zombie walker Leslie Gladney offers these tips for moving convincingly like one of the living dead:
* No talking, but groaning is OK.
* Keep your face emotionless and maintain a blank stare.
* Stagger or limp along -- dragging one leg is a plus.
DID YOU KNOW
* George Romero's 1969 zombie masterpiece, "Night of the Living Dead," was placed on the National Film Registry as a film deemed "historically, culturally or aesthetically important."
* The term "zombie" is derived from the West African word "nzambi" in reference to a snake deity.
* Zombies, or the living dead, are mentioned in the ancient Sumerian epic poem "Gilgamesh."
Q&A with Quirk Books editor Jason Rekulak, Page ??
Online: Watch a video of the official Chattanooga Zombie Walk. Read a Q&A. Comment.
In honor of World Zombie Day on Oct. 11, zombie-philes gathered in major cities worldwide for "zombie walks," parades wherein participants dress as the undead and shuffle and groan their way along major thoroughfares.
Veteran zombie walker Leslie Gladney said her attempt to organize a walk in Chattanooga earlier this year was denied. Another walk organized by a different group was scheduled to take place Saturday along Market Street.
Despite her disappointment, Ms. Gladney said she still thinks zombies are ideally suited to sate horror fans' lust for gore, even if no one's quite nailed presenting them yet.
"(Zombies) are one of those things that's really hard to ruin," she said, "(but) nobody's made them sparkle yet."
Chattanoogan Jeff Stringer said it's about time zombies ended their decades-long hiatus from the spotlight since their last peak in director George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" trilogy of the 1970s.
Mr. Stringer has an elaborate zombie costume he's used for almost 10 years. Despite the recent shift in favor of the undead, however, Mr. Stringer said zombies have been his passion for years.
"I was zombie before being a zombie was cool," he said, laughing. "They've been there, lurking in the shadows, and now, they've gone mainstream."
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...