This week, AMC released the first season 5 teaser for The Walking Dead…
…which mainly served as a reminder on how abruptly season four's finale ended. It had long-awaited reunions, flashbacks to now-deceased characters, and really bad snipers. The episode ended (spoilers await) with the new bad guys forcing all of our favorite characters (except the ones that have been stupidly killed off *side-eye at writers*) into a dark train car, leaving us to wonder what exactly their next move is going to be. One of the characters then said something "inspiring," and then — black out.
That's it. Episode over. No more zombies.
AMC hasn't yet announced a start date for season five (*more side-eye*) but some are guessing an air date of October 12 or somewhere thereabouts. If so, that means we have three more grueling months to get through without any new TWD episodes.
But in the meantime, if you find yourself in zombie withdrawal, or have already gone back and marathon-watched the entire series at least four times, then here's a list of some zombie stuff you can do to pass the time.
1) Read The Walking Dead comic books
It seems pretty obvious, but if you're a fan of the show and haven't read the comic books, you need to fix that. The series was first issued in October 2003, and was created by prolific comic book writer Robert Kirkman. Kirkman is now a producer and writer for the AMC series, in addition to continuing to work on the comics.
So far, there have been 129 issues, which should provide you with more than enough company as you sit beneath your blankets mourning the (brutal, gratuitous, unnecessary, STUPID) TV death of your favorite one-legged farmer. (You'll also see that said farmer's life, like many of our favorite TWD characters, pans out much differently on page than on screen.)
The first 120 issues have been collected into 20 trade paperback volumes, with a 21st covering issues 121 through 129 due out later this month. If TWD begins airing October 12, then you have 95 days (including the day of the finale) to get through all of them in time for the beginning of season five. That means if you read one volume every 4 days, you should be all caught up. You can grab the first volume on Amazon here.
2) Read World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
The book is structured as a collection of survivor stories compiled by an agent from the United Nations Postwar Commission; author Max Brooks (son of Mel) has discussed how WWZ was influenced by Studs Terkel's oral history of WWII, The Good War. The survival stories are voiced by characters from across the globe and fit seamlessly together to create a unifying narrative tackling government bureaucracy, human naivete, survival, and isolationism. (As Brooks put it: "I'm a fanatical patriot, and I love my country enough to admit that one of our national flaws is isolationism. I wanted to combat that in World War Z and maybe give my fellow Americans a window into the political and cultural workings of other nations.")
3) Watch all six films of the Night of the Living Dead series
Every zombie fan knows — or should know — about George A. Romero. He's the filmmaker behind the massively successful Living Dead franchise. The first of the six films, Night of the Living Dead, came out in 1968, and received immediate disdain from critics such as Robert Ebert for its over-the-top violence. Many critics were angry that children were in the audience. The film was released in October, and the MPAA's first-ever rating system wasn't established until November. So basically, Roger Ebert was watching the movie with a theatre-full of horrified children, which may have colored his reception of the film.
But in spite of its critical reviews, Romero's original film enjoys its cult status as one of the best horror films ever made. In 1999, the Library of Congress even preserved it in its National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Romero is credited with reinventing the not only the zombie genre, but also the word "zombie." Pre-Romero, zombies were just lifeless people under the spell of a witch. Post-Romero, zombies come back from the dead, hunt you down, and eat you. Romero is also credited with using zombie tales as commentary on contemporary society. For example, Dawn of the Dead, which is set in a shopping mall, is thought to be a satire on consumerism.
4) Train for a Zombie Run
Like running through mud and navigating various obstacles while being chased by zombies who are trying to steal your flags? Then this is for sure the 5K for you.
There are three different versions of the Zombie Run: original, Extreme, and Black Ops. The difference between the three has to do with the level of difficulty of the obstacles and terrain. (Also, the description for Black Ops says that fire and smoke are involved, but the details aren't exactly clear, so maybe people die?) Zombie Runs are produced by Human Movement Management, and are held at over 25 different locations throughout the US.
Look. It's July — bathing suit season is already upon us. You've been talking about getting back in shape since you were born. What better way to tackle your fitness goals than by signing up for a Zombie Run, and training for the impending zombie apocalypse!
5) Dead Yourself
Because who doesn't want to look like this?
6) Study Book of the Dead: The Complete History of Zombie Cinema
If you've ever wondered about the history of zombie movies, you should check out this book by film journalist Jamie Russell. Jamie has a Ph.D. in English Literature, and brings a bit more erudition to the topic than you might be expecting. His book charts the history of cinematic zombies, beginning in 1932 with White Zombie. (More on that below.) Also in the book are 64 pages of full-color photographs, and an alphabetical filmography. Even if you're not interested in history, wouldn't it be cool to have trivial factoids at your fingertips to impress your buddies with during the commercial breaks of TWD season 5?! For example, the word "zombie" first appears in the OED in 1819. Bet you didn't know that.
