movies, Uncategorized

Study Predicts the End of Zombie Movies

This summer I was tapped by the Armadillocon programming committee to participate on a panel about zombie movies. For some reason I did a modicum of research before the panel and I discovered the Wikipedia list of all zombie movies ever. Since this was displayed onpage in a table format, I thought, hey, let’s export this to a spreadsheet, which I did. The resulting graph was nothing less than eye-opening.

Bar graph of zombie movies by year

Bar graph of zombie movies by year

The clear bell-curves pop out first. There are no plateaus, there is an interest and a ramping up of zombie movies, followed by a tapering off at nearly the same rate. Looking at the graph, 2018 will have negative four zombie movies.

The Zombie waves

The Origins

It all begins with Bela Lugosi in White Zombie in 1932. The first zombie movies worked exclusively from the voodoo model of an undead slave. There’s a zombie movie every few years or so, taking up a noticeable fraction of the horror market, but there’s long periods without any zombie movie at all. From the end of World War II until late 1950s there were essentially no zombie movies. An entire lost, zombieless decade.

Drive-in Zombies

It’s probably not a coincidence that the resurgence of zombie movies parallels the popularity of drive-in movies. In the late 50s, early 60s, there’s a glut of zombie flicks, with an unusual burst of zombie movies in 1964. They start out playing off the voodoo model: zombies as terrifying representatives of an exotic culture. But soon the zombie trope takes on new variations. A zombie becomes any reanimated corpse, whether it be by magic, science, or alien intervention. Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space is a pioneer in this respect, taking the zombie out of the Caribbean and taking it home to the American back yard.
There’s a tapering off in the sixties, as the drive-ins wane, perhaps. But there’s a slow simmering of zombie ideas, opening up possibilities for the trope, and preparing audiences for what’s to come next.

The Romero Years

In 1968, Romero’s Night of the Living Dead changed everything. It threw gasoline on the movement of midnight cult movies in the 70s, and may have been the first genuinely scary zombie movie. It’s important to note that none of the movies which followed in the 70s wave followed the Romero model of epidemic-spread post-apocalyptic head-shot zombies. There were a lot of foreign-made zombie films, a global democratization of the trope which would help to fuel the boom in the 2000s.

Zombie Revival

In 1980 there’s a sudden boom of zombies. There’s a mix of Italian and US productions which tapers off in time for the Romero-nostalgic Return of the Living Dead in 1985, and a new boom which will take us to a new zombie height in 1988. It’s hard to pin down where this boom came from and what they had in common, except they were mostly gory and grim. The voodoo slave model is almost entirely absent, these zombies are the ickiest re-animated corpses available.
The 90s are slow for zombies. Between ’94 ad ’98 we typically only had two zombie movies a year. When the only American zombie movie in a year is Scooby Doo on Zombie Island, you know the genre is in trouble.

Millenial Zombies

Between 2000 and 2017 there were nearly twice as many zombie movies than in the previous century. Independent film has a lot to do with the success, as well as a truly global participation. Asian film accounts for a lot of the space under this bell curve. The Romero model dominates throughout, fueled no doubt by it’s public domain status. A lot of the cultural conversation played off this model, allowing for asinine arguments about fast versus slow zombies, as if zombies actually existed. Irony and parodies and self-referencing proliferate through the genre in this period.

The Presidential Theory

If we’re being perfectly honest, we would have to say that the bursts of zombie-movie activity had a lot to do with the genre building off its own ideas, changes in distribution and public values, and the relative ease of funding and production during the heyday of any genre.
But I can’t help looking at this chart and not compare it with Republican presidential administrations. In 1968, Richard Nixon was elected president, and the big wave of 70’s zombie movies started. In 1980, Ronald Reagan began the next biggest wave of zombie movies, which ended in a decades-lowest nadir during the Clinton administration. And the biggest bell curve of course began with the Bush years and began to taper as soon as Obama hit office.
When you look at the production time lead-up needed to make a zombie movie (and our current president and his comparably low zombie movie production), it’s hard to maintain a cause-effect relationship, but it’s a correlation that’s hard to ignore.

