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October 7, 2012

Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:43 PM * 81 comments

The chupacabra (Spanish name, literally goat-sucker) was first reported in the mid-1990s. A previously-unknown animal that attacked farmyard animals, at night, with unusual bite patterns, news was first spread from farmer to farmer before it was picked up by the popular press.

Since the sightings were first reported in Latin America, and the news carried by less-credible sources such as supermarket tabloids, the animal was not taken seriously at the beginning.

“We didn’t put a team on the ‘chupacabra’ until 2002,” said Dr. Martin Despatchio of the CDC, in an interview on Larry King Live. “No one believed in it. But, after the anthrax scare in 2001, when we had teams out looking for sources of the anthrax spores that had been used in the attacks, several of them heard independent reports and we figured, ‘What could it hurt to look?’”

The CDC initially didn’t find anything. An animal that was rare at best, that attacked only at night, and didn’t appear to feed in any kind of normal way, would be hard to catch. The investigation was put on a back burner. “With SARS, the flu epidemic, and funding cuts… something had to give way,” Dr. Despatchio said, “And the chupacabra project was what we didn’t do. In retrospect that might have been a poor decision.”

Then, in 2006, a live specimen of a chupacabra was trapped in Texas.

“‘Live’ is a generous way of describing it,” says LCDR Ronald Fortmontain of the US Public Health Service. The PHS took charge of the specimen. “We couldn’t quite place the species at first. Its appearance and behavior were just … weird. Although it had a mammalian body type, its core temperature was ambient. So, we needed to dissect it to make the determination. Which meant killing it. And that was just darned tough to do. The usual methods … carbon monoxide, potassium injection … had no effect. ”

The method that finally worked was shooting it in the brain.

“And that was when things got really weird,” Fortmontain said. “Cytologically, this thing was a coyote. A long dead coyote. But it had been moving and trying to attack. The biowar people had a lot of concern over smallpox, so the first thing we did was rule out smallpox. Then we figured, ‘maybe rabies.’ We did detect a virus, a previously unknown virus. We started playing around with it, using animal tests. And when we started getting the results back, we were wishing it had been smallpox or rabies.”

The virus, code-named “Z,” proved to be rapidly fatal among the test animals, “For some values of ‘fatal,’ says Fortmontain. “Some of the tests of death… no breathing, no heartbeat, no body heat, starting to decay… yes, you’d call it dead. But they were still moving. They were looking at you. They were going for you; you know, attacking. They had a rudimentary intelligence. It was, well, a lot of people were freaked out. And we figured, if we’re this freaked out, what are the civilians going to do when they hear?”

The Public Health Service, the CDC, and researchers at Johns Hopkins, the only ones who knew about Z Virus, had a problem. By then the chupacabra was being reported across most of Latin America and the American south and southwest. “They were pretty much coterminous with the range of the American coyote, and the coyote is everywhere; in cities, in rural New England, everywhere,” says Francine Corizon, public affairs officer for Johns Hopkins. “This was classified at a very high level. Special intelligence, compartmented information, I don’t know what all because I wasn’t cleared to know. Pretty much no one below echelon-one commands had an inkling. The decision to alert the public — we kicked that down the road, waiting for the day when the public couldn’t be kept in the dark any more. That day was coming, because we knew that the Z Virus could cross into the human population. Dr. Ernesto Diaz at the University Hospital of Mexico found that out the hard way. That was when everyone got really … serious about the problem. Coyotes on goats, hey, what’s new. People on people, that would be a bit more difficult to cover up.”

There had, in fact, been a cover-up going on. A number of ingenious theories had been floated, mostly involving coyotes with mange.

At the same time, in early 2011, the CDC launched its “Zombie Preparedness” campaign, supposedly a “light-hearted” approach to emergency preparedness. “But we were in deadly earnest,” said Dr. Despatchio. “About six people knew the whole story, and one of them, Geraldine Ritz, came up with that idea, and the Surgeon General said, ‘Go with it,’ so we did.”

At the same time, a team at Johns Hopkins and another team at the Public Health Service, in a facility in Florida, were working on a cure and a vaccine. “Cure, well, we wrote that off early on,” said Ms. Corizon. “If we found a cure it would be the first virus, ever, that anyone had actually cured. Usually, you just support the person until their own immune system takes care of the disease. But with this one, that wasn’t going to happen. It was too rapid. The other approach, using injections of either live attenuated or dead virus to produce immunity, well, the bio-ethical concerns were extreme. Even if we had something that sort-of worked, we were years from human trials if we could even get it past the ethics committee.”

