The Dreaded Spoilers

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We’ve all had it happen. A new movie comes out, and some ass-crumpet posts a pivotal detail on social media before you have a chance to see it. A TV series airs in another country or time zone before it airs in yours, and though you promised to stay off Facebook, you pop in for “just a minute” and discover a favorite character is dead.

Wails, anguish, threats of swift and blinding retribution.

But there’s another kind of spoiler, one some viewers actually seek out. Let’s skip movies for now, since I rarely watch movies, though I did watch Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri yesterday. (Spoiler alert: There are billboards. Three of them. Outside Ebbing, Missouri.)

Television episodes are provided to select reviewers before the episode airs, and some of them work with fandom sites to reveal key information before it is broadcast. They can’t just post them anywhere, though, or the network will quickly figure out who it is, and their early-review days are over.

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One such group is The Spoiling Dead Fans, though they got a lot of heat from AMC, and now the spoilers are shared in a closed group, TSDF Army. Around Wednesday or Thursday before the Sunday US premiere of an episode, a Q&A covering key story developments appears, and lots of people read them.

I do.

The Spoiling Dead Fans has over 450,000 likes on Facebook. The closed TSDF Army group has over 40,000 members.

Why would anyone want to know what happens before an episode? For me, it’s a combination of anxiety and immediate gratification. I admit, I do sometimes skip the spoilers for a huge episode like a season premiere or finale, but I usually read the spoilers for The Walking Dead. I’m a highly anxious person, and I’ll get so worked up with the anticipation and tension that I can’t enjoy the program itself. I’m also very Veruca Salt, and “I want it now.” No waiting. I want to know, so just tell me, already. If I know, I can mentally prepare myself for anything disturbing, or pay closer attention as the revelation of something exciting approaches.

There have been exceptions. I didn’t read about the season finale as we awaited who would Negan bash in the head…and regretted it. I’d heard rumors of a possible cliffhanger, but refused to believe they’d do that to fans. And they did. And I was furious. There’s nothing worse for an immediate-gratification person than having to wait six months for an answer. I still hate Scott Gimple. So. Much.

There have also been a few times even TSDF Army declined to post a spoiler. Most notably was when Chandler Riggs himself contacted them and asked them not to reveal Carl’s impending death. Because he asked politely and respectfully, and was humble and mature about it, they agreed.

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Right now, their source has decided not to provide spoilers for the upcoming final two episodes of the current season. This is his or her prerogative, and we don’t have any right to complain. We’re not entitled to spoilers. There are rumors out there, but very little of it can be confirmed. So I’m going into tonight’s episode with not much concrete information. I kind of hate it, but I understand.

How do you feel about spoilers, either the right-after-it-airs kind, or the pre-broadcast ones? And after a movie or episode is out there, how long is the appropriate time to refrain from posting spoilers on social media? I mean, it’s not realistic to keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself for months, just because someone is waiting for a movie to hit Amazon, or because someone is a season behind in binge-watching The Walking Dead. I think a week, maybe two, is fair. If seeing the movie or series isn’t your priority, you have to accept the risk.

As for tonight, I very strongly suspect one particular death. I have some good hunches about a few other developments. But I’m going in with a lot less information than I typically have, and there’s only one thing I can say about that…

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Apocalyptic Creativity

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As readers and writers of post-apocalyptic fiction, we’re all preparing for the inevitable. For some, this means, “I should probably consider buying some bottled water and maybe a flamethrower.” For others, it’s more like, “I have an underground bunker in the woods behind my house crammed full of toilet paper and fifty-pound bags of rice, and I don’t even like rice.”

We all know what we should stockpile. The obvious supplies include food, water, weapons, ammunition, medical supplies, tools, things to make fire (nobody wants to be chilly during the apocalypse, and raw snake tastes terrible), fuel, and coffee—because if the apocalypse starts before ten a.m., I’m going to be at a serious disadvantage.

Everybody knows about that stuff. Which means when some moron decides to hide the fact they’ve been bitten, turns, and eats everyone in their hideout, there’s bound to be a good bit of those obvious survival supplies there for the taking. So I think we should consider the less obvious, but very useful, items we should have on hand to make our zombie apocalypse experience more “hey, this isn’t as bad as I thought it would be” and a lot less “oh, shit, I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be able to see my own intestines.”

To compile this list, I did extensive scientific research, by which I mean I posted about it on Facebook. In no particular order…

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Underpants: This is a no-brainer. Nobody likes dirty underwear, and once you turn your only pair inside out, unless an unexpected lull in the fleeing and head-chopping allows you free time to do laundry, you have a problem. And considering the number of times you’re going to walk around a corner and end up screaming, “Aaaahhhh, zombie herd, and I left my flamethrower in my other purse!” you can assume there will be a lot of soiled undies. You’re going to need plenty of spares.

