Virus World and Zombie Fictions

Viruses

Zombies tend to operate using a rudimentary hive mind. The individual zombies aren’t smart, but the virus’s collective unconscious is – like a kudzu creeping vine or a mold colony – or the Mind Flayer, in Season 2, of Stranger Things. Misidentification of the zombies as simply expired or as having rabies, Ebola, Mad Cow Disease (vCJD), the flu, a cold or some other real disease, commonly happens at the beginning of many stories. One extreme countermeasure, from World War Z, the book, is the nerve gas witch test. If you die from a sarin attack, you were human; if not, you’re obviously a zombie.

Panic and poor governance lead to a zombie dystopia. A zombie can’t feel pain and has no sense of self-preservation – so, it’s definitely a monster. In fiction, there is also the sliding scale of cold temperatures helping or hurting the zombies. The right amount of cold, acts as cryogenesis, and preserves the zombies, allowing them to keep running around, instead of decomposing faster. Too much cold will just freeze a zombie solid.

Minecraft-style zombies run around, on the ocean floor or taiga and tundra areas, where they can’t freeze. Resurfaced zombies or zombies that are about to thaw, remain a threat – mimicking real-life frogs that can be frozen and still be alive, once they are warmed up. You can only be warm and dead, not cold and dead, in medicine. Worldwide disaster creates cursed zones, contaminated by chemical or radioactive waste or overrun by infected zombies. This state of affairs can be further complicated by a nuclear winter or a new ice age.

They break all the rules. Werewolves and vampires and mummies and giant sharks, you have to go look for them. My attitude is if you go looking for them, no sympathy. But zombies come to you. Zombies don’t act like a predator; they act like a virus, and that is the core of my terror. A predator is intelligent by nature and knows not to over-hunt its feeding ground. A virus will just continue to spread, infect and consume, no matter what happens. It’s the mindlessness behind it.

World War Z author, Max Brooks, on why zombies are different

I shall consume…I shall consume everything…

The Majora’s Mask moon

Zombies lack of rational thought makes them more like a force of nature, than an individualized, atomized, intelligent force. They’re more like a hurricane or a flu pandemic, than a wolf or a tiger. Zombies are like the scientific version of ghouls, rakshasa, djinn and daemons. Vampires are like the middle way-point, between god or demigod-like daemon and Fair Folk – and mindless zombies. Zombies rising from the ocean floor or being unfrozen or thawed out, in the colder regions, brings to mind climate change, whether human-made or natural (like in Kingdom).

Rising and plummeting temperatures contribute to the viability and spread of diseases, stymieing some pathogens and allowing others to jump to new environments. The dichotomy: zombies are like a parasitic hive mind, constantly and relentlessly hunting for hosts. Vampires are more like half-infected survivors, holed up in various strongholds or bunkers. Zombies roam the streets aimlessly, until they run into their prey; vampires remain in their castle, unless they’re hunting – in which they are more like a normal predator, with a clearly defined hunting ground (distance decay) – town, graveyard, etc.

Night of the Living Dead (on Earthbound)

The main marker of human behavior is symbolic thought and appropriate grieving. This is why zombies are so unnerving. They present the breakdown of basic humanity – being able to recognize fellow human beings as people – not food and being able to recognize the importance of those who have passed away. When those tenets are violated, you get zombies.

A related fictional species includes mutant mega-espers, whose powers can reach the level of djinn and demigods. They can possess abilities like time travel and controlling the earth’s magnetic poles, the planet’s electromagnetic field. The presentation is usually as a giant, psychic Eldritch monster esper, a god, a mutated, ancient alchemist or a djinn, from the beyond (Watchmen, Lost, Akira, Ghostbusters, Stranger Things, Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Mother series). A Lovecraftian quantum being, from the astral plane, breaks out, into the physical world.

Where such a super-organism falls, on the Other Side spirit being to alien from another quantum dimension continuum, depends on the genre. Expect to see pools of qi life-force power, fired as energy projectiles. X-Men and Stranger Things have many parallels. The X-Men story arc is definitely the saddest, of all superhero arcs – following the dark side of history, from WWII, until the ’90s. Still, it’s an important story to tell. Not all superhero stories get to be happy or funny. X-Men always felt more real to me; I liked Dark Phoenix.

World War Z (on Kingdom)

What I like about Kingdom is that it threads the needle, between zombies and vampirism. That needle is people always looking for ways to reverse or stall aging, including cryogenesis. From alchemy, to Frankenstein, most problems start with some black magic or scientific way to turn back the body’s clock, find immortality or revive the dead. Vampires are notoriously ageless, if not immortal. They seek fresh blood (plasma) to remain young forever and not return back to being dried-up corpses – that turn to dust, in the sun.