After the Diaz Event, the teams that were working the problem had begun to carry sidearms. “The gallows humor, I can’t repeat most of the jokes. You had to have been there,” Dr. Despatchio said. “Mostly, the most common way people said ‘hello’ was ‘If it comes to that, do me.’ And the response would be ‘I’ll do us both.’”

That was the situation through 2011 and into 2012. The first documented cases of Z Virus among humans in the general population took place over the summer of 2012, “And we were pretty good about covering those up too,” says LCDR Fortmontain. “The people who had the right answer thought they were joking, and we let them think so. But a lot of us started sweating then. We knew all along that the outbreak, particularly given the animal reservoir of virus, wasn’t a question of ‘if.’ It was a question of ‘when.’ Now the answer to ‘when’ looked like ‘any day now.’

Which is where matters stood until this weekend. As anyone who has read the news knows, “When” would be the weekend of 6/7 October 2012.

“It’s a new world,” said Dr. Despatchio. Then, looking right at Larry King, he said, “If it comes to that, do me.”

Mr. King responded, “I’ll do us both.”

Comments on Chupacabra:
#1 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 01:08 PM:

Oh, nicely done, sir!

#2 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 01:26 PM:

Well done, indeed. You had me until the semi-live specimen.

#3 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 01:27 PM:

It didn't cross from coyotes to goats?

#4 ::: Merrow ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 01:38 PM:

I sincerely hope that it's "blog the zombie uprising day"?

(The worst of it is, I'm sure I've heard of the chupacabra...)

#5 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 01:52 PM:

There's a part of me that says, "Now you tell us," but I admit I could have missed something.

There's another part of me that reaches out, silences the alarm clock, snuggles back under the duvet with the teddy bear, and goes back to sleep.

#6 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 02:24 PM:

"“It’s a new world,” said Dr. Despatchio. Then, looking right at Larry King, he said, “If it comes to that, do me.”

Mr. King responded, “I’ll do us both.” "

that's one bit of slash I did not need to read.

#7 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 03:00 PM:

We used to call our cat the Chupacabra. He wasn't a very nice kitty.

#8 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 03:03 PM:

P J Evans (3): I wondered about the goats, too.

#9 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 03:37 PM:

I find myself wondering if this has anything to do with Kellis-Amberlee... it's clearly in the same vein (a vein with zero blood flow).

#10 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 06:16 PM:

Is the virus transmitted by bath salts?

#11 ::: Kate Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 06:59 PM:

My mother used to get the words chupacabra and chimichanga mixed up, which made ordering at Mexican restaurants a bit strange at times.

#12 ::: Kate Shaw has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 07:00 PM:

Gnomed for the first time!

I have half a box of Sno-Caps to share, or I could whip up a batch of cinnamon bread pudding.

#13 ::: Antonia T. Tiger ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 08:50 PM:

The Althing of the Spontoon Islands declares the following.

1: The Port is closed

2: All Spontoonie Militias are Activated.

3: Thunderbird Squadron is directed to prepare for the deployment of Special Weapons, which we do not admit to having.

#14 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 08:51 PM:

I am awaiting the report of Raphael Hythlodaeus of the European Union Medical Office.

#15 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 08:52 PM:

Antonia T. Tiger #12: Thunderbirds are go?

#16 ::: Dr Paisley ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2012, 10:32 PM:

@ Brian #6 Mr. King responded, “I’ll do us both.” that's one bit of slash I did not need to read.

I believe that's been part of the vows since Larry's 2nd marriage #ewww #oversharing

#17 ::: Mishalak ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 12:08 AM:

Every time some way to die is recognized people say it is a 'new world'. It is not a new world, it is the same old world we have always been living in where anyone can die despite all our self-assurance about our personal exemption from being the poor sod who cops it.

I agree with George Falconer on this 'new world' (though he was talking about surviving a nuclear war), "If it's going to be a world with no time for sentiment it's not a world that I want to live in."

If some dread disease comes I shall die as I lived. Strangely. Also with as much dignity as a naked plains ape can mange while afraid, but strangely.

#18 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 01:36 AM:

This new world is separating the nitwits from the people with a lick of sense, that's for sure. The nitwits are walking around grinning and racking extra guns in their trucks. They seem to think that this is all a game, and somebody out there is watching, and they'll, I dunno, get a prize or something. They're also the ones bitching about the airports being closed. I don't think any of them have drawn the logical connection between "You can only get here on the overnight ferry, which means that if somebody has been infected they'll manifest before the ship docks" and "Damn, nothing to shoot," but human stupidity does know no depths. Mostly they are bitching about not getting Jet-Fresh(TM) produce anymore.