Icy Hot: What with all the machete-swinging, running away, and climbing ladders because zombies don’t understand how ladders work, you can bet there will be a lot of sore muscles. It’s also possible the unspeakable Icy Hot stench will mask your Juicy Human smell. But if it turns out Icy Hot is like barbecue sauce or bacon gravy to zombies, you’re totally screwed. Further research might be required, though I suspect test subjects will be hard to find.

Note: Under no circumstances should the Icy Hot be used in any proximity to the underpants (see above) unless the whiner in your group really needs to be taught a lesson. It’s also an acceptable consequence for the guy who asks everyone you encounter, “You been bit?” because the zombie apocalypse is no excuse for sloppy grammar.

A Golf Umbrella: Sure, they’re big and bulky, and when a major downpour occurs they’re always in the back seat of the car you didn’t drive that day, but they could be very Umbrella_zombiehandy. Not only would a golf umbrella keep the rain off, it provides shade if your apocalyptic adventure is happening where it’s hot and lacking in leafy trees. You can use the pointy end to stab a zombie in the eye-hole (Pro-tip: Close umbrella first), and should the guy next to you suddenly erupt in a fountain of blood and chunks of innards, you can use the umbrella to shield yourself from the gore as you run away. Hey, he was pretty much dead already; you couldn’t have saved him. The zombie apocalypse is no time for sentimentality.

A Small, Light-Powered Calculator: Life in the apocalypse is essenially one giant story problem, and who has time to sit down and scratch out math problems in the dirt with a stick? Maybe some of you can do math in your head, but I find numbers way too slippery, and possibly evil. When we encounter a swarm, I want to be able to quickly calculate how many zombies each member of my group needs to kill. Why? Because if someone isn’t doing their fair share of zombie extermination, I need to know who to trip the next time we’re forced to make a run for it. It’s called “survival,” people. Don’t judge. Also, it’s important to know how to equally divide seven cans of creamed corn among eleven people, because you know someone’s going to cheat.

Several Whoopee Cushions and/or Cans of Spring-Loaded Snakes: It has been pointed out to me that the zombie apocalypse can be a bit grim and depressing, and everyone could benefit from some laughter. Except me. I hate practical jokes, and I’ll stab you in the neck with a rusty spork, which would make me laugh, but you probably wouldn’t appreciate it.

Disclaimer: They say laughter is the best medicine, but I don’t think that works with zombie bites, so you should probably cut off your hand if you’re bitten, just to be safe. Or, you know, whatever body part is affected. Unless it’s your head. That seems counterproductive.

A Bouncy Castle: This is tangentially related to the items above. No, you can’t be expected to pack a bouncy castle, let alone inflate it, but ever since the second episode of Fear the Walking Dead in which the featured family was peeking through the blinds at the neighbor’s kids playing in a bouncy castle while someone with a distinctly zombie-like appearance approached, I’ve wanted to see a bouncy castle full of kid-sized zombies. I mean, how awesome would that be?

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Bonus points if it’s a zombie themed bouncy castle!

I was woefully disappointed, so if you do encounter a bouncy castle, fill it with tiny-human zombies if it doesn’t already contain some, because that is an opportunity that must not be missed. And if you have a cell phone with any battery left, take a damned picture, because when someone re-invents the internet—possibly Al Gore’s grandson—I absolutely need to see that shit.

Car Air Fresheners (But not the pine tree kind. I hate those.): Despite the abundance of clean undies, assuming you took my advice, bathing is going to be a relatively infrequent thing. Everybody knows from years of research (watching campy horror movies), the instant you take off your clothes, whether to bathe or have slutty teenage sex, that’s when the bad stuff happens, so most people won’t often take that risk. You need these air fresheners—I suggest something like “ocean breeze,” personally—to mask the funky aroma of your travel-mates as you continue your endless search for a safe place to hide out.

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What would zombie air freshener smell like? Do we really want to know?

Yellow Pages (assuming you can find any, because everybody just Googles stuff now): An alert aficionado made this suggestion, and it has a lot of merit, as long as you’re not in a major metropolitan area where phone books are six inches thick and weigh forty-three pounds.

First, you can strap them to your forearms as makeshift armor. Studies show the majority of zombie bites occur on the hands and forearms. I might have made up these studies, but I stand by their validity. Also, if you failed to find someone who got eaten before they used up all their stockpiled toilet paper, pages from the phone book could be a substitute. Perhaps best of all, you’ll have a handy guide to the location of all the liquor stores sporting goods stores.

