The holidays are here and I’m pleased to finally announce my new end-of-the-year project: The Map of Zombies!

This is the reason I’ve been watching zillions of zombie books and movies for the last while (aside from enjoyment, of course): I’ve been compiling a Linnaean classification system analyzing 350+ (the number is still climbing) types of zombies depicted in books, TV, movies, video games and comics/manga. As a zombie fan, I’ve long been interested in the weirder and more unique spins on zombies, such as Walter Greatshell’s “Xombies” books, David Cronenberg’s zombie movies, Mira Grant’s “Newsflesh” series, and so on. I’ve watched zombie movies through the ’80s era when they devolved from George Romero gloom into hard rock and cheese, through the dead silence of the ’90s, and into the current revival spawned by “28 Days Later,” Zac Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” remake, Max Brooks’ books, “The Walking Dead”, etc.

But, as a look on Wikipedia will tell you, the definition of “zombie” is extremely vague. Any movie can call itself a “zombie movie,” but what does that even mean? (Incidentally, I’ve found the blog Watching the Dead particularly great at describing/reviewing zombie movies, among many many zombie sites.) Nowadays, “zombies” almost invariably means some flesh-eating, snarly creatures (alive or dead, fast or slow, good makeup or bad makeup) but among all the many nearly identical books and movies on the same topic, how can you find the more interesting spins on zombiedom?I’ve read countless stupid arguments on the internet over what is and isn’t a zombie; personally, I go for a more inclusive approach. But sometimes you really just want to see (for example) a movie about specifically undead, non-raging, cannibal running zombies; how do you find one? -_- Or a story about intelligent zombies? Or about specifically intelligent EVIL zombies? Or zombie animals? Or Nazi zombies? Alien parasites? Contagious sex maniacs? Compulsive killers? Fungal hosts???

With “The Map of Zombies” I’ve basically taken the approach that, if zombies existed in reality, which ones would be more closely related to one another? How close are the deadly toxins/viruses in Lucio Fulci’s “Zombi 3” and Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror”? Is “Ed and His Dead Mother” more like “Braindead” or more like a comedic version of “Pet Sematary”? ZOMBIE-INFECTED MINDS WANT TO KNOW! I almost called the project “The Zombie Family Tree.”

Since I’ve been working on the Map secretly for awhile, I’m very happy to finally get it out there, as a Kickstarter project, together with a 5-minute zombie movie/video directed by Jumana Al Hashal. (I appear in it.) If the project succeeds, then clearly The Map of Zombies is ready to be birthed into the world. Please check it out! The final design of the map is almost ready, but I’m still working on adding detail and color (the image on the Kickstarter page is not quite final).

Working on this project has given me some of the fun data-freak feeling I got when writing “Manga: The Complete Guide”, only about zombies, and in poster form rather than book form. Incidentally, since I’m still adding the final touches to the map for the next few days, if you have a favorite zombie piece — in any medium — please let me know in the comments and I’ll confirm if I’ve got it placed on the chart!