The Future of Zombie Movies

During the panel, I aired my working theory that zombie movies, like men in prison movies, are at their heart libertarian fantasies. Authority and law has collapsed, making it virtuous to kill your neighbors. Nobody disputed this, which I found a little disheartening (no libertarians at Armadillocon?). Perhaps this accounted for their success, or perhaps the flexibility of the zombie-subtext which allowed audiences to map virtually any morality message about otherness over those sunken zombie eyeballs.
So yes, zombie movies hit their peak in 2008, with 31 in a single year. But the real reason for the decline may be that we’ve worked through all the possible iterations. It could be that we’re just tired of it. At this moment I have Train to Busan on my Netflix queue. I’ve watched two-thirds of the movie, and I don’t know if I’ll go back. It’s a good movie, I just don’t feel a need to watch more zombies.
As a culture, we may have done what we needed to do with the trope. We’re past peak zombie. At last, at long last, zombies are truly dead.

Future Research

During the early 2000s, I recall everyone asking, what’s going to be the new zombie? We all predicted zombies would come to a head and then peter out as a new golden boy genre trope replaced it. It looks like it’s finally happening, almost ten years later than expected, but there’s no clear replacement. Some effort was put into making pirates the new zombie, but not much came of that. As I said in the panel, if you want to make a zombie movie you just need a few friends and black eye shadow, if you want to make a pirate movie you need a whole damn ship.

If I get the time, I’d like to export some data from IMDB (they have a mechanism for that), and compare their zombie movie data with the Wikipedia list, see if the trends hold up under additional scrutiny. I’d also like to look at other genres and tropes, see if anything else had a beautifully elliptical surge like that, or if it was just zombies. Presumably we’d see something similar with Westerns, but we’ll see.

Food Frakker

Cock Ale Recipe — Homebrew with chicken

Way back in the day, when I first started doing homebrew, I made a batch of “Cock Ale.” This was a recipe I found in the back of an ancient and dog-eared public library book on homebrewing, which purported to be a traditional beer made with a boiled chicken. The theory being that the protein and nutrients from the chicken would bring up the alcohol level. The kicker to the recipe was the claim that the chicken completely dissolved into the beer.

People loved that first batch of beer. Unfortunately the original recipe went AWOL, so I had to re-create it from several sources.


Step 1:

Make a broth of chicken, about one gallon.

  • 14oz of chicken, diced
  • Cloves, 6 whole,
  • Mace, 1/2 tsp
  • Nutmeg ,1 tsp

After the broth has stewed, refrigerate it overnight, gunky bits and all. Skim the fat the next day. Bring broth to a boil and add to the sterilized carboy hot, to wait for the wort.

Step 2:

Make an ordinary stout but with dried fruit.

  • Fuggles hops, 3/4 60min, 1/4 5min
  • 9 lb pale ale (BE)
  • 2 lb maris otter pale
  • .75 lb chocolate
  • .5 flaked barley
  • .5 carapils
  • 2 pounds of raisins
  • .5 pounds of dates

Calculated ABV came out to nearly 10%. I left it in the carboys almost three weeks. I’ve only had a few tastes so far, but even after a week in the bottle it’s pretty carbonated and tastes pretty smooth. The spices are the most apparent flavors, but there’s definitely a slight odor of chicken broth.

And although I can’t say for sure, because there was a lot of sludge at the bottom of the first carboy stage which I didn’t search through, but it seemed like nearly all of the chicken had dissolved.

A spooky Halloween beer recipe for you!


My Last Published Short Story

I’ve not been writing a lot recently, for a number of reasons. Another symptom of how much I’ve checked out of the writing lifestyle is the conspicuous lack of self-promotion for my last published short story. It’s not unlikely that this will be my last published short story ever. Luckily, this is probably the most fun of my published stories, and it appears in a very strong anthology of Texas writers.