There are several intriguing variations, as well. If you enjoy, for example, crossword puzzle books, you have a source of entertainment on those rare zombie-free evenings. For younger survivors, consider coloring books (don’t forget the crayons!) or connect-the-dots books, but be sure you get small-sized ones or they’ll be too big to strap to their kid-sized arms. I hear some of you shouting, “Sudoku!” but I’m ignoring you. From what I understand, those puzzles involve numbers, and I’ve already told you how I feel about math.

This list is just the beginning. Be creative! Look around you and imagine how ordinary items, things you’d never think would be essential to your post-apocalyptic survival—possibly with amusing side effects. What would you include in your Z-Day supply stash? I’m going to go look in my junk drawer and that weird box in the hall closet and see what other useful things I can find.

PS: As you see in the header, I wrote a couple of zombie books. If you’re interested, you can find them HERE.

Honor…and Hope

WARNING. Contains spoilers of The Walking Dead season 8 mid-season premiere. If you haven’t seen the episode, steer clear.

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Unless you’re seasons behind in watching and have also miraculously not seen any mention on social media of the season 8 mid-season finale a couple of months ago, you knew this was coming. There were those who held onto the thin thread of hope that it was all another elaborate plot by TWD producers to mislead viewers, but I never believed it.

I knew Carl was going to die.

I wasn’t really upset about his impending death. Carl was never one of my favorite characters, and I’ve hated that damned sheriff’s hat since about season 3. I figured it would be sad, sure, but didn’t expect to get too worked up about it.

And then I spent half the episode ugly-crying. Where did that come from?

While Carl was never my favorite character, I do understand and respect his place in the TWD universe. We now have only three of the Atlanta originals left–Rick, Carol, and Daryl. He was Rick’s prime motivation to fight, survive, and try to build something in the post-apocalyptic world. He was the vulnerable little boy everyone watched grow into a competent young man. The death of the kid they thought would make it, who matured into a true survivor, is going to rock everyone’s foundations.

My apathy toward Carl is in contrast to how I feel about Chandler Riggs. He’s a well-spoken, intelligent, charming, talented, humble guy, and I’m going to miss him. I’m sure he has great things ahead of him, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. And thank goodness, he finally got a big-boy haircut.

A few random thoughts about the episode…

Everyone on my live chat sort of fell apart in the first five minutes when Carl was having his “last normal moments” in Alexandria. He was writing goodbye notes, making blue hand prints on the porch of their house and taking Instamatic selfies with little Judith, and turning his face to the sun and smiling, knowing he’d never feel the sunlight again.

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It was kind of brutally beautiful.

Down in the tunnels, where Carl guided everyone to hide out from Negan’s goons, there were final interactions with those close to him, and we learned Siddiq was a doctor, or at least a resident, meaning Carl brought someone of immense value to the group, at the cost of his own life. Daryl indicates all the people gathered there, and reminds Carl they’re all there, safe and alive, because of him, then goes to take Judith to safety.

But that bleeping hat. I hate that hat. I’d hoped for a ceremonial hat-burning, but my hopes went unfulfilled. He gave the stupid thing to Judith. Please, please, don’t let me have to watch six seasons of little blonde Judith bopping around and dodging walkers while wearing that ridiculous hat.

Each time the episode cut back to a Carl scene, he looked worse. The makeup was amazing, and I was shocked to see him look so…diseased.

Some viewers are angry that his ultimate demise took place off screen, but I think it was appropriate. I really didn’t want to see his skull explode, a la Beth at Grady Memorial. He chose his exit, and I’m fine with it. The whole thing was devastating enough for Rick and Michonne, who had to go back in and remove his body for burial. They didn’t need to witness it.

Also, Michonne was a better apocalypse-mom than Lori ever was.

The message Carl was determined to pass on to Rick before he died was the one thing everyone needs most at this time in their apocalyptic journey. Hope. Hope that they can still build something meaningful in this new reality without completely losing themselves to the darkness. No, it’s not realistic for Rick–or anyone–to go back to his season 1 mantra, “We don’t kill the living,” but Carl wants to remind him it’s okay to show mercy sometimes. To fight for your people, but retain some humanity.

Even though at times in earlier seasons it appeared Carl was “going to the dark side,” at the end, he expressed the guilt and remorse he felt, even now, for shooting that kid who was surrendering to him and Hershel in the woods outside the prison.

So, reluctantly, we bid farewell to Carl Grimes. But another development has me wondering if perhaps there’s a new little-boy badass in the making…Henry.

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Fun note, though most dedicated fans already know…Henry is played by Macsen Lintz, the little brother of Madison Lintz, who portrayed Sophia in seasons 1 and 2.

What do you think? Did you react to Carl’s death the way you expected? How is this void in their lives going to affect your favorite characters?

