Ludovic Pommeret just won the 2016 UTMB. Congratulations to all the runners!
While on a run the other night I got to thinking about zombie stories. Yes, it was night, and consequently, it was dark, but that had little to do with this particular noodling. As I’ve run through the moon shade of the madronas, I been much more concerned about the mountain lion that’s been prowling our forest than the remote possibility of the undead gnawing on my knees.
I can think of only three kinds of zombies in horror. In all cases, these former people end up playing the role of antagonist in one of three ways.
Usually, the zombie apocalypse occurs because of some random factor — a virus, a curse, whatever — and everyone is susceptible. Most people die and shamble the globe in search of those few lucky living. Their movements are disorganized and they, as a group, have no ability to communicate or organize.
They, these former people, become something other in the minds of the protagonists. They’re easy targets for destruction because while they may retain the appearance of the individuals they once were they lack all humanity. They are shambling meat-sticks with an appetite and little more.
My experience suggests that these are the most common type of zombie in popular media. You can find them pretty much everywhere. They’re what drive the drama in The Walking Dead or World War Z.
Slow Minded Mass
This is a mass of people, who behave mindlessly: a stampede of people, an angry throng, religious or ideological zealots on the march, an apathetic generation mindlessly passing through life. These zombies may not gnaw on your limbs, but they usually leave much destruction in their passage. The destruction is a function of their aggregation, and their violence may not be overt.
This type of zombie is far less common in popular media. I’ve posted this video from De Staat previously, but I’m going to do it again because I think that it illustrates this concept well.
Instrument of Dread
Someone, the antagonist most likely, robs a population of people of their agency. Individually these people would never act as they do, but by some means, they are coerced to violence and acts of horror. The idea is that there is a top-down hierarchy to this mess. Someone with the means and the desire robs people of their will and pushes them in pursuit of their own goals.
The Deadite army in Army of Darkness is one of my all-time favorite examples of this concept. Left alone the dead are inert, but with the power of the Necronomicon Bad Ash reanimates them for evil.
Can you think of any more types of zombies?
Recently I was feeling pretty bummed. After a couple of, what felt to me, awkward social encounters I was beating myself up, generally feeling unloved and unloveable and wallowing in the self-pity that comes with that. Then to top it off, I watched a bunch of youtube videos of people rowing across some ocean or another. Adventure porn, but tinged with the understanding that I’ll likely never do those things. I felt like crap and then didn’t do anything to help myself.
What I wanted through all of that was for someone to show me that I mattered to them. An “attaboy” would have sufficed, but an “I love you Dad, ’cause you did blah-blah” would have been better, but neither of these was forthcoming. If I’m honest, I didn’t deserve them anyway. I made dinner, I folded some laundry, I watered some plants. Absolutely nothing noteworthy.
Then evening came, I ran the kiddo through the wash cycle, and Tess put him down for the night. My dog came and rested her fat head on my knee. At first, I was like “Hey, don’t do that. It’s hot, and I don’t want to pet you.” Then, when she started to press her chin into my joint and began to whine, her message made it through my thick skull. “I love you, let’s go for a run.”
I ran with my dog, not too far, but far enough for her. We had a pretty good time. Eventually, round about mile 2, I crawled up out of that pity pit and found that I could love myself once more.
A little triumph and a big reckoning.
I’ve written about cultured meat, and I think that this has real potential to revolutionize the way humans do things. But — and this is a big ‘but’ — cultured meats have to be done right.
Obviously, this infomercial (is that what it is?) doesn’t address those concerns. They’re selling the idea and are looking only at the very high-level positives. Still pretty fun to watch.
So let’s talk about these problem areas and challenging constructs, just for a moment, in our march toward this future.
Adoption Yes, Now What?
At any given moment there are anywhere from 1.3 to 1.5 billion cows on planet Earth. At an average weight of 600 kg, we’d have a disposal problem that would, at least at that moment, seem like the forgotten biblical apocalypse.
That’s a lot of biomass, biomass that’s tied up in very complex systems which will be uneager to see the change. Just imagine what the beef industry commercials are going to look like when this day comes. Take what you see now and mix it up with a tobacco ad post-1998 Tobacco Master Settlement. Yeesh!
