Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Manual

When I first saw Zombie Nation in the grocery store, my first thought was "This looks like 'Guns & Ammo' for the Zombie Apocalypse set." It turns out that I was right. (It has the same publisher.) It's basically a zombie magazine for the firearms and survival fan. While it winks and nods at the whole zombie craze without taking it literally, it's basically - but not exclusively - a gun-culture, survival and self-defense magazine with an overarching zombie theme. The magazine bills itself as having three basic target demographics: end-of-civilization "preppers" (formerly known as survivalists), zombie fans and firearms enthusiasts; and it's intended to not only cater to all three, but to let them learn from each other and encourage a certain detente in the Culture Wars between them via a shared interest. (Many people who have come to zombie fandom from comics and games are younger and more to the political Left than the preppers and gun owners, and the suspicion and contempt that they have for each other can run deep.)

With it's tripartite demographic in mind, the second issue of Zombie Nation (the first came out last year) serves up a batch of articles that cover a number of different topics. For the most part the writers all avoid breaking character, although in a piece on this year's crop of zombie-themed movies, the authors feel the need to remind us that they don't actually believe in zombies. Some of the advertisers also get in on the act, with varying degrees of enthusiasm and success. (There's one gunmaker's ad with the stereotypical blonde model in a push-up bra and skimpy "camo" outfit that rates a solid "meh," while another gunmaker's ad, while missing the zombie theme, earns a chuckle for it's implication that they are the go-to guys if you ever need to bring down a unicorn with one shot.)

American firearms culture has often been described as Barbie dolls for grown men, and that's certainly in evidence here. Despite having heard of the gun-owner's passion for accessorizing their weapons, I was unprepared for the approximately 12 kajillion modifications, add-ons and accessories that can be had for the venerable AR-15/M-16 (assault) rifle (apparently the number 1 longarm of the Zombie Apocalypse), any number of which are available in the official color of the "Zom-Poc," day-glo neon green. But since man does not survive doomsday on guns alone, a wide variety of other gear earns mentions - one article even advises on the best brand of baby carrier to have handy for toting Junior through a zombie-infested wilderness.

Unless you're an active "doomsday prepper" or competition shooter, there's not a lot of information in the magazine that you're likely to put into actual use anytime soon. But it's an excellent source for writers, gamers and other people who are indulging a desire to create their own zombie outbreak. Because the articles are written from the perspective of survivalists and gun owners, it's a good first step for researching the sorts of things that these types imagine they would do in the event of a real outbreak of the hungry dead, which is always handy. Ultimately though, it's just fun. It takes itself seriously enough to be informative, but not enough so that it seems deluded. So if you see one, you may want to check it out.

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