Those of us with a lick of sense are glad that new systems of radio checks have been announced for incoming shipping and for at-sea Coast Guard rescues. And we're racking guns too. But we're not grinning about it.

#19 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 01:56 AM:

I am not worried about any threat of coyotes. I have several fine Acme® products ready for my defense.

#20 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 02:15 AM:

Mishalak @ 17.

Vous avez droit, monsieur.

As much dignity as possible. Which, in my case, will have to be consonant with weeping and self-pity out the wazoo.

#21 ::: duckbunny ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 02:18 AM:

Do we know if it's crossed the oceans yet?

Me and the people who matter to me... we'll take care of each other. I believe that. We'll eat together and fight together and rebuild together. And if it comes to it, I pray it doesn't, but if it comes to it, we'll go together.

#22 ::: Antonia T. Tiger ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 02:36 AM:

Fragano Ledgister @15

The primary inspiration is the Native American sky God, the beats of whose wings are the thunder. Anyway, Thunderbird Squadron made their first appearance in a story-jam that started with KMS Graf Spee being chased into the Spontoons lagoon by the Royal Navy.

Admiral Waite is the sort of officer you post somewhere you don't expect trouble. Barker is a Maori, proud of being a New Zealander, who flew from the Spontoons before the War. He has just landed the Admiral, whose ship didn't arrive in time for the battle, who thinks he is going to intimidate the Spontoonie Althing.

Things happened:

Meanwhile, on Eastern Island Airfield.

Helen heard the telephone ring, and reached out a paw to the open window of the hut. The handset was placed in her palm, and she brought it to her ear. "Thunderbird Flight," she said.

"Thunderbird flight, scramble, scramble, scramble, mission purple seven, repeat, mission purple seven." The first time she'd heard a voice like that it had been Charlie, a flat, unemotional, reliable, voice. It was the voice of Spontoons Control, and, today, the voice of Air Combat Control. The voice that you would obey, in clear skies or cloud, because it was unthinkable not to.

"Thunderbird flight scramble purple seven," she acknowledged, trying to match the tone. She handed the phone back as she stood. A shout, now, "Scramble Purple Seven!"

Under her black overalls she wore a Songmark Suit, and she knew that it would keep her dry, and alive, if she went down in the sea. While flying, it would
help keep her conscious in a tight turn. It wasn't comfortable, and it could make a summer day a hell, but it wouldn't be the sea that killed her. Her running was a little awkward, but she ran.

Up onto the wing root, and then into the cockpit, a Songmark girl on either side, black overalls with flashes of colour on the sleeves, reaching in to strap her to her parachute, and then both to her plane. Never put a parachute strap over a seat strap. Helmet in place--she fastened her own chin-strap, and the crackle in her earphones as the plug went in its socket. Two more Songmark girls came into view, only first years but trusted to pull out the arming pins and hold them up as they back away, red ribbons dangling for all to see.

Side door closed, canopy still back, she wiggled the stick and tried the rudder pedals. Raised thumbs from the furs on either side of her. Fuel on. Throttle set. Switches on. Safety cage up on the starter switches, a thump as she pressed the green button and a red light, and then red button and boom! Three coughs of burning fuel in the cylinders and then the engine fired. Wouldn't dare do otherwise, some would say. Not that engine, Not that 'plane. Not that pilot.

She couldn't hear the siren now, which warned everyone to clear taxiways and runways, but as she glanced towards the tower she could see the flares go up. Nothing on radio. She scanned the engine gauges: revs and oil pressure OK, temperature still low. She waved away the chocks and checked the propellor pitch. Open the throttle, and she felt the 'plane move, half alive now.

Rear Admiral Waite had one paw clamping his officer's cap firmly on his head. The Pegasus on the Seagull had been bad enough but this, even a hundred yards away, was overwhelming. He only understood half of what he saw, but he knew what a drilled team looked like, and he knew when the drill was for showing off, and when it wasn't.

"They're girls!" shouted the Observer into Barker's ear.

"Songmark girls," shouted back Barker. "Your mother warned you about girls like that!" He paused. That sounded like a magneto check. "She was wrong!"

There was something odd about the engine noises, a high-pitched overtone which set Barker's teeth on edge, and he'd heard it before: the '37 Speed Week. Turbo-charged engines, and if what he'd heard was true that meant damn near constant engine power to some crazy altitude. The props had square tips, and were four-bladed rather than two or even three.

