I have a special holiday tradition. Each year around Halloween, I creep up on the Kindle Store, and take a peek at just how many ebooks have zombies in their title. And lately, zombies have started turning up in Kindle games! Last year I even asked in this blog, Are zombies taking over the Kindle? (“If you haven’t been paying attention, you may not have noticed the rising zombie invasion…”)
Amazingly, in September of 2011, there were 1,992 Kindle ebooks with the word “zombie” in their title. But by that Halloween, there were 277 more. And this year? The number of zombie titles has doubled again in less than a year. There are now 4,874 different ebooks in the Kindle Store with zombies in their title.
And there’s also several “Halloween” versions of some popular Kindle games. (As the author of a Kindle word game, it’s really fun for me to see game developers taking their established Kindle titles, and then updating them with special holiday editions.) For example, the makers of Slingo have come up with “Poker of the Dead” — which combines the challenges of the classic “Texas Hold ‘Em” card game with…zombies! It’s a seven-day tournament (with 10 hands per day), with a dramatic backstory adding the complication of an onslaught by the living dead. But fortunately, according to the game’s description, your zombie opponents “have no brains, never fold, and will always call your bet.” The phrase “winner takes all” gets a whole new meaning, but if you defeat all these poker-playing zombies, you’ll live to fight another day.
There’s also a spooky version of the Sudoku-like logic puzzle, Futoshiki. “Futoshiki Halloween Edition takes an eerie twist as witches and zombies take over in a graveyard game board,” warned the game’s page in the Kindle store. There’s a dangerous-looking tree in the background of the game board, and the top of the screen even includes the silhouette of a witch. But somehow, the stark contrast on the Kindle’s black-and-white screen seems to fit the holiday perfectly.
There’s also a zombie-themed text adventure called “Choice of the Zombies”, plus a Halloween version of the game Blossom. This has always been one of my personal favorite Kindle games, and it’s fun to see it getting a holiday makeover. In the original version, you’d rotate squares in a grid to connect a network of pipes to make some flowers blossom. But in the Halloween edition, those restful flowers have been replaced by jack-o-lanterns — and instead of a watering can, they’re connecting to a black witch’s cauldron!
And believe it or not, there’s now even a Halloween version of Mahjong Solitaire. “This game is so fun it’s scary!” reads its description in the Kindle Store, which promises to complement its 13 different layouts with two special Halloween tile sets. Their pictures include pumpkins, tombstones, and even something that looks like a smirking ghost. It usually costs $3.99, but today it’s on sale for just 99 cents. If you like Mahjong Solitaire, this looks like a fun novelty.
But zombies still keep stalking their into the Kindle Store, and it’s been a very strange journey. Last year one of the top 100 free ebooks in the Kindle Store was something called Super Zombie Juice Mega Bomb. But the real message may be that each Halloween, there’s more and more self-published authors who are writing zombie fiction. Even the Library of Congress only has 601 books with the word “zombie” in their title (up from 523 in 2011). Oh my god, run everybody — Amazon’s Kindle store now has eight times as many zombies!!!
They’re not real zombies, but it does suggest the Kindle store’s amateur authors are especially attracted to the zombie genre. Or are they? Sometimes it’s hard to tell the amateurs from the pros. Take a peek at the new titles, and you’ll be startled at just how many zombie ebooks there are. Don’t look now, but the living dead could be shambling up to your Kindle!
Here’s some of the stranger ebooks.
To be fair, “Texas Biker Zombies From Outer Space” is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, “intentionally designed to give the reader an interactive experience using the advantages over print that E-Books allow.” And Zombie Spaceship Wasteland was written by actor/comedian Patton Oswalt, using the horror movie monsters as a metaphor in a collection of essays “vividly evoking his zombie-like co-worker,” according to Booklist‘s review. Even 71-year-old literary author Joyce Carol Oates — twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize — named her 2009 novel Zombie (P.S.) It’s about a serial killer — named Zombie — who keeps a diary as he pursues his victims.
But yeah, most of the titles in the Kindle Store aren’t as ambitious.
I can understand why some of these books aren’t in the Library of Congress. (It’s probably more surprising that there’s any zombie books in the Library of Congress.) But to explore the popularity of stories about the shambling undead, I asked my friend Thomas Roche, a professional writer for more than 15 years, who’s just published his first novel about zombies. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten a quote back.
I think zombies may have actually eaten his brains.
