Please welcome Michael Logan to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Apocalypse Cow, Michael's Debut, will be published on May 21, 2013.
On the Feasibility of Zombie Cows
Apocalypse Cow, as the title suggests, contains zombie cows. It contains Zombie sheep. Hell, it even has a few zombie squirrels chucked in. Pretty ridiculous, right? Well, yes. But is this any more ridiculous than the concept of a zombie human, which people seem to have no problem swallowing?
Apocalypse Cow is not intended to be particularly serious, as the title and cover may have suggested. However, a few people have assumed that the whole comedy aspect of the book is based on the assumption that sex-crazed zombie animals are intrinsically funny. They aren’t, or at least not beyond a brief initial titter. It’s certainly not enough to sustain a whole book, so I played this aspect pretty straight. The humour in Apocalypse Cow comes from the human reactions to the crisis, both in terms of social interaction and government response.
I do find it noteworthy that some people think my maniacal cows are a dafter idea than zombie humans. I would actually argue that the zombies (more correctly just ‘infected’) in my book are less far-fetched than your typical human undead shuffler.
Let’s take a look at the traditional zombie, which has permeated modern culture to such an extent that people are holding serious debates over whether there could really be a zombie apocalypse in the works:
- They come back from the dead, where they have often spent decades rotting, so their entire system of movement is compromised, if not entirely broken down. Yet they still manage to shuffle about in search of tasty brains (is there something about becoming a zombie that enhances one's taste for French gastronomy?);
- They have no apparent fuel source to sustain them, as their digestive systems aren’t working, making it unclear where all that ingested meat actually goes;
- Their wounds don’t heal, what with them being dead and all;
- They still have rudimentary brain function, despite all the decomposition, and follow basic instincts or retain vague memories from their previous lives (see the mall scenes in Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, with zombies aping the shopping experience along to ditty Muzak);
- They can only be killed by destroying the brain, which means that all the other organs that support human life and create movement are defunct. In fact, they can often comprise nothing more than a head, a chunk of torso and maybe an arm or two and continue to crawl around trying to bite people’s ankles like the Black Knight in Monty Python’s The Holy Grail;
- They will continue to attack a victim until it he or she is ripped to shreds, which may make for some titillating scene of intestines being slurped down like spaghetti, but does not serve the purpose of passing on the virus that infects them.
So, they are driven by a mysterious, never explained, virus that somehow takes a system with the component parts vital to its function utterly decimated, and makes it move and act in systematic way without any apparent source of energy. Sound feasible to you?
Now, take the infected in my book:
- The dead stay dead, although in all fairness most cow corpses tend to be slathered in ketchup rather than buried in a quiet little graveyard;
- They continue to eat, shit, breathe as usual, and their bodies are not compromised beyond the sniffles and a few sores;
- They can be killed in normal ways, although it may take a little longer for them to realize they are dead;
- Their behavior is driven by a virus with the sole goal of propagating itself, therefore forcing the host to behave in a way that encourages this;
- They only attack long enough to ensure the virus has been passed on, thus ensuring the survival of the victim as a new host.
In summary, they are normally functioning biological organisms – just with a new agenda driven by the virus. Now, I’m not saying my book is entirely scientifically accurate. However, the basic idea of an organism taking full or partial control of a living host in the interests of survival of the species is based in nature and science. The flu virus, for example, prompts sneezing and coughing as its host tries to expel it. If it didn’t do that, it wouldn’t spread. Animals get colds and flus too. Nature even gives us a perfect example of ‘zombie ants’, which are taken over by a fungus that directs them to die in a cool, moist place where the fungus can flourish. There is no biological reason why such a ‘zombie’ virus could not infect animals rather than humans. We've just never really considered it before.
An idea only seems far-fetched until we’ve had time to get used to it. Let me start my final point with a tangentially related example. Recently, I was editing a huge report written by a non-native English speaker, in which a made-up word featured at least 70 times. At first, I replaced every instance, shaking my head in irritation. Halfway through, I found the word slipping through the editing net, because it started to make sense through repetition. My brain was beginning to amalgamate this ridiculous word into my vocabulary after just a few short hours.
The same thing applies when we are exposed to a concept in popular culture. Give us films, TV shows and books about zombies or vampires or ghosts for long enough, and we begin to accept these ideas as a possibility, no matter how unfounded they are in reality. Human zombies have been around for long enough to become so accepted that their future existence is being taken for granted by some. Witness the articles last year talking about the feasibility of zombies and the CDC having to issue a statement saying the zombie apocalypse is not upon us after a spate of weird incidences of cannibalism.
So, there you have it. In twenty years’ time, after a hundred zombie animal books and films, I fully expect everybody to accept the premise without batting an eyelid. And, of course, I expect to receive the Nobel Prize for outstanding services to zombie animal science, a field that is currently sadly overlooked.
About Apocalypse Cow
St. Martin's Griffin, May 21, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
If you think you've seen it all -- WORLD WAR Z, THE WALKING DEAD-- you haven't seen anything like this. From the twisted brain of Michael Logan comes Apocalypse Cow, a story about three unlikely heroes who must save Britain . . . from a rampaging horde of ZOMBIE COWS!
Forget the cud. They want blood.
It began with a cow that just wouldn't die. It would become an epidemic that transformed Britain's livestock into sneezing, slavering, flesh-craving four-legged zombies.
And if that wasn't bad enough, the fate of the nation seems to rest on the shoulders of three unlikely heroes: an abattoir worker whose love life is non-existent thanks to the stench of death that clings to him, a teenage vegan with eczema and a weird crush on his maths teacher, and an inept journalist who wouldn't recognize a scoop if she tripped over one.
As the nation descends into chaos, can they pool their resources, unlock a cure, and save the world?
One outcome . . .
Yup, we're screwed.
Apocalypse Cow is his first novel. His short fiction has appeared in literary journals and newspapers such as Chapman and The Telegraph, and his piece We Will Go On Ahead and Wait for You won Fish Publishing’s 2008 international One-Page Fiction Prize.
He currently lives in Nairobi, Kenya and is married with a young daughter and son.
Website ~ Blog ~ Twitter @MichaelLogan