Zombies are fictional proof, that all efforts to bring the dead back or artificially extend life, with weird potions or blood sacrifice, almost always end up with the dead coming back as ravenous, rabid cannibals. Hence the quandary of medicine remains the same, as it has been, since ancient times. Unless someone has a leg up, genetically, or otherwise, aging is almost always associated with greater morbidity and mortality. However, efforts to reverse or stop aging or check death, almost never work out as planned.

Addressing aging and extending human lifespans are the next step in human evolution (transhumanism) and improving the standard of living, worldwide. However, for the more exotic practices, reward will never completely eclipse the great risks that are always involved with altering genes and blood proteins. Every good thing must be done in moderation, with the appropriate medical safety measures in place.

Cults

The true virus health crisis is people refusing to vaccinate their kids, in the U.S. – while believing misinformation, like the moon landing is fake and the earth is flat. That’s where an outbreak can come from. Goop is just pandering to those who feel failed by modern healthcare. The show is harmless – except for that one huge sticking point. Science is the ONLY way of knowing. Everything subjective either becomes objective or becomes useless – and falls off by the wayside.

I don’t really care about Goop itself, but it’s not good to tempt people with this way of thinking. That’s how cults get started. Even professional magic is based on optical illusions and someone knowing more about science or how to use science in a way that most people aren’t readily aware of. Evidence-based medical care is the best way to find healing and therapeutic treatment. If you don’t trust Big Pharma, at least read the scientific journals for yourself. You deserve decades of science, not snake oil.

The most vulnerable people – those who feel wronged by modern healthcare – are being recruited to be test dummies and lab rats for potentially dangerous experiments (microdosing, extreme cold shocks), that almost no respectable medical personnel would ever touch. The already vulnerable are being exploited, using their pain as bait, just to test a curiosity. However, I am glad a discussion on the potential harm of pseudoscience was conducted, by the public. I am not against interesting ideas, in fiction – but fictions should be clearly marked as such, not marketed as pretty much peer-reviewed science.

Vampires

It is not correct to describe Dracula as bisexual: “He’s bi-homicidal, it’s not the same thing. He’s killing them, not dating them.

Steven Moffat, the creative juggernaut behind Sherlock, London Spy and Dracula

He posits a key distinction; Dracula may be attracted to both sexes, but he is still a vampire. He doesn’t love, the same way like how humans love. Dracula is not interested in keeping his lovers alive – similar to how a zombie cannot comprehend not eating loved ones who have passed away – or those who are still living, for that matter. It’s fictional vampire and zombie “science.” Dracula leads his lovers to their deaths, by drinking in all of their lifeblood (plasma), through his IV-like teeth. He’s like a supernatural unsub (serial killer). That is how I have always seen vampires as.

The continuum is 1) zombies – hive mind to mindless, 2) werewolves – also ferocious, but are at least as smart as predatory pack animals, to 3) vampires – essentially a human predator, with supernatural or viral-enhanced abilities. That is the supernatural ranking system. Studies of unsubs and forensic and behavioral science show that most unsubs focus on targeting whatever sex their love interest is. For the fictional Dracula, it is both, as Moffat points out.

Aging

The main point, however, isn’t sexuality, but fictional, in-universe “science.” Dracula feeds on the blood of men and women and becomes young and beautiful again. He is an evil “scientist” who has found the fountain – the Holy Grail (Sangreal) – of everlasting youth, the elixir of immortality. Dracula is a parasite that becomes stronger, while his host grows more and more ill, and dies, thus spreading his “disease.” The power is in the blood: antibodies, proteins, genetics, genealogy. The ones who retain the lion’s share of their humanity, have either special antibodies or genes or both. They become the new symbiotic carriers, thus creating a new subspecies.

If Harker revives, he must be Dracula’s “husband” – partially immune, like the vampire’s three already-turned brides. Harker has a horrible experience in Dracula’s torture chamber and runs and tells the nuns about it (Van Helsing, Gabriel). Harker does NOT want to be Dracula’s husband – but vampires can’t kill themselves, so Harker invites Dracula in, to find a cure. The nuns are not as immune as Harker.

Pandemics

Dracula plans a mission to spread his psychic vampire virus to Victorian Era London. He preps an obvious plague ship. Dracula jumps in his time capsule and survives the failure of that plan. Pretty much immortal, like those of his kind, in Interview with the Vampire, Dracula, the original blood virus vessel, emerges about a century and two decades later. Blood acts as a set of genetic memories – a bloodline – like in Assassin’s Creed. Vampirism is the immortality virus. The vampire archetype, fears death – and life – while being balanced, like a pendulum, between both.

