“Thin Them Out” — Kim Paffenroth, Julia Sevin & RJ Sevin

Kim Paffenroth is the author of the zombie novels Dying to Live and Dying to Live: Life Sentence. A third volume in the series is due out in Spring 2011. Paffenroth is also the editor of the anthologies History Is Dead and The World Is Dead. A new novel, Valley of the Dead is due to come out around the same time as this anthology.

Julia and R. J. Sevin are the proprietors of Creeping Hemlock Press, which launched its own line of zombie novels this summer with Kealan Patrick Burke’s The Living. Together, they are the editors of the Stoker-nominated anthology Corpse Blossoms, and individually they have each published fiction in Fishnet, Postcards from Hell, War of the Worlds: Frontlines, Cemetery Dance, and the anthology Bits of the Dead.

All of George Romero’s zombie films—Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, etc.—feature at least one character who spends the entire movie being shrill and obnoxious and totally impervious to reason. In Night it’s Harry Cooper, who is crassly possessive of the presumed safety of the cellar. In Day it’s Captain Rhodes, the unreasoningly aggressive military commander.

When author Carrie Ryan—whose story you just read if you’re reading the book in order—saw Night of the Living Dead for the first time, she thought it was stupid: The characters are in so much danger, but rather than working together they spend the whole movie bickering with each other in a pointless way. But then someone explained to her that that was the whole point: Romero was saying that this is what humanity is—that we’re doomed by our inability to just get along with each other even in the face of life-or-death challenges. After that, she completely changed her mind about the movie. “This made the film absolutely brilliant to me,” she said.

In the face of current calamities—global warming, economic collapse, AIDS, overpopulation—to which humanity’s response has been mostly just a lot of pointless political sniping, Romero’s warning seems more pressing than ever, and our next story is another that plays with the idea that interpersonal drama can be an even bigger problem than zombies.