I'm taking June off to go to Virginia and Disneyworld with the family before Rob deploys, so I'm rerunning some of writing posts I wrote for other blogs.
In the Beginning, there were…
Well, no, that's not quite how it worked. True, I knew I had to make a world with zombies for Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, but before I could bring in zombies, I needed a world to bring them into. When I worldbuild, I try to look at all angles, from the geography to the vegetation, the habits and cultures of its inhabitants, and how it all fits into the story.
Fortunately, Neeta Lyffe was unique to me in that it takes place in our world--Los Angeles--just a couple of decades in the future. So Hollywood (or Hollyweird, as some of my friends called it) happenings, American culture and politics, and international events and history became my template.
Now, enter the zombies.
That, of course, was where the fun began: how would the emergence of zombies affect the world? Being optimistic about the future in general, I didn't want an apocalypse. I think we're too smart a race for that kind of runaway contagion. We'd get smart on zombie combat and prevention, fast. However, being somewhat cynical about human nature when taken en masse, there was a lot of fun to be had in twisting our practices and beliefs in reaction to the rising undead. So I plucked some things from my own experience, and applied them to zombies.
Voter fraud: Now they really can have the dead vote!
Government regulation: The federal government does a great thing by mandating that all dead must have their spine severed before burial, which has cut down the emerging zombie population greatly. However, LA refuses to put money into tearing down a known zombie hot-spot because it's too much trouble and the zombies aren't doing anything at the moment, anyway.
Conspiracy theorists: One expert blames the H1N1 vaccine for causing the pandemic, and the government and pharmaceutical companies are covering it up. (You can read about it in his book.)
Radical Environmentalism: Global warming causes zombie-ism!
Blatant commercialism: "Ms. Lyffe, we want you to be the spokeswoman for our newest line of health drinks--Longevitize." (The photo the lawyer shows her is of her standing knee-deep in zombies and holding a can in her hand. Caption: After the re-kill, Longevitize.)
International wars: Iran invades Afghanistan, and the dead afghan freedom fighters come back to attack them.
And of course, the main idea of the story, Reality TV: Neeta Lyffe trains up apprentice exterminators in Zombie Death Extreme. The contestants have a shot at winning a million dollars--if they survive.
The process itself is pretty intuitive to me. It's just a matter of asking "What if?" and coming to what I think might be a logical (or sometimes, just comical) conclusion. When intuition fails, you can look at similar examples in our history, or draw parallels from mythology or even other stories (but don't just copy--make it your world's.) These ideas work the same whether dealing with a nearly real world, like in Neeta Lyffe, or a completely imaginary one.
Worldbuilding is a lot of fun, and sometimes, it doesn't take a lot to create a new and believable world. Sometimes, all you need to do is toss in a zombie.