This is the current state of zombies and vampires, as fictional phenomena, embodying deeply ingrained human fears and anxieties, about isolation, hyper-connection and infectious disease. The zombie, with its horde and its hive mind, is too connected. The vampire, who fears the ultimate loss of identity – death – stalks around, alone at night or is otherwise holed up in an impenetrable fortress. The vampire spreads its wings at night; it says, ‘I wish to spread my disease.’ – while the human being says, ‘I want my lover (or loved one) to live.’

The Circle, Week 2: Real/Fake

Alex/Adam

I’m still your cuddle toy.

– Alex/Adam

Sammie immediately reads that Alex/Adam’s profile pic looks like it’s straight out of an ad, or a commercial. You have two Adams, with the addition of Bill – so, there’s definitely a fake, or a catfish. Real Adam vs. Catfish Adam. People are on to Alex. Something’s off. He immediately comes up on the catfish radar.

Like I described, last week, you want an unprofessional pic, an unfiltered profile pic – not a glamour shot. ‘Glam glam’ is not approachable. You want a photo that hasn’t been touched up and nothing that seems fake. Too hot is too threatening and intimidating. You want to be unassuming and approachable. No fake positive messages, on your profile page. No tons of hot photos, on the beach. Anyone who says “ladies,” twice in a single message, reads as sleazy and super fake.

Alex/Adam is already taking too long to come up with things to say, as a supposedly hot surfer dude. Being a catfish isn’t really paying off for him, so far. As noted earlier, every time Alex/Adam speaks, he says something ridiculous. Who actually says “romp,” in an actual conversation? “I’ve been told,” is the default sentence prefix for a lie. Mr. Opera is out of his depth. It’s like he’s trying to pretend he’s an old soul, so he sounds forced. Just try incepting the word “romp,” into a chat. Try it.

Artist Alex/Adam’s game is pure wish fulfillment, complete fantasy role playing. On the other hand, an author, or another type of creative person, would be very good at catfishing. It’s about creating a realistic character and the world-building, of a good online RPG, or a high fantasy novel (Lord of the Rings). He should be good at the world-building, of a personality: releasing a little bit of the character, bit, by bit – show, not tell – but, he’s not.

On his own, Alex is dressing more like Adam. But with Shubby, real Alex is coming out, more and more. When role-playing as a catfish, don’t emotionally wall your real self off (re. Alex/Adam). It’s ok for your insecurities to seep through, a little bit, so long as the feeling is genuine. A genuine energy builds a genuine connection. It’s better for a catfish to allow the person underneath to come through, because your real self is obviously more genuine.

Alex/Adam is a strange but fascinating psychic entity, at the center of the real and the signified. Virtual, manufactured entities are both the signified and the signifier. Alex is experiencing his similar characters blending together. The character and the original are inhabiting the same headspace. It’s a metaphysical adventure, out of a philosophical, cyberpunk adventure, like the biggest cultural example, The Matrix – and, of course, Ghost in the Shell.

A side note: when you don’t know how long they’ve been in there, the family visit/video doesn’t connect as much. You have Alex/Adam’s wife, Gina, having to explain who she is, in the video. It’s like Alex/Adam needs a tattoo, just to remember, who he is – just like in the movie Memento.

Shubby

It’s shark season and we’re hunting.

– Sharky Shabomb (Shubby)

Influencer culture is wild: Shubby (Shubham) has HOH-itis. Why is Shubby taking the whole Influencer thing at face value? Doesn’t he think social media is fake? It’s the heel-faced turn of the uninitiated. Shubby doesn’t know he gives off a nerdy vibe – but he’s a virtual media engineer, who doesn’t do social media. Earnest Shubby is the only one who actually does the 50 push-ups. Shubby is not street smart.

How did Shubby get the Liberty Bell answer wrong? Rocky? Shubby is still on this ‘I don’t like social media’ vibe. He doesn’t want to allow himself to like it. How does pool table equal frat? A pool table, in your friend’s basement, doesn’t read as professional. Shubby is so sheltered. Worse, Shubby is so good, he is a threat, that no one can see in the Finals. Shubby gets upset about someone being political, on The Circle – when he’s the youngest person, in the U.S., to run for governor, in California.