And that’s just beef. Cultured meats can replicate just about any meat. Imagine no-threat-of-death Fugu (河豚) fish platters from your favorite supermarket sushi stand. Whole meat industries, as well as all their trappings, can and will need to be swept into history’s wastebasket. The institutional inertia behind these traditions will be difficult to overcome.
The only way I see whole populations successfully transitioning into a cultured meat future is if the creation of cultured meats becomes a practice of common knowledge. A billion bread-machine like culture devices in every kitchen doesn’t have the snappy ring to it that a “thousand points of light” did, but functionally it’s a much better idea.
However, visualize a future in which this knowledge remains proprietary. On in which, just like drug manufacturers, the owner of the process can willy-nilly raise the price of something most people depend on. Everyone eats, so if a very few people have control of the food, they’re wielding considerably more power than drug company executives who on a whim decide to inflate the retail cost of a drug they own.
Let’s be clear; I’m not advocating that this become a moment in time to justify some Marxist giveaway (although you have to admit not ever seeing a picture of another hungry child has a significant upside), but there are some pretty obvious choke points in even the most distributed meat culture business model that look an awful lot like mushroom clouds. Honestly, the papers are out there. The process is repeatable. I’m looking forward to reading how to grow my own meat on Instructables sometime soon.
Living Tissue, Intelligent Design
Meat is good, quite a few of us apes enjoy eating it. To make it in this world cultured meats are going to need to be meat. Living tissue with some stringy bits and gristle. Without this we’ll be growing zombie burgers and no one is going to eat that. So, cultured meats need to living, and they need to be better than ground beef or chopped liver, which requires that we develop methods to control growth at the cellular level.
Cultured living tissue technology creates some new doors for people. Imagine being able to extract a couple of clonable cells from your body so that you can culture a new heart, pair of lungs, or set of teeth. Take that a step further, if we can direct the development of tissues at the cellar level we can also design augmented tissues and organs.
I shudder to think of what will happen to the world professional wrestling. Pretty much anything you might imagine from space marines with super human strength to ocean crossing kitesurfers with a seabird’s sense of direction become possible when we cross this technological threshold. Can you see how disruptive this technology could be?
Writing, even a little bit about this, makes me want to put this away and dive back into Winter City Above the Clouds. Humanity already alters life to meet its needs and desires. Examples of this abound from contemporary cattle to black velvet tulips. The tools we’re working with, however, are slow and clumsy.
I believe there is a roadmap here that’s worth pursuit. Biophotovoltaics, dynamic living cities – grown and tended not built and maintained, sustainable living generation ships that will take us to the stars, these things are possible.
You looked down, maybe a little more than usual.
Hang in there, stand up for the good that’s in your center.
Patience and time, your kids will appreciate all that you do
Once they’ve cleaned up their own mess.
They’ve been handed out and now the party has begun. Congratulations to everyone who took home a rocket this year.
BEST NOVEL (WORKS 40,000 WORDS AND ABOVE)
- The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
- Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
- The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher (Roc)
- Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow)
- Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
BEST NOVELLA (SHORT WORKS BETWEEN 17,500 AND 40,000 WORDS)
- Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)
- The Builders by Daniel Polansky (Tor.com)
- Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum)
- Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson (Dragonsteel Entertainment)
- Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Tachyon)
BEST NOVELETTE (SHORT WORKS BETWEEN 7,500 AND 17,500 WORDS)
- Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan-Feb 2015)
- And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead by Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed, Feb 2015)
- Flashpoint: Titan by CHEAH Kai Wai (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
- Obits by Stephen King (The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Scribner)
- What Price Humanity? by David VanDyke (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
BEST SHORT STORY (SHORT WORKS LESS THAN 7,500 WORDS)
- Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2015)
- Asymmetrical Warfare by S. R. Algernon (Nature, Mar 2015)
- If You Were an Award, My Love by Juan Tabo and S. Harris (voxday.blogspot.com, Jun 2015)
