Academic journal article Irish Gothic Journal

Economics of the Undead: Zombies, Vampires and the Dismal Science

Academic journal article Irish Gothic Journal

Economics of the Undead: Zombies, Vampires and the Dismal Science

Article excerpt

Glen Whitman and James Dow (eds), Economics of the Undead: Zombies, Vampires and the Dismal Science (Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014)

If there were to be an overarching theme to Economics of the Undead: Zombies, Vampires and the Dismal Science, it would probably be this: that the devil (or undead monster) you know is better than the devil you don't. Perhaps, the collection of essays suggests, it is time that we stop fearing the vampire and zombie for being unknown quantities, and embrace them on the one level where we can be equals: that of the market floor. For, as editors Glen Whitman and James Dow write in their introduction, '[i]f both parties get something valuable from [an] exchange - sustenance for the vampires, illicit thrills for the humans - then in theory, the monetary payments could go either way' (p. ix). In other words, if we meet the undead on a more even playing field, perhaps we won't have to keep running.

Basing their assertions on evidence provided by vampires and zombies from popular culture as disparate as Stephanie Meyer's Twilight saga (2005-08) and George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968), the economists and literary theorists featured in Economics of the Undead explore the real-world implications of the behaviours of the undead, thus providing the reader with ways in which to benefit from their dalliances with the reanimated. Examples include improving vampire-hunting skills and farming zombies for profit. In the same vein as Max Brooks's seminal instruction manual, The Zombie Survival Guide (2003), the undead menace is discussed here in a completely deadpan manner throughout. 'When I was a kid', writes Dow, 'vampires didn't sparkle. Mostly they lived in earth-filled coffins and skulked around dank cellars, drinking human blood when they could and rat blood when they couldn't' (p. 77). Despite such disparaging remarks, essays are included on all topics relating to life with the re-animated: no issue is too big or too small.

On the more personal side there is 'Human Girls and Vampire Boys', in which Whitman outlines the optimum strategy to woo and win a paranormal beau by extrapolating from human-vampire relationships such as Bella and Edward of Twilight fame. Somewhat more practically, Michael E. O'Hara's 'Zombies as an Invasive Species: A Resource Economics Perspective' suggests ways in which zombies could be employed for the economic advantages of the still-living, including 'maintaining zombie hunting as a sustainable recreational sport' (p. 168). Matters of property law in The Walking Dead (2010- present) are raised in Brian Hollar's legally inclined essay 'Post-Apocalyptic Law: What Would the Reasonable Man Do in a World Gone Mad?' Indeed, the chapters all prove to be both as informative and entertaining as their titles are imaginative, and open up for the reader innovative new ways of considering the undead. 'Is there anyone', Eleanor Brown and Robert Prag speculate, 'who, possessed of zombification insurance, would analogously seek a zombie encounter?' (p. 94). 'How did the vampires get so rich', Dow asks, 'and more importantly, what lessons can human investors learn from them?' (p. 77). These are heady questions indeed, and ones that have remained unanswered for too long. The answers are frequently interesting (stage-four cancer patients, for example, might be tempted to seek a zombie encounter if insured, it is suggested) while not always necessarily practical (should human investors wish to follow the vampire example, a good starting point, we are told, would be immortality).

One potential criticism that could be levelled at the collection is that it relies too heavily on certain case studies to support its arguments. …

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