Jesse Petersen is the author of the Living With the Dead series (Married With Zombies, Flip This Zombie, Eat Slay Love, The Zombie Whisperer) and an upcoming monster series which begins April 29 with Club Monstrosity. She lives in Tucson with her awesome husband and two cats.

Why Death (or Living Death) Is So Damn Funny

First off, a big thanks to the SF Signal for having me here today. Especially since I’m guessing I write a little different kind of urban fantasy than what most people who are gurus here do. See, I write about zombies and monsters. Okay, that’s not the different part.

Let’s try this again. I love zombies, but I came to zombies (and monsters) a lot later in life than maybe other people did. As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to watch that kind of stuff mostly because my younger brother kept a sharpened stake behind his door just in case and my Mom was worried if we watched a lot of horror movies, it might prove to be more fatal than we hoped.

But I grew up and married a movie lover and he started to introduce me to a lot of amazing classics, as well as newer takes on the zombie genre. What I found, though, was that I tended to gravitate most strongly toward movies and books that had horror, but also had humor.

It was no surprise then that when I decided to write my own zombie book, I couldn’t help but do my best to make it funny. Oh, and make the main protagonist a girl, which is also a little different from a lot of books in the genre.

It makes me wonder, why do I like my horror/fantasy with humor? And I’ve decided there are two main reasons:

First, death is so awful, we have to laugh at it. I mean, it’s coming for all of us eventually, right? And although most of us will probably die in our sleep at the ripe old age of 102, there are a certain percentage of us that will die in horrible ways, including, possibly, being ripped apart alive by hoards of brain-hungry zombies.

This is not a comforting thought. Zombies represent our worst fears. Death that lingers. Death that takes everyone we love. Death that has no logic with which we can argue. It comes and it keeps coming and it will never stop.

In these situations, there are only a few options of response. One, we can scream about it and go crazy and pull our own fingernails out. Not particularly helpful. Nor is crying in a corner endlessly.

But to laugh about the absurdity of death? That means we’ve conquered it in some way. We look the boogieman in the face and say, “Do your worst!” Maybe it won’t stop what’s about the happen, but it will sure make the wait a lot more bearable.

Secondly, zombies are just funny. Talk about the absurdity of death, how about a creature that can have a leg completely hacked off and it will keep coming? I have written stripper zombies with pasties still clinging to their rotten breasts, grandma zombies in casinos still pulling on the slot machines, zombies in chicken restaurant mascot outfits and one marriage counselor zombie who gets killed by my hero and heroine, only to have her advice used to save their hides AND their relationship.

It’s silly and ridiculous and fun as hell to write. So yes, I will shudder as I watch The Walking Dead. I will check under my bed after I read World War Z. But I’ll also probably always say that my favorite zombie movie is Shaun of the Dead.  And when I write about zombies or monsters or anything else that goes bump in the night, I hope I’ll make my readers giggle even as they ponder whether or not they have a sound escape plan in case of zombie invasion.

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