- Seven Kill Tiger by Charles Shao (There Will Be War Volume X, Castalia House)
- Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle (Amazon Digital Services)
BEST RELATED WORK
- No Award
- Between Light and Shadow: An Exploration of the Fiction of Gene Wolfe, 1951 to 1986by Marc Aramini (Castalia House)
- The First Draft of My Appendix N Book by Jeffro Johnson (jeffro.wordpress.com)
- Safe Space as Rape Room by Daniel Eness (castaliahouse.com)
- SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police by Vox Day (Castalia House)
- The Story of Moira Greyland by Moira Greyland (askthebigot.com)
BEST GRAPHIC STORY
- The Sandman: Overture written by Neil Gaiman, art by J.H. Williams III (Vertigo)
- The Divine written by Boaz Lavie, art by Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka (First Second)
- Erin Dies Alone written by Grey Carter, art by Cory Rydell (dyingalone.net)
- Full Frontal Nerdity by Aaron Williams (ffn.nodwick.com)
- Invisible Republic Vol 1 written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman, art by Gabriel Hardman (Image Comics)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM
- The Martian screenplay by Drew Goddard, directed by Ridley Scott (Scott Free Productions; Kinberg Genre; TSG Entertainment; 20th Century Fox)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron written and directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
- Ex Machina written and directed by Alex Garland (Film4; DNA Films; Universal Pictures)
- Mad Max: Fury Road written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nico Lathouris, directed by George Miller (Village Roadshow Pictures; Kennedy Miller Mitchell; RatPac-Dune Entertainment; Warner Bros. Pictures)
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens written by Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt, directed by J.J. Abrams (Lucasfilm Ltd.; Bad Robot Productions; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM
- Jessica Jones: “AKA Smile” written by Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg, and Jamie King, directed by Michael Rymer (Marvel Television; ABC Studios; Tall Girls Productions; Netflix)
- Doctor Who: “Heaven Sent” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay (BBC Television)
- Grimm: “Headache” written by Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt, directed by Jim Kouf (Universal Television; GK Productions; Hazy Mills Productions; Open 4 Business Productions; NBCUniversal Television Distribution)
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: “The Cutie Map” Parts 1 and 2 written by Scott Sonneborn, M.A. Larson, and Meghan McCarthy, directed by Jayson Thiessen and Jim Miller (DHX Media / Vancouver; Hasbro Studios)
- Supernatural: “Just My Imagination” written by Jenny Klein, directed by Richard Speight Jr. (Kripke Enterprises; Wonderland Sound and Vision; Warner Bros. Television)
BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM
- Ellen Datlow
- John Joseph Adams
- Neil Clarke
- Jerry Pournelle
- Sheila Williams
BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM
- Sheila E. Gilbert
- Vox Day
- Liz Gorinsky
- Jim Minz
- Toni Weisskopf
BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST
- Abigail Larson
- Lars Brad Andersen
- Larry Elmore
- Michal Karcz
- Larry Rostant
- Uncanny Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky
- Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
- Daily Science Fiction edited by Michele-Lee Barasso and Jonathan Laden
- Sci Phi Journal edited by Jason Rennie
- Strange Horizons edited by Catherine Krahe, Julia Rios, A. J. Odasso, Vanessa Rose Phin, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and the Strange Horizons staff
- File 770 edited by Mike Glyer
- Castalia House Blog edited by Jeffro Johnson
- Lady Business edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan
- Superversive SF edited by Jason Rennie
- Tangent Online edited by Dave Truesdale
- No Award
- 8-4 Play, Mark MacDonald, John Ricciardi, Hiroko Minamoto, and Justin Epperson
- Cane and Rinse, Cane and Rinse
- HelloGreedo, HelloGreedo
- The Rageaholic, RazörFist
- Tales to Terrify, Stephen Kilpatrick
BEST FAN WRITER
- Mike Glyer
- Douglas Ernst
- Morgan Holmes
- Jeffro Johnson
- Shamus Young
BEST FAN ARTIST
- Steve Stiles
- Matthew Callahan
- Christian Quinot
THE JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2014 or 2015, sponsored by Dell Magazines. (Not a Hugo Award, but administered along with the Hugo Awards.)
- Andy Weir *
- Pierce Brown *
- Sebastien de Castell *
- Brian Niemeier
- Alyssa Wong *
* Finalists in their second year of eligibility.
Guess what I did this morning? I dropped the first episode in a groundbreaking, snow-enriched, super-powered, science fiction novel. UP SLOPE is exclusively available to subscribers of my Patreon. Which means if you’d like to get your overheated meat sticks on this chilly summer read you’ll need to pop on over and subscribe. It’s not difficult, it’s not expensive. Your dollar will buy me a little creative freedom and you’ll be amply rewarded for your 100 pennies.