Consistent fantasies and nightmares are the product of a dull imagination so we should be reassured by the strange attitudes that we have for monsters. Zombies are not vampires as a mass movement. The zombie apocalypse is different from the vampire nightmare predicted by Stoker. Preventative garlic may disappear after vampire domination but food production continues. In the zombie world, food is scavenged from the remains of the destroyed civilisation. Shopping malls are desolate arcades where zombies continue the consumption that defined their human existence before the apocalypse.
Vampires have an appetite that requires congress with someone else. Zombies eat living flesh. They do not form attachments. No zombie is out there pining for his Mina. Zombies are asexual. Unlike the romantic vampires, they merely want to feed a hunger. Despite their taste for brains and intestines, they infect more than they destroy. Zombies are obliged to opt out of modern materialism and they reject any equivalents of capitalist hierarchy. Zombies were once humans and, importantly, humans that existed in modern societies. In the medieval world, death was transgressed through vampirism and necromancy. Mindlessly walking around in crowds after death is a modern phenomenon. The originals had appearances to maintain and they achieved a dark transcendence. If zombies are a product of modernity, they have no use for the products of consumer capitalism. Their hunger is directed at the consumer capitalists themselves, who are the new food. Zombies are the next step. They define the ultimate competitive shopping mall. Zombies also undermine a capitalist society because they prevent humans from consuming, from achieving modern materialistic fulfilment. In any zombie saga, transport becomes reduced to battered cars and banking and shopping are activities that end almost immediately.
Vampires are different. They exist while society continues to operate. They live in the shadows, either anonymously or controlling. Without the narrow materialist appetites of the zombies, they can operate as an independent invisible force. The vampiric desire for congress is destructive but complicated. Friendships and romance continue, and vampires experience the tensions that cloud our own lives. The truth is that an apocalypse is beyond the too easily aroused vampire. For that, you need the compliant crowd. It is possible to imagine an outbreak of zombies at a football match. All that is needed is the right infection. But vampires would not be seen dead at a football game. Well, you know what I mean.
We also have to remember God. Dracula was defeated by the Circle Of Light, four men and a woman. All were devout Christians and, though they were curious and intellectual, they turned away from modern science for an explanation. Zombies are challenged by the post-God Supermen imagined by Frederick Nietzsche. These ad hoc warriors have muscles, tanned bodies and great hair. Super shaped, they have adjusted to the world that Max Weber described, a place where capitalism and secularisation has destroyed myth and mystery. What remains, though, are the nightmares of consumers and, in particular, their fear of the infected.
Howard Jackson has written vampire stories for Draculas Midnight Snacks. His zombie stories will appear in the forthcoming publication Zombie Bites.
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