Thank You, George Romero
By Dave Lund
As most of you will probably know by now, George Romero, the man who defined the modern zombie, passed away and his legacy simply cannot be understated. If you’re one of the millions and millions of people who enjoy watching The Walking Dead, who enjoy reading zombie apocalypse fiction or have simply experienced the entire zombie phenomenon in the media, then you owe George Romero a thank you. I know I do!
Romero wasn’t the first to define a zombie, or “ghoul,” in popular culture, but he was the one who refined the concept and gave rise to what we know as the modern zombie, living dead, undead, walker, biter, or whatever the creatures are being referred at that moment. Created and filmed on a shoestring budget, Night of The Living Dead changed the landscape of the horror genre and gave birth to the modern zombie film. However, more than just film, that is the moment that the concept of the modern zombie was defined in literary fiction as well. This is all something I’ve only learned in the past decade or so. I didn’t grow up watching horror films or reading horror fiction. As an adult, a skydiver friend turned me onto the zombie apocalypse genre of novels and I found my new literary love. It was after my new adventure of reading many authors in the genre that I finally watched the classic film. Only after watching Romero’s defining movie did the arc of storytelling throughout the entire genre make sense. Romero had nailed it.
Fast forward to a couple of years after I wrote my first novel. I was standing at the Permuted Press tables at Texas Frightmare and I had a chance to say hi to George himself, iconic glasses and all. In that passing moment, I told him thanks for paving the way, and he smiled and was gracious. He didn’t know me from Adam and had no reason to, and even though he understood his revered place in our fictional history, he was still just a guy who really enjoyed creating art that thrilled and chilled. As corny as that sounds, it really did happen, but now that he has left the realm of the living, let us all raise our zombie-killing chainsaws, axes, bats, rifles and knives in honor of the first modern zombie slayer.