I’ve encountered 4 categories of zombies this year as a reader. I’ve reviewed at least 31 “Zombie” works in the past year, when before last year I’d only read one zombie thing ever [Pride and Prejudice & Zombies]. If anything, reading that much on one subject has merely proven the subject’s diversity. Not all zombies are created equal, but I would note 4 general types:
1] The Obeah / VooDoo Zombie. These creatures emerge from African and Caribbean myth in which a living human, usually with magic, controls the actions of another human which can be either alive or dead. [Ex: Lee’s “Makak” and Tyler’s “The Comeback”. My favorite: George R. R. Martin’s sci-fi take “Meathouse Man”]
2] The Night-of-the-Living Dead / Walking-Dead Zombie. Re-animated corpses, but not under another’s control. The causes can range from pathogenic to radiation. [Ex: Kirkman’s The Walking Dead and Mecum’s Zombie Haiku. My favorite: David A. Riley’s “Romero’s Children”]
3] The Diseased Human / 28-Days-Later Zombie. These often quickly moving zombies are still living humans whose mental state has been hi-jacked by a virulent disease. [Ex: the movie 28 Days Later. My favorite: Michael Robertson’s The Alpha Plague]
4] The Insomniac Zombie. These poor humans have lost their minds from lack of sleep, which leads to slow descent into madness and violence. [Ex: Calhoun’s Black Moon: a Novel]
Whatever the type, the trope is the same. Zombies are not about the creatures per se, but rather about the breakdown of humanity, society and civility. If one is interested in exploring the depth of zombie-lit, Extreme Zombies, ed. Paula Guran (Prime Books), includes the afore-mentioned short stories by Lee, Tyler, Martin, and Riley along with 21 others.