Our Mindless and Our Damned | Monsters | Issues | The Hedgehog Review

Insofar as one denies what is, one is possessed by what is not, the compulsions, the fantasies, the terrors that flock to fill the void.
—Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven

You kill a vampire by driving a stake through its heart; you kill a zombie by shooting it in the brain. Vampires are alluring and zombies are repulsive. Both titillate our fear of cannibalism—but stories about the first have tended to glamorize the view of the predator (the vampire), whereas those about the other most often dwell in the perspective of the prey (a normal human being, pursued by zombies). Both stories call into question the relationship between the ordinary and the extraordinary. The vampire is an exceptional, privileged creature whose gifts are hidden from public view (a creature of superhuman strength and hyperacute senses, in the grip of an inscrutable and painful secret), whereas the zombie is a helpless victim of disease—a zombie story is one in which everyone else has become mindless, rendering the (otherwise average) human protagonists extraordinary. Both myths ultimately concentrate on the question of what it could mean for any ordinary person to become a complete human being, true to oneself and author of one’s own life, where the possibility is measured against the background of a society represented as venal, bored, false, governed by averages, and stale in conformity. The vampire and the zombie—these two are one pair.

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