Writing about the undead gives insight into the living

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During the interviewing process for the editor’s position for this newspaper, I was asked if I had any hobbies outside of journalistic writing.

I made the mistake of answering truthfully.

Thankfully, I got the job, despite admitting that, for the past nine months, I have been working on an interactive zombie blog.

Now, before the general populous condemns me for what may seem like ridiculous fictional pursuits, consider that most of us, at least once, has wondered, “What would I do in a zombie apocalypse?”

During the interviewing process for the editor’s position for this newspaper, I was asked if I had any hobbies outside of journalistic writing.

I made the mistake of answering truthfully.

Thankfully, I got the job, despite admitting that, for the past nine months, I have been working on an interactive zombie blog.

Now, before the general populous condemns me for what may seem like ridiculous fictional pursuits, consider that most of us, at least once, has wondered, “What would I do in a zombie apocalypse?”

The question, a many-faceted look at survival, is akin to “How would I get off the Titanic?” or “What would I do on a deserted island?”

If you have not at least thought about what weapon you would use to defend yourself or where you would go to survive the first few weeks of a zombie apocalypse, you are already woefully unprepared. Get your act together, folks!

I have been pretty zombie obsessed for a few years, actually. Not because I think there will ever really be an end times scenario where we might have to face the undead, but because I’d rather not run the risk of being wrong.

Also, I may have watched too many The Walking Dead episodes.

The point is, most of my friends know me as the person who has the zombie apocalypse planned down to the escape vehicle. Someone literally gave me a zombie survival guide just to help put my mind at ease – it had the opposite effect, actually, because it introduced me to a number of situations that had not previously entered my consciousness.

Do zombies hunt? Can they climb trees or ladders? Can they swim?

That was what really got me. Can zombies swim?

When you are asking yourself if zombies can swim, you know that you have reached new lows of paranoia.

I needed a place to channel all of my zombie angst, and I needed a new outlet to stretch my creative muscles. Like an athlete cross-training through dance for the balance and core power, sometimes, as a journalist, I have to delve into fiction writing to further sharpen my non-fiction pencils.

So, like any good millennial, I started a blog.

I reached out to friends on Facebook, inviting them to nominate themselves for a place in my story and the outpouring was immense. Several dozen friends and acquaintances, out of either genuine enthusiasm or insatiable curiosity, volunteered to be a part of the journey that is now several months underway.

The story began in my home in South Bay, San Diego and the team has trekked all the way out to East County, picking up new team members and losing others along the road.

It has been an interesting social experiment, not just in dealing with sticky zombie situations, but in dealing with sticky human situations.

End times or no, humans are pretty much always going to be the same. We will always be motivated by fear or strengthened by love, guided by hope and compassion or driven by cowardice.

I have taken literary license with a few of my friends, turning them into villains and heroes that may not resemble who they are in real life. With every chapter I publish, the feedback comes pouring in from friends now personally invested in the storyline because they are in it. They agonize over the course of their characters, asking me whether they become good or bad, whether they live or die.

Even in fiction, the two great end goals of humanity are to live and to be good.

But the fictionalization of my friends is never as straightforward as they would like. I revel in the gray characters. How reflective they are of real humans, none of us truly good and few of us wholly bad.

My obsession with zombies has brought me back to the doorstep of an older passion: people.

Everything I have done in life, from traveling to teaching to working in a diner to serving as editor at this newspaper, has been made wonderful because of the people I have met.

In all their layers of gray, laced with potential for great good, tendered with the ever present temptation to fall into evil, and kept aright by the other people surrounding them, humans will always be the fascination of this universe. They are the central thread of every story, the color in every photograph, the very image of God.

So the real question should not be, “how do we prepare for the zombie apocalypse?” but rather, “how do we prepare for life?”

How do we train ourselves to be the best teammates to those around us? How do we set ourselves up to succeed, not for our survival alone, but for the survival of those around us as well? How do we build up our communities right now? Where are the dangers, the opportunities, the ways forward?

I do not need a blog to track that. I have a newspaper.

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