Yes, zombies. No, I'm not using that as a cute term for any political group. This post is about actual (or rather, fictional) living dead.
Firstly, zombies aren't real. And no matter how much we may brainstorm about how they might be real, they will never be real. A person assimilated by the nanobot horde is not a zombie, end of story.
But this post isn't about how zombies are fiction, it's about why everyone is so continually obsessed with them.
Well, I think I know the answer. That should be obvious; if I didn't, would I write a post about it?
Many people have their own pet theories for the popularity of the less-intelligent, flesh-eating undead, but I feel that nearly all of them are wrong. I do not think this is a coincidence: I think it's directly related to something Progressives are not supposed to admit about themselves.
Namely, Progressives seek to achieve power via the destruction of all other powers. That's their modus operandi. Reactionaries build towers by stacking one block on top of the other. Progressives build towers by eroding the very earth around them.
This is why apocalypse fiction is so popular with Progressives. If all the world powers are gone, power is within their grasp! They don't even have to be all that resourceful, cunning, or strong. It's just there, for the taking. Hooray!
But zombies in particular? That's a whole new level. Not only are zombies apocalyptic, but the playing field is especially ripe. Zombies range from are you fucking kidding me? easy to vaguely threatening. At their most powerful, they are less threatening than indigenous Africans with sharp sticks. In addition, they've removed any possible human post-apocalyptic competition, since most zombie fiction involves being the last one, or near to the last one alive. The playing field is especially ripe, indeed.
However, in addition to that, zombies are completely morally unambiguous. They're dead, so you can neutralize them, but you're not killing them. They're cannibals, they're decidedly nonsentient, and they're actively falling apart, anyway. In every possible respect, they're an abomination against nature, and it is no less than this that will allow the Universalist Progressive to get a good night's sleep after annihilating scores of them.
So zombies promise a Progressive what he craves: Easily grasped power, at the expense of everyone else, and complete moral unambiguity. Their popularity is entirely predictable.
Postscript: I'm sure somewhere along the line I will get a comment to the effect of but then why are they especially popular with conservatives and libertarians? The answer to this is simple: Because conservatives and libertarians are just another Progressive sect, and more to the point, one that isn't in power. Ergo, their leveling lust is especially great, leading to a strong affinity for this type of fiction.