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Uncanny Home Invasion Zombie Realism

October 30, 2013

The uncanny valley is in BBC News “Zombie faces: Why are we afraid of them?” by Sean Coughlan:

… a resemblance to a human form was seen as sinister. Mrs Lay’s research is examining this “uncanny valley” effect from a psychological perspective. She describes it as “the sense of unease that accompanies the sight of something almost, but not quite, human”.

Recall uncanny valley from old zombielaw: “Zombies, Robots, Clowns” and other mentions of uncanny zombies.

Meanwhile, Paul Bracamontes was shot dead. He was apparently hallucinating at a party, and “ranting” about zombies, said he wanted a gun, and then somehow turned up at some strangers house, at 3 AM, and that stranger had a gun, and a family to protect, so whey Bracamontes broke in through a glass door, the stranger shot him. See LATimes: “Intruder is fatally shot by homeowner after ranting about zombies” by Adolfo Flores and 9News: “Man ranting about zombies shot dead“. And many more repetitive articles. Despite the many articles, the details are vague. There is of course no toxicology yet, and no names for the homeowner-shooter and his family.

This story is going viral because the “zombie” word is attached and also it seems an exact argument for pro-guns advocates in the gun control debates. This zombie story is uncanny in the way it is almost too simple; hallucinations of zombies make him into a zombie and a man protects his family-home by shooting the zombie.

It claims to be a real human story and yet almost too cliche. Part of that is because it is so oversimplified in presentation. It is packaged news content. In a way, news is always sort of a fiction. Recall Dr. Schlozman’s riff to NYTimes readers this weekend, the line between reality and fiction is blurry.

At the Chronicle of Higher Education: “How to Teach Zombies” by Christopher Gavaler argues against “No More Zombies!” by Adam Brooke Davis. The debate is about whether to allow students to use fictional universes or if that becomes a crutch for bad writing. Davis argued to ban his class from alternative worlds in creative writing class. Gavaler argues:

Davis bemoans the influence of pop culture, believing that all the alt-worlds infecting film, TV, and popular literature have mutated his students into lazy zombies instead of disciplined writers. If so, it’s got nothing to do with “alt-worlding”—all fiction writing is alt-worlding.

Go one step further. All writing is alt-worlding. Even legal writing and court opinions which strive to tell the story of truth are still writing stories. The story above about Paul Bracamontes may be true (and really, I have no way to know right now) but even if it’s 100% true, it’s still just a story, a recreation of the life events. As Gavaler writes:

A work of narrative realism is no closer to being “real” than a story about vampires, superheroes, or anthropomorphic chipmunks. … Does the zombie stumble through its life in all the messy and horrific ways readers recognize from their own lives? If so, the character is “real,” whether zombified or not.

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