Werewolves, zombies, and the old fantasies — horrors– pouring into new fiction.
Take a book, put a vampire in it, and it sells.
Or a werewolf. Or a zombie. They are all on the march.
The last Harry Potter film premiered last night in London, with its witches and beasts.
But adult fiction these days is way down the road from tender Harry when it comes to ghouls. Sex and blood and fangs and monstrosity.
What’s it all about? What’s brought the monsters back from the deep and onto the bestseller lists?
We’ve got the author of The Last Werewolf with us this hour. And of Zombie Autopsies.
This hour On Point: Werewolves, zombies and the old monsters pouring into new fiction.
Glen Duncan, author of “The Last Werewolf.” You can find an excerpt of the book here.
Steven Schlozman, author of “The Zombie Autopsies.” He is also a practicing doctor of child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Alexandra Alter, arts and cultural reporter for the Wall Street Journal.
From Tom’s Reading List:
Reviews of “The Last Werewolf”
- The Guardian Observer: “The Last Werewolf returns to the themes investigated in many of Glen Duncan’s previous seven novels: the subjective and nebulous nature of good and evil, the frailty of human morality. In the early chapters the reader is presented with an intellectual exploration of monstrosity, and of how human nature adapts to committing atrocities. It’s an interesting exercise: wolves have been woefully neglected by popular culture of late in favour of vampires and zombies.”
- The Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Duncan, a 45-year-old novelist who lives in South London, invented Jake out of desperation. His previous seven literary novels sold poorly, and his agent said the prospects for selling the next one were bleak. “It was a rather mercenary and practical decision to try to write a straight genre novel,” Mr. Duncan says. What started as a supernatural page-turner became a strange hybrid: a high-concept literary novel, starring a narrator who could perhaps be described as Humbert Humbert with fur.”
Reviews of “The Zombie Autopsies”
- Kirkus Reviews: “A neurodevelopmental biologist with the Centers for Disease Control gets down with the sickness when he’s tasked to investigate the roots of a zombie apocalypse.
Lately in pop culture, coverage of zombies has shifted toward the burlesque with movies like Zombieland and novels like S.G. Browne’s Breathers.“
- Boston Globe: “Harvard Medical School assistant professor of psychiatry Steven Schlozman looked spooky while discussing his book, “The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks From the Apocalypse,’’ at the Harvard Coop this week. Schlozman, a Boston.com contributor, is a zombie expert who’s come up with scientific explanations for the behavior of the walking dead. FYI: If you go to Schlozman’s website, you can learn how to zombie-proof your car.”
This hour, we’ll hear:
- “The Wolfman” The Real Tuesday Weld
- “Me and Mr. Wolf” The Real Tuesday Weld
- “(I Always Kill) The Things I Love” The Real Tuesday Weld
- “The Lupine Waltz” The Real Tuesday Weld
- “Zombie” The Cranberries
- “Hedwig’s Theme” John Williams
- “Werewolves of London” Warren Zevon
Here is a video for “The Last Werewolf.”
Here is a video for “The Zombie Autopsies.”
The Zombie Autopsies
By Steven Schlozman
UNITED NATIONS OUTPOST
Highly Confidential Memo
25 January 2013
The enclosed documents are highly classified. They
are exact replicas of the recently recovered handwritten
notes of Dr. Stanley Blum, the last scientist sent to
the United Nations Sanctuary for the study of ANSD
and “zombie” biology. After careful examination, World
Health Organization and United Nations officials have
reason to believe that these writings may contain groundbreaking
data regarding the nature of the ANSD pathogen.
Furthermore, it is possible that this information
represents both a key to a viable cure, as well as the most
definitive evidence to date that the ANSD virus was
artificially manufactured— human made — and therefore did
not occur naturally. The importance of these potential
conclusions cannot be overstated.
One- third of humanity has perished from the plague.
Two point three billion people have died, and countless
more are quickly moving toward the final stages of disease.
There is reason to believe that in a short time nearly
everyone on Earth will be infected. The virus continues
to spread exponentially, and all attempts at a vaccine or a
cure have failed. Scientific and industrial infrastructure is
rapidly faltering. Early attempts at controlling the spread
of disease via nuclear and non- nuclear incineration have
left the planet in an ecologically fragile state. Current
computer models suggest that civilization can only survive
for approximately another decade before we face total
destruction. These are indeed dire times. The information
in this journal may very well represent our last hope.1
Less than three years ago, the idea that a “zombie
plague” would threaten all of humanity was preposterous.
