By John Powers
Look at the movies that we see all the time. It’s easy to imagine the end of the world – an asteroid destroying all of life and so on – but we cannot imagine the end of capitalism.
— Slavoj Zizek at Occupy Wall Street

I have never considered myself a "zombie guy." Horror isn't my thing, gore bums me out, torture porn isn't my kind of porn. But because of the flood of zombie films over the past 10 years, inertia has been enough to make me into a reluctant expert on the subject – which is not to say that I'm an actual expert, just that I know a lot more about zombies than I ever intended.

Recently, I flipped from passive consumption – "There's nothing else on"; "It was a long flight"; "Everyone else wanted to watch it"; "It was on Netflix!"; etc. – to being an active consumer. I read Colson Whitehead's 2011 novel Zone One a couple of years ago and just finished Max Brooks's 2006 oral history World War Z. So while I still don't consider myself a zombie guy, I can no longer pretend to be a zombie naif. ("Brains?")

More than anything else, these novels convinced me that my time has been well spent, because through them I realized that the political meaning of zombies has shifted from something pat and trite to something more complex. Zombies have become the way we imagine radical revolutionary change. More surprising, the zombie apocalypse is as close as we have come in the past 30-odd years to producing a convincing utopian vision for the future that grows out of our present circumstances. It's important, however, to begin with what zombies used to mean.