Most detailed explanation of zombie biology?

What work (in whatever medium) gives the most complete account of the biological basis for the zombie phenomenon contained therein?

I’m not familiar with anything that does anything more than handwave about a virus. Nothing to explain the apparent lack of need for (much) nutrition, the ability to continue operating after having suffered massive injuries, and so on.

Best I could come up with as a possible explanation for something like zombie-ism involved nanotech gone awry–it was supposed to repair tissues, but ended up simultaneously keeping the body intact past biological death, while deactivating most of the brain, or something. Why the angry faces and hunger for flesh? Maybe it just left the aggression centers on. (And oh yeah maybe it keeps the “I’m hungry” centers permanently activated fsr, so the zombified brain comes up with an elegant solution to satisfy its two sole desires–to eat and to kill people.) Why not attacking other zombies? Iunno… the nanotech recognizes and cooperates with the nanotech contained in other bodies or something.

How does it take over a person so quickly? Good question. Seems like it would need to expend massive amounts of energy to so thoroughly infest a body that it could keep it intact and running so effectively.

Anyway, that’d be a start. Any works of fiction go this far or further?

The gold standard has always been “I am Legend” by Richard Matheson. After that, there has been many attempts to explain the supernatural as a disease or technology, but none really went into the same detail.

There’s a chapter devoted to it in The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks which goes into more detail than most accounts. Possibly it’s been eclipsed by other sources since the zombie fad it kicked off.

Well, they aren’t the classic supernatural zombies but the zombies in Tanya Huff’s Blood Pact had a fairly detailed explanation. They were corpses reanimated by cybernetic implants; implanted motors to allow movement and some sort of electronic net over the brain to partially reactivate it and use it to run the body. There were only a few of them as they were illegal scientific experiments and they of course couldn’t spread zombism. They did have occasional impulses aggressive or otherwise left over from their former lives.

Another good one is Niven’s Night on Mispec Moor; the zombies are reanimated by a microorganism that hijacks the dead nervous system and galvanizes the corpse into rising and walking. It’s all a Darwinian strategy to spread itself; the corpses continue until they run out of leftover energy, fall over and then serve as food for the microorganism. The zombies attack in order to create more infected corpses that in turn spread the fungus themselves. It’s light intolerant, which is why the zombies only rise at night. The protagonist stops them with a fast acting universal antibiotic.

That’s the one I was trying to remember; I hadn’t realized it was Niven.

I’ve read very little zombie fiction, so I can offer no help there. However, the question made me think of an interview I heard on NPR some months ago in which a Harvard psychiatrist explained the neurophysiology of the real (that is, the Romero) zombie. It all has to do with messed up frontal lobes, ventromedial hypothalamuses, and amygdalas. I found a link to the transcript at NPR’s website: A Head-Shrinker Studies the Zombie Brain. It might be fun for somebody here to read; I know it was a fun interview to listen to.

Have a nice night. :slight_smile:

Alomal-137 Final Status Report.

I have visions of a rather chubby football commentator/hero stopping the zombie herd while spraying something from a can while yelling “tough acting tanacton!”

It’s the nutrition one which gets me. You could in reality just wait out a zombie infestation because it will burn itself down fast. Within days, the zombie will wither - it’s not going out to drink water, and organs are going to be shutting down.

This is why I prefer magic zombies to techno-zombies. You don’t need to offer all the specifics of a terrible curse, just the rules and be consistent about them.

No slogan, but he was spraying them with stuff from a can.

Yeah, the site was a battlefield (hence the abundance of corpses to reanimate), and all the soldiers were equipped with a basic medical kit. I did like that there was a rational explanation for “healing damages the undead”.

Zombies actually exist and have a real scientific explanation. Of course, the word has come to refer to something so far from its real-world equivalent that it’s probably not worth pointing out. But it seems possible that the OP may not have been aware of this.