It came out well over a year ago, but you can find Rayguns Over Texas online. My story “Babylon Moon” is a post-singularity Rastafarian space-opera with strong Lovecraftian overtones. And the other writers in the anthology are all Texans, so you know it’s got to be good.


Obligatory Hugo Endorsements Post

It’s only one day left to fill out ballots for Hugo nominations, those of us who are WorldConnners. Here’s some suggestions. These are basically just people I know, but you can be certain that they absolutely deserve a nomination. I know that you’ve spent the last few months since WorldCon in a state of hibernation, torpor, or perhaps estivation ( you know ), but this is important.


Babylon Moon by Matthew Bey

Short story

texas died for somebody’s sins but not mine – By Stina Leicht
I Will Trade With You — by J. M. McDermott

Best Graphic Story

Black Science
Sex Criminals
Adventures of the Red Panda

Editor Short Form

Rick Klaw

Professional Artist

John Picacio


The Drabblecast


Space Squid
Bookworm Blues
My Bookish Ways


SF Signal Podcast
We’re Alive: A story of survival

John W. Campbell Award

Max Gladstone
Marshal Ryan Maresca
Rhonda Eudaly

Does that make sense?


After the power goes out…

…this is what I look like.


You can find the actual moment I’m on the show “Revolution” online on Netflix. It’s the episode “Austin City Limits.” Look for the shot where the whole team is crossing Congress Avenue, just before they go into the gun shop, which used to be Little City Coffeeshop. It was all on location, which was a little surprising. Just look for us pedaling around in the lower left of the screen.

Question of the day. Did you know that Italy has it’s own aircraft carrier called the MM Garabaldi? You can learn about it here.


Mysterious Fish From Texas Gulf Coast

unidentified fish1

This is a post which is open pandering for a fish identification. Over the weekend I was fishing off the Caldwell Pier in Port Aransas. It was about one in the morning and just a little after high tide. I caught the fish at about the third guts, about seventy feet south of the pier. It bit on a couple of previously frozen piggy perches rigged two feet from the bottom. When I was reeling it up, I thought it was just a whiting, because it was about the size of a large one. It wasn’t until I had it on the deck of the pier before I realized how odd it looked.

The gold color is an artifact of the camera and the light conditions, in real life it seemed more silvery, like a mackerel. I don’t recall the eyes being walleye like that, but they could have been.


After I took its picture, I decided to use the stainless steel forceps to get the circle hook out. And it’s a good thing I did, because it started biting the metal with an audible crunching sound. Its mouth wasn’t very big, but it was crowned with some Nosferatu bunny fangs and some finger-amputating strong jaws.

Any rate, I threw the thing back, and neither the guy at the bait shop and the guy at the tackle shop recognized it. So now I’m asking the internet in general.

Edit 11/11/13:
I posted this fish to the forum and it was the general opinion of the gentlemen there that this was a smooth puffer.

foam fly lure spider

The Foam Gaga Spider – Fly-tying recipe

The foam Gaga Spider takes all the delicious, buggy elements of sub-surface nymphs, and combines it with the fast and furious top-water action of a foam spider.


  • size 14 to 18 dry fly hook
  • beige thread
  • small plastic barbell eyes (optional)
  • brown goose biots
  • yellow/chartreuse crazy legs
  • brown and yellow foam
  • yellow dubbing
  • Aqua flash” instructions

For this fly-tying recipe, start the thread on the hook size of your choice. Tie on the barbell eyes. If you use these, they should be a light material, not the sinking barbells. At each end of the hook, tie on the goose biots to form antennas. Starting at the curve of the hook, twist on layers of the yellow dubbing until you build up a buggy nymph-like body. At the body’s midpoint, tie on three to four rubber crazy legs. Fold the flash into a bow and tie above the legs. Then fold the flash back and tie it so it angles back from the midpoint like the wings of a fly. The final layer is the foam, which is tied at the very top. Don’t go overboard with this, you only need enough foam to keep the hook floating. I would recommend a brownish layer to give a naturalistic presentation to fish observing it from below, and a yellow layer on top to make it easier to spot against the surface of the water for anglers observing from above.