magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Apropos of not that much, I find myself really curious about reward circuitry in zombie neurology.

Date: 2015-12-06 08:39 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sholio
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Care to elaborate? What are your thoughts?

Date: 2015-12-07 12:08 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sholio
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
What is powering them on a cellular level? They need some source of energy to shamble around, don't they?

... okay, THAT really makes me wonder, now that you've mentioned it. Zombies don't ever seem to take in energy, except what they might obtain from eating their victims, but they don't really seem to do a lot of eating, usually, as such, so much as just tearing apart and chewing on random bits. In some older canons I guess you could just say it's part of the magic that powers them, but it seems like the current take on zombies is a very sci-fi one (which actually is an interesting thought too; zombies don't usually seem to exist in canons that have vampires and witches and so forth -- they've become a sci-fi creature).

Are there photosynthetic zombies? Ones that can utilize electricity perhaps? (Haha, I wrote a "zombie apocalypse with cars" story awhile back -- humans are all gone, there are just cars with AIs, and a virus gets into them -- but didn't get a nibble on it. I still like the idea; I should see if I can revise it into something more appealing.)

I mean, they do seem awfully motivated, and there has to be some kind of mechanism behind that which drives their behavior, right? If a zombie horde is shambling along, and then they catch scent of a human, and then they'll switch from shambling into hunting and actively pursue their prey, something has to trigger that change in behavior. Especially when you have zombie canons where they'll run or break down structures or climb ladders or whathaveyou. And then what happens when they don't get the protagonist? Do zombies feel disappointment? Do they feel some kind of reinforcement when they do catch a human?

Hmmm.

I could see it potentially as the virus (or whatever the causative agent is) rewiring the victim's brain for rote behaviors that make it more likely to spread -- like those caterpillars that climb trees and then explode. Especially if it's scent-based, because if it's just that they go after living human beings (like, sight-hunting them, or whatever) that seems less likely, or at least a weirdly specific and targeted behavior, when they don't chase anything moving, or feral dogs and cats, or other zombies. But I could see them specifically homing in on the scent of a non-infected human as a diabolically awful way of spreading the infection.

... still, that doesn't really answer the question of what it feels like for the zombie -- whether it's just rote chemical reactions happening in their brain, or whether they are actually getting some benefit out of it.

/overthinking zombies 101

Date: 2015-12-07 12:47 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sholio
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Ooh, what if you could temporarily restore normal brain function by loading them up with high doses of neurotransmitters? They'd still be quite ill, but could temporarily be the person they used to be. Take your meds, be functional but sick with something vaguely like leprosy on steroids; go off your meds and becoming a ravening, brain-eating zombie. (It would be even more awful if it took awhile to figure this out, and they'd just been killing all their infected loved ones in the meantime ...)

Date: 2015-12-07 01:17 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sholio
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Well, you wanted more shared universe sandboxes, didn't you? :D

... seriously. This is perfect shared-universe material, because it's an interesting enough idea to run with it in a bunch of different ways. And I really do find the idea incredibly inspiring, from a writerly standpoint.

Date: 2015-12-07 01:33 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sholio
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
doing unspeakable things to the White Collar cast

hahahaha ... poor suckers. XD

But, yes, that license looks fine to me! I really think we should! It's a flexible enough idea that it lends itself beautifully to short stories, novels, crowdfunded fic snippets -- whatever!

I guess the big question is how much of a shared baseline of common canon we want to establish for ourselves, because if we're using the same ground rules (epidemic vs. apocalypse, exact details of how the disease works and so forth, canonical timeline for the cure) we could theoretically, say, put together an anthology of interlinked stories (NOT THAT I AM GETTING AHEAD OF MYSELF HERE OR ANYTHING) but it wouldn't work so well if we were playing in our own sandboxes with a shared concept but not much else.

On the other hand, I suspect that nothing would suck the fun out of a shared world as quickly as trying to maintain an elaborate shared canon that the individual stories have to hew to.

Date: 2015-12-07 02:06 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sholio
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
INFINITE BRANCHING CANONS FOR FUN AND POSSIBLY PROFIT

:D :D :D

... and yes, that seems like a sensible way to do things. Also, I suspect that if we DO go forward with this, we'll probably be reading each other's stuff and quite likely seeing a lot of it as it develops, which will help with maintaining a general sort of shared consistency, if not a shared continuity in any formal sense.
Edited (what is grammar) Date: 2015-12-07 02:07 am (UTC)

Date: 2015-12-07 02:16 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sholio
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
OH GOD

Okay, so, still thinking about the logistics of this, it seems likely that in a more advanced case of the disease, brain damage would be an issue, wouldn't it? Everything else about the body is degrading, so surely the neurons would, as well.

Which would mean that even when you're on your meds, you would still have issues like partial amnesia, concentration problems, short-term memory loss, aphasia ... whatever your particular brain damage happened to cause.

In short, MEMENTO WITH ZOMBIES. :D

Date: 2015-12-07 02:34 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sholio
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
What's the FFVIII situation? I'm vaguely familiar with the games by osmosis, but haven't actually played.

Date: 2015-12-07 02:48 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sholio
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
AAAAAHHHHHHGH.

... okay, yes, I could see something similar in this setting very easily.

Date: 2015-12-07 03:17 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sholio
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS IS HORRIBLE

... but, yeah, it would have to affect childhood neurological development. Plus the drugs themselves would probably be not so great for young children, either, although it's possible that it could be stopped/reversed more easily in younger children, perhaps, because of more resilient and flexible brains and bodies? Not always, but young children might actually be able to shake it off, or carry it asymptomatically in a way that adults usually can't (which would, however, potentially make them contagious ... oh god, everything makes it worse).