Not a formation take-off though. Barker had half-expected it, but the way they did take off was precise. Not a formation take-off, because Barker knew the risks, and knew there was no advantage, and he knew the thinking of the vixen flying the lead plane.

The Admiral didn't seem to have realised that the noise had faded. "Women! Women and schoolgirls! And they're sending them to do a man's job!"

Barker thought it, but it was his Observer who murmured, "And the female of the species is more deadly than the male."

#23 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 09:28 AM:

Antonia T. Tiger #22: That's definitely worth an internet!

#24 ::: slybrarian ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 05:56 PM:

The main thing to remember about zombie uprisings is that even a minimally-coordinated government response can keep them contained. Even if they somehow manage to build to a large group - unlikely with proper police presence in hospitals and prepared SWAT teams - any military unit can take them down with ease. A machine gun will rip them apart just like any human, even if you may need to burn the inevitable pile of gribblie bits just to be sure, and a single MRLS battery will turn entire grid squares of zombies into chunky salsa. There may be some mild danger in rural areas from lone zombies, but in that case there's still no chance of large numbers.

Really, the main threat is from your fellow humans. Panic can result in infrastructure breaking down, as well as possible rioting and looting. (Although that's by no means assured - as many recent disasters have shown, people tend to pull together in disasters and its only afterward looters show up. Unless you happen to have the wrong color of skin in the wrong area, in which case, watch out for militias looking to shoot 'those sort of people'.)

#25 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 06:19 PM:

That last point is a good one. A little while ago I re-read the first phonebook collection of The Walking Dead, and the zombies as portrayed on stage were just not powerful enough to cause the collapse of civilization as portrayed. Conversely, if they had been, then our little band of protagonists would not have had a chance against them.

#26 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 06:37 PM:

slybrarian @24: A machine gun will rip them apart just like any human, even if you may need to burn the inevitable pile of gribblie bits just to be sure...

A particularly fiendish variant that I saw once had the zombie-causing whatsit being spread by the ash of the fires the military kept setting to burn all those infected corpses. And no one could figure out how infected people kept appearing inside of supposedly safe areas when all the zombies had been killed and ashed, leading to increasingly draconic military measures and aggressive burning action on areas suspected to have zombies, and, well. Fiendish.

#27 ::: Nangleator ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 07:41 PM:

The Mexican 'FDR' comments:,11164/

#28 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 10:38 PM:

Something else to worry about: people can transmit flu to their dogs and cats, so they could probably transmit this, too.

#29 ::: erikagillian ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2012, 10:45 PM:

I'm not so sure about the military, since it's the brain that has to be destroyed. A zombie with no legs still will crawl. And if they can't, they can still bite if someone comes close enough.

Remember the first Battle of Yonkers!

#30 ::: Antonia T. Tiger ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 02:53 AM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 23

You're being nice.

This is what started the whole thing. There's really no way that the Admiral Graf Spee could have been in the mid-Pacific, not enough range. The operation would have needed more tankers.

It's the sort of lagoon created when a volcano blows up, big time, such as Santorini. Very tropical, they got sunlight on the sea, moonlight on the sea, all the usual stuff.

The telephone, Bellman realised, was ringing. He wasn't a fur to use bad language, but as an ex-Army Sergeant he had an ample vocabulary when he chose to use it. For now, he just thought a few choice phrases as he came down the stair and picked up the telephone. He wasn't, for the moment, fussed over whether the twins were still asleep, or smart enough to stay quiet.

"Bellman," he said into the handset.

"Charlie, Horace here. We've got a flap on. Go look at what's coming into the lagoon from the west. I'll wait."

Saunders sounded excited. Well, more than you would expect. He often seemed on the verge of exploding into action. Bellman laid the handset down on the blotter, walked across the room, and drew back the curtains over the western window. It was barely dawn, and the western sky was dark enough that the hills of Main and South, on either side of that lagoon entrance, were still half lost.

He could see the lights of vehicles on the Main Island coast road, and there was something vaguely military about the pattern. And then the Spontoonies lit up one of their searchlights. Not a navigation light.

Bellman almost felt his heart skip a beat. Joe was out there, with a new torpedo boat, and a proper naval militia officer, rings on his cuffs and all. Even if he had that piratical family smile. And people called him "skipper".

And then the searchlight lit up its target, big and mostly grey and showing signs of damage--a shell-torn superstructure, blackened by fires, one main
armament turret oddly aligned and the other turned fore-and-aft.