Indeed, the very nature of this claim prevented
swift and decisive action from the world community.
Nevertheless, “zombie” is arguably the most recognizable
term for those who have been infected with ANSD
and have reached the fourth stage of the disease.
Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome
(ANSD), the internationally accepted diagnostic
term for what is more commonly referred to as zombiism,
continues to spread unabated. While some islands remain
disease free, ANSD is otherwise present on every major
landmass. Most of the governed world is under martial
law. The signs and symptoms of the disease are universally
known, but the disease itself appears both indestructible
In July 2012, the United Nations established a study
site on the island of Bassas da India in the Indian Ocean.
The official charter for this site called for a laboratory setting
where the world community could focus its efforts on
the scientific study of ANSD, including anatomic explorations
of zombies themselves, as well as molecular investigations
of the presumed contagion. This site is formally
known as the United Nations Sanctuary and Study Site
(UNSaSS) but is more commonly referred to at the UN
bunkers as the Crypt. Those who volunteer to participate
in the work on the island understand that a return to the
bunkers is not permitted and scientists started referring to
the site as the Crypt in an effort to acknowledge the blunt
reality of their important and difficult tasks.
On 11 November 2012, the UN received its last
message from the Crypt. The message was a radio transmission,
and, as with most digital communications, the
content was badly garbled due to nuclear interference. It
is important to note that we had not received any e-mail
contact from the island for some time, and the voice message
was received over a little- used commercial satellite
frequency. Voice analysis has suggested with reasonable
certainty that the communication was from Dr. Blanca
Gutierrez, who was at that time the resident microbiologist
on the island. After significant digital analysis, the
message reads as follows:
Status . . . gent. Hype . . . . . . . . new. Diff . . . virus.
Vaccine . . . ble
An international group of scientists, policy makers,
epidemiologists, and ethicists has theorized that Gutierrez
had new information regarding a viable vaccine.
It is unclear whether “hype” refers to “hyper” (a possible
acceleration of disease progression) or, more likely, to the
hypothalamus, a region of the brain oddly not affected
by ANSD infection. The “-ble” suffi x at the end is consistent
with words such as “possible,” “viable,” or, conversely,
“impossible.” We are fairly certain that “gent” is most consistent
with the word “urgent.”
No further communications were received, and
attempts to communicate with the island were unsuccessful.
At that time, UN records show that Gutierrez’s team
included Dr. James Pittman, a Canadian anatomist and
medical illustrator; Dr. Anita Gupta, a leading virologist
from Delhi; as well as three military attachés. There were
also an unspecifi ed number of infected humanoids in the
On 14 November 2012, a team of three individuals was
sent to investigate the Crypt in an attempt to regain contact
with Gutierrez and her colleagues. Dr. Sarah Johnson,
a Scottish neurobiologist and expert in viral brain infections;
Dr. Jose Martinez, the chief forensic pathologist for
the former New York City; and Dr. Stanley Blum,2 a neurodevelopmental
biologist with the United States Centers
for Disease Control (CDC), were selected for the mission.
While Drs. Martinez and Johnson were chosen for their scientific expertise,
Blum’s orders were to record the findings of
the team and to ensure that these findings were reviewed by
scientists in the international ANSD research community.
All three set out in separate automated transport
planes programmed to bypass the security apparatus at
the UNSaSS. Unfortunately, only Dr. Blum arrived safely
on the island. After an automated transmission from Dr.
Blum signaling his arrival, communication with the island
was lost altogether.
At that time, ANSD experts felt the risk of further
exploration of the Crypt was too great. Researchers on the
island were genetically manipulating the virus, and ANSD
experts were consequently reluctant to potentially release
an even more dangerous form of the contagion from the
sterile confines of the study site. However, as already
noted, world conditions continued to rapidly deteriorate.
The decision was therefore made to pursue excavations
of the Crypt with the primary goal of understanding the
final transmission from Gutierrez.
After extensive precautions, the study site was thoroughly
investigated for seven days, 8– 15 January 2013.