Or maybe he’s just busy reading all the ebooks he’s competing with…
That last book is actually the newest book in R. L. Stine’s popular “Goosebumps” series of scary stories for younger readers (which have sold more than 350 million copies. I used its colorful cover at the top of this blog post. It’s easy to laugh at the titles, but they may have tapped into a storyline with some primal universal appeal. Some authors have enjoyed wild success by re-creating our darkest nightmares, and maybe that’s the ultimate irony.
It’s not that the zombies are attracted to our brains. It’s that our brains are attracted to zombies!
There’s even zombie Christmas books, believe it or not, including A Zombie Christmas Carol and A Christmas Carol of the Living Dead: a zombie holiday tale. (Plus A Zombie Christmas and “A Christmas Wish: A Zombie Tale for the Holidays.”) If you think that’s confusing, try reading The Christmas Zombie: The story of why zombies celebrate Christmas. And if you’re just looking for holiday cheer, there’s It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies (Christmas carols “composed specifically for…the decomposing).”
Some authors have also tried their hand at creating zombie books for other holidays. (Like Dangerous Hunts: A Zombie Father’s Day Tale.”) And A Very Zombie Holiday even follows a zombie father as he attempts to celebrate every holiday with his living family. If you’re after a classic bedtime story, there’s Snow White and the Seven Dead Dwarves: A Zombie Fairy Tale.” And for educational purposes, there’s also something called Zombie Ed Counts To Twenty, and its sequel, Zombie Ed Loves Halloween. (“Text-to-speech enabled… Finally! A zombie book for children! “)
And — uh-oh. Here comes another wave of more strange zombie ebooks…
I’m not sure what to make of an ebook called James Joyce and the Zombie Priest, though it’s attracted at least one positive review on its web page at Amazon. (“If there is a better zombie version of Araby by James Joyce, it would be news to me!”) This trend probably all started when real-world bookstores started seeing big sales of a 2009 parody novel called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (crediting Jane Austen as a co-author). It rose to #3 on the New York Times best-seller list, according to Wikipedia, apparently spawning a new generation of even stranger zombie novels — and zombie ebooks. There’s even a Garrison Keillor parody called The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten that’s attributed to an author named Harrison Geillor. (“The humor in this parody lies in the simple truth that even a zombie bear with a hatchet in its head won’t faze a Minnesotan,” writes Publisher’s Weekly.)
And there’s zombie parodies of other books — like Zombies of Oz (and The Terrible Zombie of Oz). There’s also The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim and Wuthering Heights and a Werewolf…and a Zombie Too.” Someone’s even written zombie versions of two Sherlock Holmes stories, a book of zombie fairy tales, and a zombie version of The War of the Worlds (“plus Blood, Guts, and Zombies”). And if you liked Great Expectations, you might try Pip and the Zombies, by Charles Dickens and Louis Skipper.
In the two years since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the concept has apparently festered its way into a full-fledged literary movement. I was surprised to see a book titled simply Zombies for Zombies — until I realized it was a parody of the “For Dummies” book (receiving thirteen 5-star reviews). There’s also The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Zombies, which strangely is not a parody, but an official title in the “Idiot’s Guide” series, which traces the origin of zombie stories with chapters about books, movies, and comic books. But just when it couldn’t get any creepier, I discovered that there’s even some zombie books that are actually about personal investing.
Zombie Economics: A Guide to Personal Finance
How to Prosper During the Coming Zombie Apocalypse
Workplace Of The Living Dead: What Zombies Can Teach Leaders About Engaging Employees
Zombie Project Management
And there’s also some zombie history books. (Which, honestly, throws some doubt over their historical accuracy.)
A Zombie’s History of the United States
A Tale of Zombies in Czarist Russia
A Tale of Zombies in the Old West
Everything My Grandmother Taught Me about Killing Zombies
The Eagle has Re-Animated
Pappy’s Old Time Zombie Radio Show
Zombies Take Manhattan
There’s something strangely inspiring about the sheer number of books that have ultimately been inspired about zombies. It’s nice to see this massive outpouring of new creativity, as people all around the globe start wondering what’s going to happen in their imaginary zombie scenario. In fact, zombies are turning up in a surprising variety of different kinds of books. Though some authors even seem to think that maybe the lonely zombies just need a friend…
Maybe they were also inspired by the success of the Twilight series of books about a vampire’s teenaged romance. (One ebook author has even written Vampire Among the Zombies.) But I had to laugh when I saw an ebook titled “Where are the Zombies?”
Dude, you’re not paying attention. They’re everywhere!