Well, I’m still going through a “zombies” phase at the moment (since I finished preparing this year’s Halloween comic shortly before writing this article) – so, for today, I thought that I’d list several of the reasons why Britain is the perfect setting for anything in the zombie genre.
Before I go any further, I should probably point out that I’m British (southern English to be precise). But, you have probably worked that out already from my rather formal writing style. If not, then just imagine this article being read aloud in something that sounds a bit like received pronunciation.
Although there are a fair number of zombie movies, comics, videogames and/or novels set in Britain, America is a much more common setting within the zombie genre. Most of this can be attributed to George Romero’s “Night Of The Living Dead” popularising the genre in the late 1960s and because America is a large and geographically varied country (that can contain frozen wastelands, arid deserts, dense forests, gigantic cities, small towns etc…) which allows it to be something of a “blank canvas” for many types of zombie stories.
Even so, here are a few of the reasons why Britain can be a much more interesting setting for zombie stories than you might think.
1) More suspenseful zombie encounters: One of the reasons why many zombie movies, comics, novels etc… are set in the US is because it’s a lot easier for the characters to plausibly get their hands on large quantites of firearms there. Guns, of course, allow the characters to fight the zombies from a safe distance.
However, if all of your action scenes just involve the characters shooting at unarmed (literally in some cases) zombies from a distance, then there isn’t really much suspense or drama. After all, your characters are at least several metres away from any danger and they have a massive advantage over the zombie hordes.
Britain, of course, is renowned for having some of the world’s strictest firearms laws. Not only does this lead to very low levels of gun-related crime in real life, but it also makes zombie stories/comics/movies set in Britain a lot more dramatic and suspenseful.
Because the characters in a zombie story set in Britain are much less likely to have guns, this usually means that they’ll have to use other weapons to defend themselves against the zombies. In other words, they’ll probably be using close-range weapons which place them in much more danger of being eaten than their American counterparts. This, of course, leads to much more suspenseful and compelling drama than long-distance gunfights do.
2) Claustrophobia: Although it doesn’t really seem that tiny to me, Britain is a fairly small country in global terms. It is also absolutely miniscule when compared to the vast expanse of the United States.
The best defence against zombies is, quite simply, distance. Unless the zombies are modern-style “fast” zombies (ironically, these were actually invented in Britain), most zombies tend to shamble along at a fairly slow pace and can only attack the characters when they are literally right next to them. So, running away from the zombies or setting up a zombie-proof fortress in a remote area is a lot easier in a large country.
However, if your zombie story or comic is set in a smaller country (like Britain), then there are fewer places for your characters to find sanctuary.
Yes, they might be able to reach hospitals, shopping centres or military bases slightly more easily on foot, but their chances of running into lots of zombies on the way there are significantly higher (especially when population density is taken into account). So, your zombie story or comic will automatically be more dramatic if you set it in Britain.
3) Culture and comedy: Although there have been zombie stories set in pretty much every part of the world, most of the major tropes of the genre come from America. Some of these can be applied to other settings, but many are America-specific.
Applying America-specific zombie tropes to zombie stories set in other countries can, of course, be a great source of comedy and/or horror. Having the characters thunder across the country in a large RV may seem dramatic in America – but, it’s British equivalent (the humble campervan) is probably more likely to provoke laughter and/or suspense.
In addition to this, culture can affect the entire atmosphere of your zombie story and/or comic. Culture affects how your characters see the world and how they react to the events around them. It can also affect subtle details within your zombie story too.
If you set your zombie story within a culture that appears slightly less often in the zombie genre, then this will make your characters slightly less predictable – although it may or may not require additional research in order to write well.
As usual, I hope that this was useful 🙂