Silvia Moreno-Garcia | Zombie Month: Zombie Economics
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Zombie Month: Zombie Economics

Dead North is out this month! You can purchase it at Chapters and To celebrate, several of the authors in the anthology are guest blogging about…zombies! Today, brings us Kevin Cockle discussing zombie economics.

By Kevin Cockle

In economists’ terms, zombies are rational because they are consistent in their choices. Food for thought there (no pun intended.  Oh, who am I kidding?  Of course that was intended.  Entire rant might be a thinly-veiled excuse to get that pun over).  A zombie apocalypse is the world reduced to and elegantly defined by game theory: the “tragedy of the commons” a foregone conclusion.

Consider the “open-source” organization of zombies: isn’t it their decentralized, autonomous nature that leads to state collapse?  If zombies just organized themselves in a top-down, hierarchical way with a central command, armies would be sufficient to deal with the threat.  We’d defeat zombies the way we always beat aliens: just find the head zombie, and lop off its head.  Doesn’t work that way though.

Zombies are in effect, metaphors for the free-market, and decentralization. They’re the notion of the free individual taken to a logical extreme. They’re the perfect consumer – simply going after what they want, when they want it, with no need for a state, and no ability to form one. Each zombie pursues its own best, private interest, and all zombies are equal in a very real, very democratic sense. They’re people who have been formatted along market lines, and only people who have been formatted along non-market lines find zombies terrifying. This is why zombies always appear so angry when they get after you: you’re the wrong format. It’s not so much that they’re “hungry” – that’s simply a motivational mechanism. It’s more that they need to convert you, so that the market will work more efficiently, in perpetuity. After all – a zombie may be able to reformat a human, but a human can’t change a zombie.

It’s possible that the enduring popularity of zombies has something to do with their open-source nature. Zombies fit with today’s digital imagination, resonating in a way that more “analog” monsters like Dracula might not.

Think of people preferring American Idol to scripted television, or perhaps preferring the viewing of random youtube videos to TV itself.  There is this evolving sensibility in the air – this idea that consumer-driven, and open-source, is sexy. In fact, one of the ways of re-popularizing monsters like vampires is to make them more “virus” like – giving them an open-source makeover by emphasizing their ability to spread at random and multiply themselves by “re-formatting” people.

Such attempts are never quite as captivating as the zombie phenomenon because they’re not a true, logical re-configuration; they’re more a difference in degree rather than kind. Usually, vampires retain some sort of reason and intent, so they’re never as totally committed to free-market, evolutionary forces.  There’s always that chance that a sentient vampire will make a decision informed by something OTHER than pure market signals, or even choose to control other beings, robbing THEM of choice, and freedom. That just seems passe to the liberty-loving digital mind.

Zombies don’t want to control you; they want to make you free in such a way that you can never decide to limit the freedom of either yourself or others, ever again. This is terrifying to the vestigial remains of our analog imagination, and thrilling to our emerging digital consciousness.  How could we not be compelled by such creatures?  They’re the ghost of a Christmas future so tantalizingly close we can almost feel it.  There’s something inevitable about the zombie apocalypse – like cars that drive themselves, or the end of privacy, or file-sharing, or smartphones, or globalization.  We want all that stuff even as some part of us is terrified that we’ll never be able to go back to the way things were before.  Terrified that we’ll never be the people we were before.  And we know that the first bite has already taken place, that ground-zero is out there somewhere, and that it’s just a matter of time before we ourselves are transformed.

Do you like zombies? Do you live in Vancouver? Then come to the launch of Dead North Thursday October 24, 7 pm, at the Storm Crown Tavern, 1305 Commercial Drive (at Charles) Vancouver, BC.