It could very well be that Joe was commanding a torpedo boat, lurking in the shadow of the land, waiting for a false move.

It looked ugly, in the way that war always looks ugly when it really happens. You couldn't see the blood, and Bellman told himself that he couldn't smell it, not at this distance, but you could see the twisted steel, and Bellman had smelled blood, too often and too close.

Bellman hoped Helen wouldn't have problems when she landed the flight from New Panzance. He grinned slightly. Wolf Baginski might say he was getting old, but he'd be rousing out his men and getting ready. If the Spontoonies decided the Graf Spee ought to be sinking, he could arrange it.

And that gun battery up in the hills, it would be ready. There might be a shortage of bellhops for a few days--the lads would be loading shells, not luggage, in the morning.

He walked back to his desk and picked up the telephone. "Bloody hell, Horace, it looks like the Graf Spee, and we've given her a pounding." He took a breath. "So what do we do?"

"Neutral por, so any prisoners on board have to be released. That's consular work. But for now you can get onto that roof of yours with a camera and a pair
of binoculars."

Bellman chuckled. "I'll not ask about our ships. Somebody might be listening."

"Doubt it's a secret. The Rain Islanders will have 'planes out."

"Hand of courier only, right."

"Something like that. At least Langsdorf has a decent reputation. But the Hague Conventiuons apply. 24 hours in port, unless she's unseaworthy."

"Doesn't look unseaworthy," said Bellman, "But I'm only a soldier."

#31 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 08:07 AM:

We'll always have Madagascar.

#32 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 08:09 AM:

I find it interesting how zombies, originally a "construct" in concept (alive or dead, they were arranged for by particular "masters") have shifted so firmly to the "plague" model. Of course, it's hardly stranger than the rare and isolated vampire flowering into an entire subculture....

#33 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 09:55 AM:

What about zombies in war zones? It seems to me that more corpses combined with less ability to make sure every corpse is dealt with would increase the risk of a major outbreak.

#34 ::: slybrarian ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 10:13 AM:

erikagillian @ #29
I'm not so sure about the military, since it's the brain that has to be destroyed. A zombie with no legs still will crawl. And if they can't, they can still bite if someone comes close enough.

Remember the first Battle of Yonkers!

Yonkers is pretty much the textbook example of a writer either not doing research, not understanding it, or deliberately discarding it in favor of his own biases. Brooks dramatically underplays the destructive capabilities of modern weaponry and the training of soldiers in favor of his obsession with single-shot rifles, and at Yonkers the military uses tactics that can only be explained by everyone being possessed by the drunken ghost of George McClellan. (Helicopters acting as lawn mowers! Being overrun by enemies slower than the average toddler!) Meanwhile, later in the book line infantry tactics are portrayed as the ultimate in anti-zombie strategy.

World War Z, like many zombie stories, suffers from the implausibility of civilization collapsing because it generally requires everyone to be idiots and ignore the problem until its too late. In the case of WWZ no one realizes there's a zombie plague until something like a tenth of the population is moaning for brains, but at the same time pharma companies get rich selling placebos for the 'rabies'. I think this is a problem that a lot of stories that try to be 'realistic' have. Virus-zombies are blatantly violating the laws of physics and biology as it is - why not embrace the necromancy whole hog and just have all the dead rise? If everyone who dies no matter the cause becomes a zombie, then there's a serious threat to society.

#35 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 10:49 AM:

slybrarian @34 (I love your nym, by the way...)

Virus-zombies are blatantly violating the laws of physics and biology as it is - why not embrace the necromancy whole hog and just have all the dead rise? If everyone who dies no matter the cause becomes a zombie, then there's a serious threat to society.

c.f. the "Newsflesh" trilogy (Feed, Deadline, & Blackout) by Mira Grant.

#36 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 11:21 AM:

TomB @19:

I am not worried about any threat of coyotes. I have several fine Acme® products ready for my defense.

I am not worried about any threat of coyotes. I have left an Acme® catalog lying around where the coyotes will find it.

#37 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 01:28 PM:

After witnessing a dead cow in our pasture at the folks' house when in college (summer, tenant's animal, tenant had been called but), by the time they came to drag it off it was not possible.

The hot summer day had accelerated decomposition.

I'm thinking one good, hot day would have any zombie shambling themselves apart into hunks fairly quickly.

#38 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 02:01 PM:

It seems to me that for dealing with zombies, the ideal weapon would be the AA-12 assault shotgun firing Frag-12 explosive rounds. Yes? Anything that can punch a hole through 1" steel plate and leave fist-size dents around it ought to make short work of dismembering zombies ...

