It’s easier to think of the end of the world as we know it in terms of a zombie apocalypse than, say, the effects of global warming, a nuclear error, a mutant strain of influenza - or Ebola - or the Third World War.
I mean, zombies aren’t real. In those terms, a global apocalypse is just fantasy. We can scare ourselves silly watching horror films, knowing that the world out there isn’t over-run by shambling undead out to eat our brains and turn us into the thing we fear.
Except that the world isn’t safe, is it? We only have to turn on the telly to see that all over the globe people are seeing the world they know end. Survivors flee from war zones, are made homeless by rising tides, see their loved ones killed in famines and epidemics. And terrorist attacks make us look at those around us with suspicion – are they like us or are they the other, the threat that will destroy us?
It isn’t surprising that the zombie genre in horror films, books, comics, games and performance art has become so popular over the past few decades. We need that safe, fantasy way to explore how to behave in the face of a real world apocalypse that might be just around the corner; that might even be here already...
A new book by Phil Smith aims to take us just a little further along that path of exploration. It is called The Footbook of Zombie Walking: How to be More Than a Survivor in an Apocalypse.
Phil described The Footbook of Zombie Walking to me in an email: "The book is both a full-length review of the Romero mythos of the living dead monster and a subjecting of its images, narratives and structures to the practices of a hyper-sensitised, performative and activist walking."
He is a performance walker as well as an author. I really enjoyed his earlier book On Walking, which describes a psychogeographical walk he made in Suffolk. It also deals with some themes from horror fiction, but it is a summer holiday compared with The Footbook of Zombie Walking.
Publisher Triarchy Press calls his new publication: "A book about despair, climate change, zombie films, multiple apocalypses, the everyday, city-dwelling, zombies, walking and walk-performance, imperialism, sex, zombie literature, refugees, popular culture and zombies."
Triarchy goes on to say: "The Footbook is written for walkers and zombyists alike. For walkers and performance artists, drama students and urban edge-riders, it's toolkit for anyone who wants to make their every gentle step or crawl an uprising against the apocalypse and a march to real life over the remains of a spectacle. For intelligent zombyists, it's an introduction to a whole new way of thinking about their favourite books, films and comics."
As well as offering a critique and analysis of the themes and plots in a huge range of zombie films and fiction, he describes ways of going outside and interacting with the landscape by viewing it as if we were in such a plot. The easiest way is to simply imagine you are a survivor. I tried this on my regular commute to work on a weekday morning. I looked around at my fellow travellers. Trust me, most of them were zombies. It was scary.
From there you can, of course, explore being a zombie, but you can go further still. Zombie walking can become a sort of meditation or form of mindfulness. It can be liberating and consciousness changing. It can show us how to face our fears which, as many spiritual and magical paths teach, is the best way to overcome them.
Links and previous related posts
The Footbook of Zombie Walking: How to be More Than a Survivor in an Apocalypse