Today I’m responding to Piper Bayard’s Firelands Reader/Blogger Challenge (which celebrates the debut of her post-apocalyptic novel Firelands -more on that below), because I can’t resist an opportunity to win a can of Tactical Bacon.
Of course, Piper’s Survival Kit includes a lot of other handy tools for surviving The End of the World, but it was the bacon that did it for me. 😉
So I started thinking about various ways the world could end: meteor, nuclear, mutant virus, climate change…and zombies. Being the Jane Austen fan that I am, thinking of zombies naturally led me to think of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith. I’m sure Austen was spinning in her grave when that came out in 2009.
Here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia explanation of the novel:
The story follows the plot of Pride and Prejudice, but places the novel in an alternative universe version of Regency-era England where zombies (and indeed skunks and chipmunks) roam the English countryside. Described as the “stricken”, “sorry stricken”, “undead”, “unmentionables”, or just “zombies”, the deceased ancestors of England are generally viewed by the characters as a troublesome, albeit deadly, nuisance. Their presence alters the original plot of the story in both subtle and significant ways: Messages between houses are sometimes lost when the couriers are captured and eaten; characters openly discuss and judge the zombie-fighting abilities of others; women weigh the pros and cons of carrying a musket (it provides safety but is considered “unladylike”).
Sounds fun, right? Let us suppose that the “stricken” have invaded the 19th century world of Dangerous and Unseemly. The campus of 1890s Hartford Women’s College would be a natural first target for zombies: after all, zombies like brains, right? Well, these studious and proper ladies have brains a-plenty. (More than those Harvard fellows up the road, I might add).
The zombies just made a big-time mistake.
After the requisite number of exclamatory drat!s, mercy!s, and bother!s, the women get to work marshalling their resources.
Better hurry, ladies – the fate of the civilized world is in your hands.
Weapon #1: the parasol
Every young woman of breeding carries a parasol when outdoors. While lovely and often frilled at the edges (see cover above for an example), it can do much more than just protect her complexion. For the purposes of the zombie apocalypse, it serves as a double weapon. The pointy end can be honed to razor-sharpness for stabbing the undead; the handle end is already quite weighty and durable, and should stand up to a slew of zombie-conking.
Weapon #2: the prose of Bulwer-Lytton
Should some of the “stricken” be resistant to the power of the parasol, the young college ladies and their professors can resort to a more extreme weapon: the novels of Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton. As Bulwer-Lytton himself once put it, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” I can imagine the scene now, as a score or more of the student body, each with a heavy tome of Bulwer-Lytton’s book The Last Days of Pompeii, stand on a platform above the undead horde, and proclaim a passage such as this:
With a shriek of wrath, and wo, and despairing resistance, Arbaces awoke – his hair on end – his brow bathed in dew – his eyes glazed and staring – his mighty frame quivering as an infant’s – beneath the agony of that dream. He woke – he collected himself – he blessed the gods whom he disbelieved, that he was in a dream! – he turned his eyes from side to side – he saw the dawning light break through his small but lofty window – he was in the Precincts of Day – he rejoiced – he smiled; his eyes fell, and opposite to him he beheld the ghastly features, the lifeless eye, the livid lip – of the hag of Vesuvius!
The effect upon the zombies can take two forms: assuming they still have stomachs, they would immediately regurgitate its contents; otherwise, they will pass out in a deep sleep.
This weapon requires care on the part of the user, however, because the wielder is at risk of succumbing to the same queasy/soporific effect. Fortunately, these college girls are sufficiently immune after putting in countless hours with tedious literature assignments.
Weapon #3: the corset, bustle, and full-length skirt combo
Being proper young women, the ladies would not want to engage in the messy business of chopping the undead into harmless bits. That would not do. So, once the “stricken” have been temporarily incapacitated in one form or another as described above, the ladies raid their armoires for the most confining corsets, bustles, and full-length heavy skirts they can find.
You thought zombies moved slowly and shuffled awkwardly before? Imagine them trying to walk – or even get themselves back up to a standing position – with a whalebone corset that gives them 18″ waists and contorts their torsos into an “S” shape, thrusting their rear ends out at an awkward angle behind them. They aren’t going anywhere.
Then the ladies of Hartford Women’s College can call in the Zombie Disposal Brigade. They don’t mind if the men take the credit.
**NOTE: for those unfamiliar with the novel Dangerous and Unseemly, this cozy historical mystery has no zombies. The scenario in this post is for the purposes of Piper Bayard’s contest.
But, if you’re intrigued by the actual world of Dangerous and Unseemly (sans zombies), there are clickable buttons along the right-hand column, where you can buy it from your vendor of choice!
But back to Piper. I’d like to share the blurb from her post-apocalyptic novel, Firelands:
Eighty years in the future, America has devolved into a totalitarian theocracy. The ruling Josephites clone the only seeds that grow in the post-apocalyptic climate, allowing their Prophet to control who eats, who starves, and who dies in the ritual fires that atone society.
Subsisting on the fringes, Archer risks violation and death each day as she scours the forest for game to feed her people. When a Josephite refugee seeks sanctuary in her home, Archer is driven to chance a desperate gamble. A gamble that will bring down the Prophet and deliver seeds and freedom, or end in a fiery death for herself and for everyone she loves.
Seeds are life . . . Seeds are power . . . Seeds are the only hope of a despairing people. What will Archer do for the seeds of freedom, and what will she justify in their name?
Have you tried Tactical Bacon? What apocalypse do you think is most likely? How do you think the Victorians would have handled a zombie attack? I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time,