Zombies, Zombies, Zombies!

Steven Barnes
2 min readMar 8, 2022

WALKING DEAD has announced another spin-off. Now, I stopped watching it back when they killed Tyrese and “T-Dawg.” We’ll leave that alone, but you can probably imagine. But for this and other reasons, I’ve had occasion to think of zombies recently. And as my brain thinks in categories, I thought it fun this morning to consider the varieties. So many different kinds of zombies. Some make sense, some don’t. Let’s see if I can list the most common:

  1. Zombies created by medicine. Traditional “real” zombies seem to be workers with minds partially destroyed by a fish-based toxin. Possibly buried for a while, adding some hypoxia damage. The story is that such people emerge in an easily-hypnotized state, and will follow all orders. Can be killed like any human.
  2. Magical zombies. Supposedly raised from the dead by Voudoun or other magics. Can be killed by various magical and practical means.
  3. Radiation zombies. The “Night of the Living Dead” zombies MIGHT be such things. There are only hints of possibilities. As the Romero zombies are an SF creation, without metaphysical or magical aspects, they are “magic” in the sense that they break the laws of physics. (BTW — this is my explanation for why people seem so “stupid” in Walking Dead, which uses Romero Zombies. The people are faced with a violation of the natural order. THERE IS NO EXPLANATION for this. They are all in a fugue state, mildly insane. And therefore can’t think of simple answers like, oh, moving to an island, multiple redundant REAL fences and enclosures, utilizing natural boundaries like narrow mountain paths, etc. They’re nuts. Head shots.
  4. Disease zombies. Like “28 Days later”. “Fast” zombies. Can be killed by anything that would kill a normal human. These would seem to bite not to “eat” but to spread the infection.
  5. “Devil’s Wake” Barnes-Due style zombies. Not actual zombies, but an alien infestation, a fungus that takes over the nervous system. About 1 out of 1000 is aware and can control the others with pheromones and sounds. Hard to kill, as the consciousness and fuel distribution systems are dispersed, but head shots are pretty reliable. Bite to spread the infection, but if a group of them surround you and each one takes a mouthful, well…
  6. Hybrids. “World War Z” zombies have characteristics of both “disease” and “Romero” type. SEEMS to have originated in a disease, but seem to break those pesky laws of physics. In the novel and accompanying field manual, Author Max Brooks seems to indicate the animation of corpses is due to an organism, something simpler than a planaria, but more complex than an amoeba, that has colonized the bodies and activated basic animal instincts. That would be a biological origin. Again, from clues the motivation would seem to be spreading itself, or the movie’s solution wouldn’t have worked.

What am I missing?



Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes is a NY Times bestselling author, ecstatic husband and father, and holder of black belts in three martial arts. www.lifewritingpodcast.com.