Fast Or Slow? Em Garner Tackles The Great Zombie Debate

If there's one debate that plagues the zombie fiction community it's whether zombies chase down their prey, or shamble around in hopes of grabbing a meal. Today new Young Adult author Em Garner discusses the difference and gives us a look at the zombie-like creatures in her debut novel Contaminated.

While it might seem like zombies recently exploded out of the grave in popularity, they’ve been around for a long time. Haitian or voodoo zombies, corpses reanimated by witchcraft, entered popular culture in the late twenties, while George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead introduce a whole new wave of zombie fiction in the sixties. Throughout the years, zombies have been featured in movies and books in many different forms, but the most important question I’ve always thought it necessary to ask about zombies is this:

Fast or slow?

See, here’s the thing. Fast zombies, like the ones in 28 Days Later, aren’t risen dead but regular people infected with a rage virus that makes them not only super fast and strong, but insane. And fast, did I mention fast? Those suckers will run you down and gobble your brains before you have time to blink, so if your world’s infested with that sort of zombie, you’d better be a track star.

Slow zombies, on the other hand, the shambling, reanimated corpses, are composed of rotting flesh. They might be relentless and nearly impossible to stop without a good old shot to the head, but at some point, they will just fall apart. And even if it’s super disgusting, the fact remains that you can usually outrun something that’s become a bunch of rotten pieces. There are stories in which the zombies, simply don’t rot but for the most part, slow’s the way to go.

In my debut YA novel, Contaminated, the Connies aren’t really zombies at all, even that’s what most people think they are when the contamination begins. Imbued with zombie fiction, the people watching their neighbors, friends, families and strangers explode into rage assume they are some kind of zombies and react appropriately. It’s only after a time that the world figures out the people losing their minds are sick. Not undead, not corpses, not invulnerable.

Eventually, they realize the contaminated are just…people.

The contamination, which creates a disease similar to Mad Cow, is spread through the consumption of a certain batch of diet protein water. It can’t be spread from person to person…but it only takes one drink for the consumer to be infected. Those suffering from the contamination, the ones who’ve been rounded up, have been fitted with shocking collars that prevent them from becoming violent, but also make it nearly impossible for them to take care of themselves.

My heroine, Velvet, has been in charge of her younger sister Opal since the first waves of contamination took her mom and dad. Now she’s found her mom, fitted with a shock collar, and is allowed to take her home. Not only is she responsible for her sister, but now her mother as well.

School, boyfriend, job…Velvet’s world is crumbling all around her in a very personal way, even as the rest of the world is falling apart in the aftermath of the contamination.

Contaminated isn’t about zombies. It’s about people, and what we’ll do to take care of the ones we love. But I hope that zombie fans will give it a try!

- Em Garner

So, which is it for you, fast or slow zombies? Let us know in the comments. You can pick up a copy of Contaminated, available today! And for more teen fiction (of both the paranormal and contemporary variety) check out our Everything Young Adult Page.