“When the Zombies Win” — Karina Sumner-Smith

Karina Sumner-Smith is the author of several stories, including “An End to All Things,” which was a finalist for the Nebula Award. Her work has appeared in the magazines Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Flytrap, Challenging Destiny, Fantasy Magazine, and Strange Horizons. Anthology appearances include Children of Magic, Mythspring, Jabberwocky 3, Summoned to Destiny, Ages of Wonder, and Why I Hate Aliens. Sumner-Smith is a graduate of the Clarion Writers Workshop and works part-time as a bookseller at Bakka-Phoenix Books, Toronto’s science fiction and fantasy bookstore. She says she is currently battling a novel.

The ending of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is pessimistic about human nature but seems optimistic about the chances of human survival in the face of a zombie pandemic. After all, come morning, we see squads of militiamen rounding up zombies and consigning them to bonfires. However, in the sequel, Dawn of the Dead, we are presented with the reality that the zombie plague cannot be contained and will continue to expand exponentially and irreversibly, and by the time Day of the Dead rolls around the world is completely dominated by zombies and only a few clusters of survivors remain.

The final outcome seems inevitable. Sumner-Smith writes, “In a discussion about the apocalypse, I joked that someone should write a story set after everyone has been eaten or turned into zombies. What would the zombies eat? What would they do when there’s no one left to infect? Once I’d considered the consequences, a total zombie apocalypse seemed not horrific, nor comedic, but tragic. It’s not just that everyone has died, but that we have died and yet continue to stumble through the ruins of our world with no way to understand or acknowledge what’s happened, or mourn the loss of everything we once were.”