Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Nerds 'r' us

". . . And he killed the vampire by chopping its head off with an axe. Just a regular axe. Everybody knows you're supposed to use a stake to the heart. Didn't he read Dracula?" My co-worker was adamant on this point. We had a lull in students coming into the writing lab, which gave us a chance to catch up. She was talking about watching a horror movie with a friend and being unable to shut off her writing tutor's analysis. "There are rules. Certain ways to kill zombies, certain ways to kill vampires."

My other co-worker was at the computer opposite me. "How do you kill a zombie?" he asked.

"Three easy steps to killing a zombie. I wish I were still in English 101 so I could write a process analysis essay. Chop off its head. That's how you kill zombies, not vampires. It's like... sprinkling salt on a bear to kill it like you would a slug. It just doesn't work."

"That's not the same thing, though," my other co-worker said. "You can't kill something that's already dead."

"Undead," I corrected. "And there's a book about how to fight off zombies, actually. The Zombie Survival Handbook. I bought it recently from the bookstore."

"They published a book about how to survive a zombie attack?"

"And you bought it?"

"Yeah." I'm on Amazon.com by now to prove my point. "Borders had a sale. Oh, it's The Zombie Survival Guide."

"So, how do they say to do it?" they ask.

"I haven't gotten there yet," I say. "I just started reading it the other night; it's my current bedside reading."

"You're strange," my co-worker tells me, and then to further emphasize her point, "You chop off a zombie's head. And there are rules about vampires. They can't go out in the sun, and you kill them with a stake in the heart. It's in Dracula."

"But," I said, ready to enter the fray, "Dracula's not the authority on vampires. It's just our cultural reference point for vampire mythology."

"Bram Stoker did his research, though. He based it off of traditional vampire lore."

Somewhere in the midst of this, the supervisor for the learning center has come out of her office. Someone asks her how to kill a zombie. "Cut off its head," she says without missing a beat, showing no surprise at the nature of our conversation.

The conversation then drifts to the subject of how vampires and zombies became so popular. Paranormal studies, we decide, and an ongoing cultural fascination with the paranormal in general. Two of the shows that I watch with any regularity are supernatural in nature: Ghost Whisperer and Moonlight. Our supervisor hasn't heard of Moonlight.

It's a new show, I explain. "It's got vampires. The main character, a vampire, is a private investigator, and the show has a noir-ish feel. They update the vampire mythos, though. They can go out in the sun, but it weakens them--" I don't even get to the part where I explain how even the "rules" regarding stakes in hearts have been updated.

"That's just not right," my co-worker says. "I'm going to write an essay on the rules of vampires. I'll cite--"

"Buffy," my other co-worker suggests.

"Yes. I'll cite Buffy the Vampire Slayer, like I would cite [the city newspaper] as a reference."

As I leave, she's planning her essay.

Oh, the joys of working in a writing center. There are some conversations you can't have anyplace else. I'd call us geeks, but that term tends to have computer-y connotations. Nerds? Yep. I think it fits.

. . . And a search on Google turns up a late nineteenth century vampire killing kit. I want one.

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