#39 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 05:43 PM:

There was a character in WWZ who escaped the zombies by staying in the open and walking briskly away from them. This was apparently a workable strategy as long as you could avoid being surrounded or boxed in.

I suppose a zombie apocalypse is more plausibly something that might knock down civilization if you imagine the zombie virus or whatever spreading widely, so that urban areas are temporarily depopulated. Maybe add in some asymptomatic carriers for fun.

Personally, I've been a lot less worried about zombie attacks since I got this nice garden full of plants put in around my house. They're kinda hard on the mailman, though--especially the chompers.

#40 ::: Dr. Hilarius ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 09:37 PM:

@38 Stross: Richard Kadrey equipped a character with an AA-12 in one of his Sandman Slim novels. But given the AA-12 being full auto and requiring a class 3 federal license it could be difficult to obtain. You can easily get a Spas-12 combat shotgun. It's only semi-auto but is still an effective close-range weapon.

If you favor an older, more romantic gun go for a cut-down 10 gauge. Hell of a kick.

#41 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2012, 10:40 PM:

There is a Mexican restaurant around here named Chupacabra. Whenever I see it my mind spits up Inigo Montoya: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." And the one time I mentioned it to a co-worker from Mexico his reaction was "You're frigging kidding right? You must have misread the name." When I reassured him I hadn't he turned sort of pale...

#42 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 12:27 AM:

chupa, chupacadabra
I want to reach out and grab ya

#43 ::: Chris Lawson ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 05:33 AM:

I fixed up my zombie defence by surrounding the house with triffids. What could possibly go wrong?

#44 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 08:03 AM:

I'm going to give Wyndham credibility points (not too many) for blinding the human race in order to give the triffids a chance.

#45 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 08:33 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz #44: Indeed, IIRC the Triffids essentially infiltrated under the guise of exotic ornamental plants, until "something happened" to give them that chance.

#46 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 09:39 AM:

A moat filled with a concentrated solution of caustic soda (NaOH) maintained at a gentle simmer should stop them quite effectively.

#47 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 10:43 AM:

Audrey II vs. Zombies. Hmm...

#48 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 11:31 AM:

albatross @ #39:

But the important thing is that you won't have zombies on the lawn, right?

#49 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 11:36 AM:

@Nancy Lebovitz no. 44: I thought the point wasn't "humans vs. plant monsters," but "humans vs. the stupid things humans do," which makes the blindness much more plausible in context. Plus there are lots more likeable human beings in that book than in any Crichton novel.

#50 ::: Zeb Ambrose ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2012, 12:23 PM:

The zombie craze has been somewhat spoiled for me by hearing that both hate groups and survivalists use the word "zombie" as a socially acceptable way of discussing plans for their imagined apocalypses.

#51 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 02:31 AM:

Bruce @ 41 is not making that up. There is a Chupacraba's on Alki.

It gets 3.5 stars. The species that's reviewing it is not mentioned.

#52 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 07:07 AM:

Dave Harmon @45: Indeed, IIRC the Triffids essentially infiltrated under the guise of exotic ornamental plants, until "something happened" to give them that chance.

Reading that line was enough to trigger a bout of compulsive mental playback (aka earworm) of 'Return of the Giant Hogweed' by Genesis.

Oh look, here's a YouTube link.

I had some musing about the next zombie plague being transmitted online, but I realized we're already seeing the consequences ('hi gnomes, appreciate your work').

#53 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 08:21 AM:

Rob Rusick #52: I had some musing about the next zombie plague being transmitted online

Done recently in Sluggy Freelance... only for animals, though.

#54 ::: Cassy B. sees Portuguese spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 08:54 AM:

Rob Rusick @52, Dave Harmon @53, also a current storyline on "Schlock Mercenary," (not exactly an online virus; but it's triggered by watching entertainment units (read "tv sets") -- but it only works on Gav-clones (of course, there are millions of them....)

#55 ::: jurassicpork ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 09:03 AM:

Any word on who gave Tea Baggers and other Republicans the rage virus? I keep waiting for them to starve to death but their 28 days are long over and they just keep gaining weight.

Anyway, on the homefront, this is fixing to be the scariest Halloween ever and the missus and I would greatly appreciate any help you guys could give us.

#56 ::: Cassy B. is an idiot ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 09:05 AM:

...and didn't look at my nym before posting. Apologies; no Portuguese spam here.

