Internal consistency in a world full of zombies

The Walking Dead - Comic Artwork 10I was talking to a former colleague about ‘trash fiction’ and he was lamenting that he didn’t enjoy it as much as he used to when he was younger. By ‘trash’ fiction we both meant slightly different things – popular action/thriller novels for Dazzla, my staple of tier 2 sci-fi and fantasy for me.

My comment was – as long as the stories are internally coherent and the worlds interesting, I still enjoy them. That’s part of the joy of being a sci-fi/fantasy fan – you get to suspend your disbelief and take some time off to dwell in a totally different universe.

Sometimes, what’s compelling is the similarity with our own universe. This is the case with the Walking Dead – there’s very little supernatural mysticism in the way the tale is told. Something – indeterminate but presumably natural – has caused the dead to walk, but it relates to the brain stem and you have to stop it with a physical intervention (i.e. destroy the brainstem). You can’t banish it, or exorcise it, or cast a spell and make it go away.

Unfortunately one of the things rooting stories in the real world does is allow for semi-rational analysis. For example…. the zombies are moving, movement takes energy. The zombies might draw on latent energy stores in their own bodies, but beyond that they need nourishment to replenish energy stocks. Nourishment for zombies comes from humans. The humans are (mostly) dead – ergo no food for zombies. Therefore in time, zombies must surely run out of energy and stop moving (as indeed happens in 28 Days Later)… And yet, in the comics, nearly two years has passed since the Zombie apocalypse and there’s still herds of them moving around. So that jars, slightly.

The second issue seems to be that whenever someone falls victim to a zombie or two, they get eaten alive. That being the premise – humans are food. So the question emerges – where do new zombies come from? If a new zombie is only spawned when an old zombie gets full, then the apocalypse would likely be less complete and have been more controllable.

Perhaps this is overanalysing the situation. Or perhaps it all feeds into the inexorably drawn out exposition plan for the authors of the Walking Dead, who’ve spent 7 years telling the story and never given a hint away as to the cause of Zombie-ism…