All I know is…I can’t wait until next week. I hope we’ll find out what’s going on with Enid and the Oceanside gang after she accidentally shot Grandma in the mid-season finale.

Grammar Apocalypse

I have a couple of zombie-related posts planned for this week, in honor of the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead. I’ll discuss my thoughts on the episode tomorrow, I think, since it doesn’t air in the UK until tonight, and it will be full of spoilers.

One small detail that irks the living crap out of me, though, is a common grammar error that’s pervasive in the genre. I can’t help it; I’m an editor. Words are literally my business.

Basic conjugation of “bite” is simple.zombie

Present tense = bite. Zombies bite tasty, slow-moving humans.

Past tense = bit. The zombie bit him on the ass when he tried to crawl under the fence.

Past participle = bitten. Jeb was bitten an hour ago, so it’s too late to cut off his arm to save him. The loud-mouthed idiot got bitten yesterday, and Frank happily shot him in the face. He’d been bitten by a zombie weasel, which was kind of funny. It had bitten him six times before Horace killed it with a lawn dart.

Apparently, past participles do not survive the zombie plague, because nobody uses them. “You been bit?” “I got bit.” “He was bit.” I understand The Walking Dead originated in the rural southeastern United States, and that phrasing is a casual dialect that is accepted in the area. I know it, but I still cringe. Because it’s wrong. Just…wrong.

The rapidly-declining use of proper grammar in our society might be a sign of an impending apocalypse. People so commonly say “he got bit” that it’s accepted, and most people don’t even realize it’s incorrect.

Because of this, even though it goes against every nit-picky bone in my editorial brain, I have to leave it that way in dialogue when I’m editing. That (sadly) is how people talk, so I have to swallow the bitter bile of poor grammar and move on. I still insist on “he was bitten” in narrative, though.

While I have to pick my battles, I refuse to completely surrender.

The Return of Dead Sundays

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I love The Walking Dead.

Yeah, I said it.

If you spend any time on social media, you see people post they stopped watching after (insert heartbreaking death here) or because (pick a generalized complaint about plot or character development).

The zombie apocalypse was a favorite genre for me even before TWD. I’ve been an avid reader of Joshua Guess, Kate L. Mary, Chris Philbrook, and Samie Sands, to name a few, and I even wrote two zombie books myself.

We’re coming up on the second half of season 8 on February 25, and you’d better believe I’ll be watching. I’ll be hosting a live chat on my private Facebook group, Lori’s Dead Talk, and if you want to join us, send me a Facebook message so I can add you.

Have there been episodes or story arcs that have been “meh?” Sure. This will happen in any long-running show. I adore Supernatural, but there have been times I’ve been less engaged. But I ride it out, and sooner or later, it comes back around to the core of the show I love.

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Season 8B promises to be crushing. We have the death-in-progress to see through, and this is one of those “I stopped watching after…” points for some fans. Not for me, really, as this has never been one of my favorite characters. It also deviates wildly from the comics, which devoted comic fans sometimes have issues with.

But who’d want to watch if every episode followed the comics faithfully? No surprises there. There are characters alive in 8B who died long ago in the graphic novels, some died early on in the show but are still alive in the comics. And we have characters, including fan-favorite Daryl Dixon, who don’t even exist in the comic world. Keeps things interesting.

I enjoy the progression from simply trying to avoid death-by-walker for one more day to building societies and battling the real menace…other people. It’s realistic. When the apocalypse arrives, this is how it will play out. Walkers are unspeakably dangerous, but they don’t plan or strategize, they don’t have hidden agendas, they aren’t capable of betrayal, they don’t want more power. They’re mindless eating machines, and once you know how things work and learn how to survive in that reality, you have a much better shot against them than any one human who wants what you have or bears a deadly grudge.

People are the real monsters, and let’s face it…the show would’ve become tedious long ago if all anyone ever did was run from walkers or bash them in the head.

There are characters I love. There are characters I hate. There are characters I love to hate or hate to love. And having met many of the cast members at Walker Stalker Atlanta, I universally love the actors who portray the characters in the TWD universe. Seriously, I did not have one negative experience the entire three-day weekend.

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I’m counting down the hours to 9:00 p.m. next Sunday, to watching the tide shift and trying to anticipate how events will impact those who remain. I can’t wait to live chat with my TWD-fan friends, letting the snark fly, sharing the anguish and the victories, and someone can always fill in the blanks for me if I miss a detail.

Do you watch? Do you watch live or on DVR…or wait for it to hit Netflix? Have you ever been to a viewing party? A convention? Have any good memorabilia?

I’ll be there! Or, more accurately, here, on my couch, with my trusty machete under the end table within easy reach. Because you can never be too careful.