#57 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 12:21 PM:

#52 ::: Rob Rusick

Not exactly zombies, but John Barne's Daybreak novels has the destruction of civilization being transmitted as a probably accidental internet meme.

The end of the trilogy isn't out, so I'm still leaving aliens open as a faint possibility.

#58 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 07:12 PM:

There's also the movie Pontypool, which posits a memetic virus that turns those who hear it into ravening, mindless husks. Technically, not they're not zombies; they're still alive, but that which made them human is gone.

#59 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 09:25 PM:

Jennifer Baughman: written by a semiotics major. I let a friend who was binging on zombie novels and who has a PhD in Japanese know about it and she bought it. It wasn't what she had in mind...

#60 ::: Tracy Lunquist ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2012, 10:03 PM:

slybrarian@#24: "Unless you happen to have the wrong color of skin in the wrong area, in which case, watch out for militias looking to shoot 'those sort of people'.)"

So would greenish-grey and falling off in shreds qualify as "the wrong color of skin"?

#61 ::: Hob ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 12:52 PM:

Cassy B. @34: The "anyone who dies for any reason becomes a zombie" variant isn't even a variant; it's from the George Romero movies that started the whole thing. Romero stuck with it in all the sequels, even as everyone else went the "virus" route. One of the better ideas in Land of the Dead is that privacy is dangerous-- a heavily fortified community is almost brought down by one guy hanging himself in his apartment.

#62 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 02:44 PM:

Hob @61; I'm handicapped by never ever having seen any of the Romero movies; I have a very small tolerance for horror (sometimes I can take horror-comedy, like Zombiland) because I get nightmares.

My major difficulty with the whole Mira Grant world is that the level of tech seems rather high for a civilization that nearly crashed only twenty years or so previous to the start of the stories, due to the massive casualties of the first zombie outbreak...

#63 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2012, 03:37 PM:

#62 ::: Cassy B.

I agree-- I don't see how they could maintain their infrastructure, let alone rebuild it.

I also thought the books were slow, talky, and repetitive, but this is obviously a minority opinion.

#64 ::: Barbara ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2012, 08:47 PM:

IIRC, triffids were (in the novel) farmed in great numbers to make an immensely superior cooking oil, as well as cultivated for an amusingly animated garden feature, perfectly safe as long as the sting was regularly clipped.
The farmed triffids were left unclipped because it made for better flavour. The narrator worked on one such farm, and had been hospitalised after a triffid sting penetrated his goggles.

My plans for a zombie-defensible house are always being confused by the need to defend against raiding humans. Zombies are comparatively easy to plan for, humans not so much.

#65 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2012, 01:20 AM:

@ Barbara no. 64: Actually they were cultivated as superior substitutes for whatever fish oil used to be used for--presumably vitamins, because it's also pointed out in the book that humans and cattle alike can live on mashed triffids. Leaving the sting undocked improved the quality of the oil.

Really, triffids are creepy, creepy critters. Anybody who wants to see the full creepiness of the triffids and post-apocalyptic tension of the book brought to life, watch the TV miniseries made in the early '80s. Big chunks of it are taken straight from the book.

#66 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2012, 09:09 AM:

Jenny Islander, if the triffids were meant to occupy the same dietary niche as cod liver oil, it's vitamins A & D; there wasn't yet a great deal of concern about omega-3 fatty acids.

My father used to be given cod liver oil in his morning orange juice, when he was a child. Upshot: he loathes orange juice, except occasionally for some that's been whole oranges only a minute or two earlier.

on a vaguely related note, in the category of "disgusting things that used to be given to children in the name of health," I'm having less luck finding out what "brimstone and treacle" was supposed to do. Googling is not much use, or won't be until I can figure out how to exclude all the results for the movie of the same name that featured Sting.

#67 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2012, 09:19 AM:

Rikibeth (66): Looks like it (the combination) was used (and misused) for various digestive issues. Successful search string: brimstone and treacle health -sting -poppins.

#68 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2012, 09:37 AM:

And of course the fact that the large population of sting-enabled triffids roaming around after everyone went blind owes its existence to active human cultivation supports the "humans vs. the stupid things humans do" interpretation.

(If memory serves, the whole everybody-went-blind thing turns out to be a symptom of a stupid thing humans did, as well.)

#69 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2012, 10:27 AM:

Brimstone and Treacle is probably the most disturbing film that Sting ever appeared in--and I include Dune. I won tickets to the opening in Seattle. I can't tell you to see it...but there are sections that I think of at least once a month. And not by choice.

