Thursday, November 10, 2011

Types of Zombie and the related strategies

I have been thinking about various strategies that would violate the Zombie appocalyse concept. (Which for all the deep ethical dilemas and fun post appocalyptic narratives can also be a useful analogy for many disaster planning scenarios)  I think it all comes down to the nature of the Zombies.

If you look at some of the recent zombie flicks there are quite distinct species. 

21 days has the so called "Rage" virus.  The sufferes get infected and go apeshit on everyone else.  The key points are the same, they are "Unstoppable", mindlessly focused and fast.  They have good sight and hearing and display cunning and intelligence.

Contrast this with the Zombie plague in "The Walking Dead". The "Walkers" are generally slow and mostly brainless. Some display rudamentary problem solving (which I think is out of character), some display basic tool use, but generally they are just slow, methodical and persistent with a hunger for man flesh. 

So whats the difference?  Well in scenario one, they tend to move in packs and as I mentioned above, are fast.  The best strategy for this kind of problem neghbour is then something that can deal with fast but direct assults. This would be something like a rabbit run.  Put out someone to be bait... run them into a safe spot and lead the Zombies into a trap that they do not have the capacity to avoid.  Cattle race, mine field, crusher etc. 

In the second scenario ( even though they act out of character every so often) the Zombies are generally slow and uncoordinated.  Simply attract them with noise and motion, confine them and then pick them off with a mechanical system like a crusher or blade.  The biggest problem is to dispose of the mess safley.

The point is that in both cases the problem is very predictable.  A fairly rigid strategy can be developed, with some backups to deal with scaling problems (such as when you get the "over run" scenario. ) simply retreat to safe vehicles, drive around the block until the Zombies disperse then return to the trap and keep on working. Fairly straight forward. This turns the Zombies into a nusance more than a plague.

The origional Day of the Triffids is an interesting variation in that there are multiple layers to the disaster, first in the mass blinding event, then the collapse of the social systems, then the escape of the triffids, then finally plague amoung the survivors.  While this added more dimension to the narrative, the actual triffids themselves were fairly straight forward Zombies.  Flessh eating, creeps up when the camera is not looking, etc.  But again they were quite predictable.  They are a preditor that is not fast, so it works from ambush.  But they are attracted to sound again.  In the book they even talk about building sound based traps and destroying large groups of triffids. The problem is that as the triffids are plants, they can seed a huge population and replenish their numbers.  This sets them apart from the more regular Zombie model where a person has to "turn".  This adds to the horror dimension of the betrayal and the fear but also acts as a limiting factor on the possible population of Zombies.

Especially the rate at which the population of Zombies in an area can "recover" if they are destroyed.  Once all the "easy" victims have been turned to Zombie and then destroyed, there are only the luck and "wise" that remain to replenish the population. They are more dispersed, harder to "turn" and much faster to destroy any turned members of their parties, so the rate of replenishment of your average Zombie hord is probably fairly minimal.  Essentially, as long as the Zombies actually break down and physcially collapse, you would expect the average Zombie plage to barely exceed a month.  Especially the speed at which the flies would go to work.  The only chance of a good Zombie hord getting going would be in th colder months in Austalia as the flies would get in and strip the corpses in a matter of days.  The Zombies would physically fall to bits before they had a chance to travel far or "turn" too many others.

In colder countries the Zombies would probably last longer... but they would still have a high failure rate just through wear and tear.

Anyway, the point being that a fixed plague with known transmission method and carriers can be dealt with. Usually the biggest problem is the "people factors" in the narratives where people are not willing to "do what has to be done" and get over run.  I think this is mostly for dramatic purpose, as evidence from many of the recent disasters illustates that people generally are pretty fast to "do what needs to be done".  Its more a question of consequences. In a severe weather situation, they know that the day after will probably bring law enforcement... so some of the more anti-social choices that some narratives suggest are still not attactive.  

As always, the key is speed of adaption, surviving the event itself is just chance, but adapting to the new environment after the event is usually about "the quick and the dead".  Observe, test, adapt, survive.

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