7) Watch White Zombie
This is the movie that started it all. Released in 1932, White Zombie tells the story of how a Haitian Voodoo master turned Madge Bellamy into a zombie. It was the first feature-length zombie film, and its legacy continues to haunt the genre. The A.V. Club called WZ the granddaddy of zombie flicks.
8) Take a zombie college class
Michigan State offers an online course called Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse. The page features a video narrated by the teacher of the class, Glenn Stutzky, who has long hair and is about as creepy as you'd expect a zombie professor to be. The course is open to MSU students and non-students, and there are no prerequisites for enrolling.
Central Michigan University jumped on the zombie-bus, too. Professor Kelly Murphy created a course titled From Revelation to The Walking Dead, which explores the intersection of ancient apocalyptic texts and contemporary media. Monmouth University offers a zombie course which examines "how human beings deal with social anxiety as expressed through references to one particular manifestation of the undead." The University of Baltimore and Columbia College Chicago have also offered similar courses. And last year, the University of California at Irvine offered a free online class called Society, Science, Survival: Lessons From AMC's The Walking Dead.
9) Wax philosophical about zombies
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a great primer on the Philosophy of Zombies. "Zombie" here means something rather different. Philosophers use the word to refer to a being that looks and acts just like a human, and often is physically indistinguishable from a human, but lacks human consciousness. If you punch a philosophical zombie (or p-zombie) in the face, it acts as though it's hurt, but feels nothing and thinks nothing.
NYU's David Chalmers developed the concept of p-zombies in his doctoral dissertation/book, The Conscious Mind, which came out in 1996. His basic argument is that if we can conceive of p-zombies, that means they're metaphysically possible, and if they're metaphysically possible, then physicalism (the hugely popular belief that the only things there are in the world are physical entities) is false. After all, if physicalism were true, then a world in which an entity physically identical to humans lacks consciousness shouldn't be possible, as that would imply that consciousness isn't a physical property.
Confused? Check out the Stanford Encyclopedia article, or watch this video of Chalmers explaining the idea.
10) Read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies — even if you haven't read the original one by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a mash-up, a literary hybrid, 85 percent of which comes straight from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and 15 percent of which is zombie stuff injected by screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith. For example: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." Doesn't it just make sense to phrase it that way? It almost makes you wonder why Austen didn't include zombies in her original work.
Of course, Seth doesn't think he was inserting a theme that wasn't already in the subtext. "The people in Austen's books are kind of like zombies," he said in an interview with Lev Grossman. "No matter what's going on around them in the world, they live in this bubble of privilege. The same thing is true of the people in [my] book, although it's much more absurd."
If you're still not sold on PPZ, you need to realize that one day you're going to be at a dinner party, and someone will inquire as to who has read Pride and Prejudice. Everyone will then lie and nod their heads wildly that yes, they have, in fact, read the novel, it's a classic, and they especially like Jane's description of Keira Knightley sitting beneath those fireworks. But if you consider yourself to be more honest than these dinner guests, yet not so honest as to actually force yourself to read Austen's book (or admit to having not read it), then the zombie version will be a nice compromise.
11) Take this 4-part zombie survival course that actually, literally, for real exists
Northern Virginia Tactical is a professional firearms and tactical training organization. In addition to teaching people how to become Hooligan Warriors, NVT also offers several different sections of their Zombie Survival Training, which is designed to answer your practical questions about zombie slaughter, like "Why should you aim for the zombie's brain?"
The course begins with a "short classroom briefing" followed by learning how to shoot at non-moving targets, then learning how to shoot at moving targets, then learning how to shoot with a pistol, and then with a long gun, and then shooting in groups of twos, threes, fours, and even fives. The site doesn't mention anything about crossbows, so don't spend the money on the course (between $200 and $300) if you're looking to learn how to be Daryl.
12) Watch the BBC series In the Flesh
In the Flesh tells the story of Kieren Walker (Luke Newberry) — a teenager who committed suicide, and was later reanimated with thousands of others during an event known as The Rising. Kieren's reasons for killing himself were complicated, but they no doubt had to do with the loss of Ricky — his best friend and love interest. While the sentiment against these Partially Deceased Syndrome sufferers (pejoratively called "rotters") grows increasingly hostile, the government steps in to "rehabilitate" the undead, passes laws to protect them, and helps reintegrate them into the society that hates them. Kieren is returned to live with his family, where he tries to "pass" as a non-zombie. Like all good zombie stories, In the Flesh is about so much more than flesh-eating monsters. It's about tolerance, forgiveneness, and closeted secrets.
You can watch both seasons of the series at Amazon Prime.
13) Read spoilers for TWD season 5
I'm not saying you should be doing that, but if you want to read some TWD gossip, here you go.
*BONUS* Zombify a teddy bear
*OPPOSITE OF BONUS* Biting People
Seriously. Don't do that. Even if you're just pretending to be a zombie.
And especially if you're not pretending.