#70 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2012, 12:51 PM:

Ha. My mother once brought home Brimstone and Treacle for us to watch as a family because she was doing a paper on Sting for some college class.

That...was...interesting. As family viewing goes.

#71 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2012, 02:26 PM:

I've seen it called "sulfur and molasses", mostly, and as far as I can tell, it was one of those "whatever's wrong for you is what it's for" type deals. A universal cure. You know it's good for you, because it tastes awful!

#72 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2012, 02:44 PM:

Rembering Zenna Henderson's "The Taste of Aunt Sophronia," of the the few Henderson stories I like that isn't about The People.

#73 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2012, 04:13 PM:

Fade Manley: Ha. My mother once brought home Brimstone and Treacle for us to watch as a family

Oh. Dear. Me.

That...was...interesting. As family viewing goes.

I am trying to think of a family where that would be appropriate family viewing. The only one that comes to mind is the family in the joke "The Aristocrats."

I once ran into an offer for a 35mm print of Peeping Tom for $35.00 in perfect condition that was missing the first reel. Since it would have made a nice change from the trailers that I'd accumulated for my projectors I thought about it awhile and decided that while showing Peeping Tom to an audience was risky in general, showing it with the first 22 minutes missing would be a short route to death or permanent ostracism.

#74 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2012, 06:41 PM:

Forgive my ignorance, but what is the Sting film you're talking about, err, about? Or is that not the right question?

I've never heard of it before, and somehow I'm now afraid to Google it....

#75 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2012, 07:11 PM:

Cally Soukup @74: the IMDB article about it is much less trigger-filled than the Wikipedia article.

#76 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 12:39 AM:

Tom: "much less trigger-filled." That's a good term. I like it almost as much as the IMDB line under Trivia: "The film was not a box-office success." Gee, I FREAKING WONDER WHY?

Cally: if you've ever had a reason to post under the Dysfunctional Families threads, let further inquiry on this film die a quiet death. Note that I didn't say "if you've ever posted in the Dysfunctional Families threads." That's too restrictive. When doing film reviews I find there are three categories of films: those that when they come up I say "I like it: here's what works," those where I say "I didn't like it: here's what didn't work," and those where I say "I've seen it." Brimstone and Treacle is in category three.

Come to dwell on it, there's another category I have which this one fits to a lesser degree, and which I came up with after seeing the David Cronenberg remake of The Fly: "I'll defend it anywhere as a work of art, but I don't want it in my living room." The problem I have extending this category to B&T is using the term Art, because the direction is nothing special and the plot is beyond lurid--but it does have those scenes which stick with you... I keep thinking of Stephen King's line in Danse Macabre: "...the moment in The Omen where the photographer is decapitated by a pane of glass is art of the most peculiar sort, and one cannot blame critics who find it easier to respond to Jane Fonda as a wholly unbelievable screen incarnation of Lillian Hellman in Julia than to stuff like this." Take from that what you will.

#77 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 12:36 PM:

Thank you. It sounds very much like a movie that is Not For Me.

#78 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2012, 06:09 PM:

Yeah, w o w, me too. I think I'd better avoid Brimstone and Treacle like the plague.

#79 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2012, 12:27 AM:

Back on topic and backing away from that movie, yeah.

Assuming that Z requires living or very recently deceased hosts and must be spread by direct transmission of body fluids (zombie slobber) because it can't survive for long outside its host, you get pockets of the Earth where zombies are a terrible threat and pockets where nobody worries about them. Islands very far away from land are obvious refuges. If they are big enough, they could continue to support civilization. A basic line of defense would be discontinuing passenger jet service unless Z takes over its hosts so fast that an infected person couldn't even get onto the plane in the first place without being spotted.

Hotter countries would be safer than colder countries because of the accelerated rate of decomposition, assuming that they can muster a rapid response to any incursion.

Arid countries would be safer than humid countries because zombies would dry out and become immobile.

Places with clear lines of sight and high vantage points--shortgrass plains with grain silos, tightly built cities--would be safer than suburbs or brushy or forested areas.

Put all this together, and the West Coast is essentially zombie chow. You would want to be in Las Vegas. Or Dubai.

Now, here's the scary part. This thing has shown itself to be a species jumper. To which species? Can some of them fly while infected? Or swim?

#80 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2012, 09:58 AM:

Where do Las Vegas and Dubai get their water from? More generally, any place which is getting its life support from a distance is at more risk than someplace which can manage more locally.

#81 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2012, 04:38 PM:

Vegas gets its water from the nearby Colorado River, and its electricity from the Hoover Dam. Food's more of a problem.

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