Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

A term rarely found in fantasy, though often in Horror and Supernatural Fiction. A zombie is a dead person who has been stimulated or reanimated into a kind of undead existence, almost invariably by means of Voodoo ritual. A zombie – in its traditional manifestation – is a powerful, mute, slavelike being which does not seem to suffer pain. Zombies are difficult to make interesting in prose – Walking Dead (1977) by Peter Dickinson being a notable exception – but are vividly present in countless Zombie Movies. To fill its pages, The Mammoth Book of Zombies (anth 1993) ed Stephen Jones extends the term to cover Revenants. The threat of zombification can be a useful Plot Device, as in Dennis Wheatley's Strange Conflict (1941); such fear of Debasement is exploited in Barbara Hambly's The Ladies of Mandrigyn (1984), whose zombie-like "nuuwa" are humans whose brains have been partially eaten. Novels with Technofantasy rationales for zombies include Lucius Shepard's Green Eyes (1984), where the reanimation involves not only graveyard earth but tailored bacteria, and Mark Frost's The List of 7 (1993). Revisionist-Fantasy zombies generally follow Shepard's in having intelligence and volition, thus raising civil-rights issues; examples include Piers Anthony's Xanth (where zombies are usually but not necessarily mentally impaired, owing to brain decay) and Terry Pratchett's Discworld – notably Reaper Man (1991) and Witches Abroad (1991). [JC/DRL]

see also: Hugh B Cave.


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.