Gilligan’s Island and the Zombie Apocalypse

WINTER OF ZOMBIE 2014Winter of Zombie 2014

I am happy to once again be participating in a zombie blog tour. Today I have Bobby Adair guest blogging. He has several books out and his newest release THE LAST SURVIVORS sounds pretty amazing. You can learn more about Bobby on his Amazon author page!The Last Survivors cover

The stench of frozen rotted meat is in the air! Welcome to the Winter of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, with 10 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of November.

Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser… and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them!

Gilligan’s Island and the Zombie Apocalypse

Bobby Adair

Because I’m just that old, when I was a kid I used to watch Gilligan’s Island once a week on our three-channel-getting black and white tiny-ass television. For those of you too young to know (or don’t get Nick at Night in your cable package), the premise of the show was basically seven castaways get stranded on a deserted island and want to get off. So the underlying struggle throughout the series was that of getting off the island and getting back to civilization. Think of the Tom Hanks movie, Castaway, only produced in thirty minute segments with lots of stupid humor and a sultry redhead.

Come to think of it, that might be the source of the fixation I had with hot redheads throughout my younger years. Hmm…

The inherent problem with the Gilligan’s Island concept was the single overarching problem: The castaways had to get off the island. But the writers had to find a way to keep the story interesting and plausible while still leaving the characters unable to solve that problem, because to solve that problem ends the story. On Gilligan’s Island, they dealt with the problem by simply putting the characters in ridiculous situations each week and writing slapstick jokes to fit. Of course the story lost its plausibility battle along the way. The seven castaways built huts and all manner of scientific equipment for the professor and luxuries for the rich Howells but were somehow unable to repair the hole in their boat. Hmm.

Plausibility is an easily forgivable and even invisible problem for a silly sitcom. So, no biggie.

In the realm of post apocalyptic fiction, very much like the central problem that faced Gilligan, survivors of the zombie plague are almost invariably driven to find a sanctuary from the zombies and the plague. In World War Z (the movie) Brad Pitt’s family wound up in Nova Scotia or some such place. In I Am Legend, the girl and the kid found their way to Vermont (or one of those little New England states—in the original book, Robert Neville died). In 28 Days Later, Jim and Monneypenny follow the radio advert to an unpleasant place but end up on Scotland (I guess). The bottom line is the zombie story always ends when sanctuary is found.

The problem for zombie stories is how to keep that journey toward sanctuary interesting without making it seem like an unattainable carrot on a stick. After all, nobody wants to read a book or watch a movie about a guy on a treadmill.

I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead but I’m going to use them as an example here and maybe wank on them a little bit.

I liked the first season of The Walking Dead a lot. It set up the story nicely and ended with an interesting twist. Season two nearly lost me. It devolved quickly into a rambling soap opera with a few walkers thrown in. And when I say soap opera I mean a story where only interpersonal problems are at play, who loves who, who got who pregnant, who is jealous of whom. Those are important aspects of any story—after all stories have to be about people—but when the context and external stimuli are taken off the stage—in this case zombies—then all that is left are the soap opera aspects of the story. Those kinds of stories don’t interest me. Fortunately, The Walking Dead recovered nicely in season three and we got to see how the characters grew and reacted in a new and complex post apocalyptic world. I was interested again.

For writers of zombie series stories, the act of stretching out that search for sanctuary kind of thins out what situations are left for our characters to live through. Of course there is the unending search for food and effective weapons but even that gets old after a while. Going back to The Walking Dead, they’ve utilized the device of letting the characters find sanctuary only to take it away from them again when it turns out not to sanctuary at all. That’s interesting and fun for now but even recycling that plot line will get old after a while.

Being the writer of a successful zombie series myself and contemplating wrapping it up at the end of book six, I have to ask myself—aside from allowing my characters to find sanctuary, or just killing them all off—is there a way to keep the story alive and interesting in a way that remains plausible and doesn’t devolve into soap opera trivialities?

I don’t know the answer to that question but I do know that Gilligan’s Island ran for 99 episodes. Maybe I need to watch a few dozen episodes and find inspiration to give my readers some more interesting zombie story lines before I wrap up Slow Burn.

Bobby Adair

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