I assume that, like good zombie viruses everywhere, it's transmitted through bodily fluids.

Date: 2015-12-07 07:04 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] squeemu
squeemu: Magpie holding a ring in its beak. (Default)
Two thoughts on zombies and children:
1) It would be interesting if the virus actually did rewire most children's brains in a very similar way -- e.g., would they tend to feel constantly hungry? Would they be extra ambitious because the virus prompted them to go after something without stopping? Would they have a harder time recognizing other people as humans? (It kind of sounds like I'm going towards, "Does it predispose them to be psychopaths if they don't die first," which was not my original intent, but. It could also give them increased hyperexcitability, to make them move more and infect more people.

2) If children developed an immunity, a) they could try to get a vaccine out of that, and b) if they got infected early enough, maybe they could recover most of their mental faculties because of the plasticity.

3) And if that's the case, what if it became like the chicken pox? Infect them early; now you have almost all humans who's brain has been rewired by a this disease except for a few small groups who refused.

4) It... is probably more likely to be a fungus than a virus, in terms of rewiring brain patterns. I don't know that I've heard of many viruses that actually cause a change in behavior (aside from things like weakness), although admittedly I haven't researched it much.

Date: 2015-12-07 01:37 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sholio
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
I'm also curious if anyone has done anything similar, not to say we can't, but just to know what else is out there, and what connotations we're going to be stirring up in readers' brains. Can you think of any recent and/or influential zombie books/movies/whatever that have dealt with a cure?

Date: 2015-12-07 02:03 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sholio
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Yeah, zombie stories are not really my thing (I mean, I will read them, I don't actively avoid them; but the tropes tend to be not my tropes), so I'm not up on my zombie lore. Agreed that this can't possibly be the first time, but I think this idea is concrete and unique enough to run with.

Date: 2015-12-07 03:10 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sholio
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
BUT OF COURSE.

Okay, so -- general worldbuilding thoughts on how the disease might work (with the caveat that neurological stuff is WAY outside the subset of things I'm generally knowledgeable about):

High doses of neurotransmitters reverses the mental symptoms enough that the person becomes functional again. So clearly lack of neurotransmitters is at least part of the problem, combined with overall zombie-style biological breakdown.

It might present, physically, a bit like leprosy, with numbness in the extremities and sores that won't heal. And corresponding mental symptoms: I don't like the idea of sticking too close to reality since low levels of neurotransmitters are an actual thing with various recognized effects, but mental symptoms in the early stages could be all over the map, perhaps often mistaken for other disorders such as depression or schizophrenia. Some people tend more towards depression and catatonia, others towards uncontrollable rages and general zombieriffic behavior. Memory and reasoning ability disintegrate, and everybody sooner or later stops being able to think, reason, or recognize familiar people/places.

.... The internet has informed me that cocaine, meth, ecstasy, etc work by flooding the brain with dopamine, which suggests a hilarious/tragic way for victims to self-medicate if they can't afford or obtain the actual drug ... or just don't know what's happening to them, but do know that they feel a lot better on meth!

Date: 2015-12-07 04:02 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sholio
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Yeah, I really like the idea that it's mysterious and complicated, and this drug cocktail of neurotransmitters and antivirals and antipsychotics and Macguffinol and god knows what else can keep it more or less under control (though it can't really do much to reverse the accumulated damage), while self-medicating helps with some things and not others. (Like, I could see someone self-medicating with meth or cocaine, and managing to make themselves into a really functional violent, aggressive zombie.) And because the effects are so idiosyncratic and individual, the drug's effects are also that way -- well, it's not just one drug, it's a complex drug therapy with eight or ten or twenty pills a day, that have to be taken in the right order and combination. Which is another reason why the treatment is much less accessible to people who are low on the socioeconomic ladder.

Do you have any thoughts on what to call the disease, by the way?
Edited Date: 2015-12-07 04:03 am (UTC)

Date: 2015-12-07 07:13 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] squeemu
squeemu: Magpie holding a ring in its beak. (Default)
It would also suck, because the longer you'd had the disease, the less likely it would be that you would remember to take all your medicines, in the right order. You would need someone to help you.

There could be stories about people recovering their mental function again; families who taught their relatives how to speak again. "Anyone can do it!" Self help books for zombies.

And if you do go with it being a virus, you could either have it like the flu, which changes every year and you need to keep your vaccinations current, or it could be a more stable type, like Hep B.

Date: 2015-12-08 02:21 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sholio
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
It would also suck, because the longer you'd had the disease, the less likely it would be that you would remember to take all your medicines, in the right order. You would need someone to help you.

Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking. The longer you've had it and the worse it got, the harder it would be to actually do the things that would prevent it from getting even worse.

But yeah ... self-help books, Internet cures, cheap drugs from questionable sources with Cyrillic characters on the packaging, urban legends about a friend of a friend of a friend who got all their functioning back using CRYSTALS AND MAGNETS!!! ... and so forth.

Date: 2015-12-07 07:07 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] squeemu
squeemu: Magpie holding a ring in its beak. (Default)
Last of Us was a really, really excellent video game that dealt with a zombie apocalypse, wherein the zombies were actually people infected with a fungus that was a version of the one that makes ants explode in the most exposed spot possible. It, uh, was about a group of people trying to make a vaccine? Although that was more "finding the vaccine will likely harm the person who is donating their blood" than anything else.

It did not give an actual cure, though.

Date: 2015-12-07 07:23 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] squeemu
squeemu: Magpie holding a ring in its beak. (Default)
P.S. I am probably not going to write a whole lot in this universe, just because I am fairly swamped with school at the moment? So if you don't like any of the things I've suggested I won't be offended if you ignore them. I just like brainstorming worlds sometimes, but since it's not going to be mine... :P

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