Three of the seven surveyors have since died from ANSD,
and the remaining four have all shown signs of progressive
infection. We are grateful for the courage and sacrifice
made by those who conducted the surveillance.
Surveyor 3, Captain Amy McBride of the elite British
Special Boat Service, was among the first to succumb to
Stage IV disease while on the island. As protocol dictated,
she was fatally shot by members of the surveillance team.
Although she had collected only limited data onto her
hard drive, the team failed to search her personal belongings,
presumably in their efforts to quickly sterilize the
body for transportation back to the UN base. She was frozen
in liquid nitrogen and sealed in an automated marine
transport unit. Navigational malfunctions prevented the
remains of Captain McBride from arriving at the docking
station until last week. Upon arrival, the handwritten
laboratory notes of Dr. Stanley Blum were discovered in
Dr. Blum’s writings are presented here in preparation
for tomorrow’s meeting. His journal, as noted, is handwritten,
and he and Dr. Pittman made extensive sketches and
diagrams to document their work. The final pages
of his notebook are frustratingly unclear, and physicians
here speculate that he was traumatized as well as suffering
from the cognitive effects of the treatments used to slow
progression of ANSD toward zombiism.
The standard of care for treatment of ANSD infection
remains an artifi cially induced increase in human pH.
This technique was fi rst described by Blanca Gutierrez
and has been referred to as the Gutierrez protocol. Unfortunately,
the effects of these measures create a number of
signifi cant neurological side effects that ironically mimic
the cognitive decline consistent with full zombie status.
Thus, it is unclear why Blum’s cognitive state appears to
decline throughout his notebook. He was either suffering
from the effects of the Gutierrez protocol or was in fact
slowly moving toward zombie status.
Nevertheless, it is possible that careful examination of
this material will yield crucial answers. Most important,
when Gutierrez left for the Crypt, she was already pursuing
a theory that ANSD spread when it combined with
still- unidentifi ed additional infectious agents. If those
agents could be detected, then there was a much greater
likelihood of creating a viable cure. She therefore intended
to pursue her theory by examination of infected humanoids
while looking for additional pathogens.
These investigations had not yet been pursued by
scientists at the Crypt or anywhere else, and Gutierrez
insisted that she go herself. She felt strongly that investigations
would have to be thorough and that fi ndings from
previous autopsies would need to be selectively discarded.
Her expertise in molecular biology, microbiology, and
vaccine development made her especially well suited for
the position, though her commitment also meant that she
would expire on the island. Thus, her efforts were both
heroic and potentially scientifi cally groundbreaking. She
asked that Dr. Anita Gupta join her as a co-investigator in
this project, given Gupta’s expertise in viral infections of
While Blum’s journal documents Gutierrez’s fate, we
remain somewhat unsure how Blum himself expired. We
are relatively confi dent that the decomposed body in the
infi rmary described by the surveyors was Blum’s. Unfortunately,
digital images of the site obtained by the surveyors
are badly distorted by electromagnetic interference. Computer
reconstruction teams are working to create interpretable
images, but at the current time we have only the
debriefings from the remaining surveyors, and none has
the cognitive capacity to offer reasonable explanations.
The ANSD Working Group has elected to prepare
this written briefi ng in order to maximize the work at
tomorrow’s meeting. Many of their annotations in the following
notebooks will be rudimentary for the scientists
on the panel, but it is important that all who see this
material be able to participate as effectively as possible in
We must not lose hope. One- third of humanity remains.
It is fair to note that tomorrow’s meeting is among the
most important gatherings in human history. If there are
questions, do not hesitate to contact your facilitator.
1. In addition to new material, the following documents contain background
information intended to brief the fourteen new representatives who have
recently arrived at the UN compound. The WHO and the UN regret the
contamination that necessitated the removal of those with Stage IV infection
in last month’s breach. Precautions have been taken to prevent further
infectious incidents. Early identifi cation protocols remain in effect.
2. Many will recall that Dr. Blum was central in the research and diplomatic
endeavors resulting in the seminal paper on ANSD published in
August 2011. Prior to the completion of that manuscript, there was ongoing
debate in the international community about the extent to which scientists
understood or were prepared for the pandemic. Blum’s diplomatic efforts
brought together an international team of ANSD experts, succinctly
described the history of the outbreak, and made clear the need for urgent
attention to the rapidly developing crisis.