But that’s the extent of my criticism: Shubby is likable and non-threatening. He is a two-time influencer and is very trustworthy. Being the one unfiltered person, in a sea of filtered profile pics, is a plus, on The Circle. Be unassuming. Also, cutthroat Shubby is here. Sharks hunt catfish now, apparently. It’s Calculating Shubby; the claws are coming out.

Seaburn/Rebecca

Are you ready to sip on your tea, this morning?

– Seaburn/Rebecca

Spill the tea, get the juice. It’s the morning Kiki, where we spill all the tea. Seaburn/Rebecca isn’t working. ‘Rebecca’ is a caricature, a poorly written female character. Seaburn is also running out of material. Seaburn/Rebecca is Ms. Doutbtfire, but not in a clever way. Of course, there will be many references to Ms. Doubtfire, on a show about catfish. Does Seaburn know anything about his girlfriend?

Then, Seaburn/Rebecca goes on a romantic dinner – between two catfish. This is like a big role-playing game – that’s how the two catfish dating comes across. It’s all very stilted, like a text-based video game. Shubby also thinks Rebecca is so true; Rebecca is a catfish. Imagine if Rebecca/Seaburn came clean, instead of Sean.

Rebecca is so dull, Seaburn can get away with being a catfish. Seaburn is inhabiting his character and exploring his gender identity, as a female catfish. Even by himself, Seaburn is reacting like Rebecca, and not like himself. In this way, he is a successful catfish. Shubby and Rebecca have a good friendship, but Rebecca is a man. However, Rebecca is the only original person, in the alliance, of the original people, who is just an afterthought. She’s the (cat)fish at the bottom of the barrel.

Sean

Sean’s story is about the revelation that builds trustworthiness. ‘I’m truthful about a lie, so I must be trustworthy,’ – like Dr. Will’s big reveal, in Big Brother. When the catfish gives up, on being a catfish – the reveal, to the audience, doesn’t work, because we don’t know Sean’s catfish persona very well, or at all.

Sean’s big reveal would have been more effective, if Sean had come in first, and not later. Her big display, of vulnerability, feels rushed and inauthentic, because Sean just got here. Was the event a predetermined big reveal, or could she just not keep lying anymore?

The real message of The Circle is that no, you can’t be whoever you want, online. It’s actually way harder than you think. Maybe we haven’t had hot model Sean for very long, because she planned to reveal hot plus-sized model Sean, all along. That production would let her add another picture, means that she was planning this reveal, from the get-go.

Why would anyone ever post a bunch of pictures highlighting how hot they are? The quintessential insta model set of photos equals fake, or a catfish/bot. However, the group not wanting to let go of a person that they have experienced such an emotional event with, may lead to them not blocking the reformed, unmasked catfish.

Can Sean break into the Final 5? Will the original people get rid of unmasked catfish Sean? Wouldn’t it have been interesting if Sean was a catfish, of a catfish? In a future season, it might be cool to see a scenario where the supposed real self is just yet another catfish.

In the Loop

Loyalty.

– Boston Rob

Game talk: Double eviction/blocking soon. With the new people versus the original people, it’s like the two original tribes, post merge, acting as a merged tribe, on Survivor. I like adding fresh players. There are no purple (invisible) edits since they are only 8 or 9 people, in the house, at any one time. There are stakes to every elimination and no throwaway characters. However, when the new people don’t read very well, when they don’t click, it may be just too many people added, too quickly. There are too many interesting storylines already. We just can’t spend a lot of time, with the new people.

Bill, a likable person, who you want to have a beer with, just doesn’t pop, halfway through the game. Sometimes being likable isn’t enough. It’s the main cast versus the B cast. You can tell why some people were sent in later, as opposed to being sent in first. Like I said, they were added too late and too fast. The barriers to entry, for caring about the new people, are too high.

The natural instinct is to support the original tribe and keep the original tribe’s numbers strong. It’s hard to fight the natural instinct to keep the original people. Loyalty dog whistles and hidden messages are being disseminated, as the Final 5, original people secret group, that everyone is talking around, appears. The originals want to make sure the new people and old people don’t tie up, when it comes to voting people out. The new people are just cannon fodder, red shirts.

Natural ways to expose catfish are good TV, but may not lend to a good social game. It’s a trade-off. Some original people want to use the catfish, as goats, and meat shields. The flip-side is that it’s actually not that easy to drag someone to the end. The players must consider who is going to get taken for granted, when people start voting tactically – to use a term from The Circle UK. Even one person refusing to vote tactically, in the end, can win someone else the entire game. What are the winner possibilities, if everyone is voting tactically? What is the probability or likelihood of a certain person voting tactically? The winner will be announced on insta.