My Zombie Plan, Part 5

By Shamus Posted Friday Feb 15, 2013

Filed under: Nerd Culture 175 comments


Here we are at the end of this series. This began as a single 2,000 word post where I made some notes about how dumb your average zompocalypse-inhabitant was. Then it grew and I split it into two posts. Then more. The final tally is over 10,000 words, which would have made a pretty good start on a book. Perhaps there were better ways I could have spent this time.

A lot of people made some really sensible / inventive suggestions that were better than what I’d come up with. I didn’t borrow those ideas here, because it felt like cheating. Still, this is just another example of how more people = more better odds of survival.

The Duh Files


At bedtime, you should always have a closed door between yourself and the other members of your household, and you should try to have more than one way out of your bedroom. If grandpa has a heart attack in the middle of the night, we’ll know when he starts banging on his bedroom door. If he gets out, you should be able to escape out the window. Just like having a fire escape plan, families will be encouraged to form a zombie escape plan, and the town will have a group of volunteer zombie killers the same way we have volunteer firefighters today. Just like we teach kids to stop, drop, and roll, we’ll teach them to sprint away from zeds while yelling something distinctive.

Anyone venturing out of the walls will wear as much as possible of: leather jackets, football helmets, hockey leggings, steel-toed boots, and work gloves. Anyone with a complete outfit like this should be immune to bites. The only way you’ll die is if the horde asphyxiates you through crushing. No more of this “Oh noes! Polo-shirt Pete was bitten while we were foraging! What do we do?” nonsense. Zombie bites are preventable, as long as we take precautions. Since we’re living in Pennsylvania, it’s basically guaranteed that we should have an abundance of protective gear. I personally have enough coats to make three torsos bite-proof, and I’m sure I’m not unique. If we’re talking about settling on a farm, there ought to be tons of stuff we can use.

Well, headgear might be tricky to find. Football helmets are preferred. They offer respectable visibility, they distinguish survivors from the zeds in the midst of the fray, they make your head un-bite-able, and they should even protect your noggin against friendly fire baseball bats.

This is something I never see these stories deal with that I think would be a major problem. In a confusing melee, it’s not unlikely that you’ll donk a teammate on the head. Most likely it would happen on the backswing. There probably won’t be lethal power in such a blow, but it might be enough to stun, concuss, confuse, or injure. Just another thing to worry about. On the other hand: If someone dies with a football helmet on, it’s going to be a pain in the ass to stop the resulting walker. On the gripping hand: A zed wearing a helmet probably won’t be able to bite anyone because the face guard will be in the way.

Also, I’d want safety glasses or goggles for the zombie fighters, if possible. For some reason this is never an issue in zombie stories (other than 28 Days Later) but my instinct would be to assume that zombie juice in the mouth or eyes is dangerous. And also yuck.


This is my favorite scene from Zombieland

But let’s assume those pesky writers sneak a zed all the way from the city to our compound, past the noisemaker chimes, around the fence, through our armor, and manages to bite down on somebody before they can kill it. This would be almost impossible if the writers didn’t insist on it being inevitable, so let’s decide how to handle it.

In zombie stories, people are always concealing their bite wounds because they’re afraid the group will execute them without mercy. If you find a scratch on your hand and you can’t quite tell if it came from zombie teeth or your own machete, then the usual group-of-assholes dynamics will incentivize you to conceal the wound for as long as possible. Maybe the wound wasn’t large enough to pose a threat? Or if it is, maybe it isn’t infected? Or if it is infected, maybe it’s just regular infected and not zombie infected? And if it is zombie infected, maybe you have a slim chance at recovering? Your own survival instinct will drive you to wait until the last possible moment before revealing the bite. This is bad for everyone, even the bite victim.

To solve this, we just reserve a clean safe place for possible infections. If someone is wounded, their wounds are cleaned and they’re placed into the quarantine room. We give them food and water and whatever else we can offer them for comfort. Loved ones can visit them and we can track their progress to learn about the disease. If they turn, the armored zombie smasher team can dispatch them after death. The smasher team has armor, so this isn’t a serious risk.

This is one of the ways that the more humanitarian approach wins out over the hardcore survivalists. The survivalists will dump you or shoot you once you’re bit. This means you’re more likely to hide the bite, turn at an inopportune moment, and cause more problems. In our group, we’re not just being nice to THIS bite victim, we’re also creating a path of least resistance and maximum hope for the NEXT bite victim. Also, we’re avoiding needless death, like when Bob Crawford decides to execute a bite victim that wasn’t really infected. Perhaps that wound is a crescent-shaped scratch and not an actual bite? Perhaps it’s a bite, but the zombie was wearing dentures that don’t spread the pathogen the way real teeth do? Perhaps the plague is losing potency? Perhaps some slim margin of the population is immune? Perhaps pouring that hydrogen peroxide over the wound improved their odds of survival? Not bloody likely, I’ll admit, but Bob Crawford doesn’t know for sure. None of us do. There are lots of unknowns, so we shouldn’t go around shooting people while they’re still alive.

We let the infected live as long as possible so that the injured will never have a reason to hide it. Yes, it’s slightly less convenient to have to bash up a zed once the infected person dies, but its worth the hassle if we can create an atmosphere of trust where people will be open and honest. The quarantine room should offer the infected the best possible chance at survival and the greatest possible comfort for those doomed to die. There should be no reason to hide an injury. This logic should be extended to all the sick. If you’re seriously ill or injured, then there should be a doorknob between you and everyone else, just in case you die.

Meanwhile, Bob Crawford is needlessly shrinking his team, shaking the loyalty of his followers, getting rid of non-combat helpers he’ll need next year, and teaching his people to be secretive about health problems. He’s an idiot. Crawford shouldn’t be worried about what might happen if Fred turns. He should be terrified that he’ll miss out on Fred’s knowledge and labor this winter.


The city is a nice place to visit, but you really don’t want to live there. Because there’s no food.

There should be plenty of jobs for non-combatants. Sure, you’ll be doing a lot of fighting in that first six months (or however long it takes the millions of old-world zombies to fall apart) but once the days of fighting are over you’ll have a ton of menial work to do and not much need for combat. Bob Crawford will be very sorry if he threw away all those human beings just because they weren’t badass enough for his badass club.

Once spring rolls around and we get the crops planted, we’ll send out small expeditions. Ideally they’ll drive but if the fuel is gone then we’re stuck walking. The first expeditions will be just one or two day survey trips to get a feel for the area. Assuming those people come back in good shape, we can send out more. We’re looking for communities, survivors, and resources. We’re looking for signs, news, and hints about how the rest of the world is doing. We’re looking for hints or rumors of bandits to know what kind of threats we’re facing. Maybe someone else got some power going? Maybe there’s still a government left somewhere? Maybe there are starving families who would like to join us? We build up, get news, and maybe even open trade. (I’m not sure how much good trade will be. We’re probably in the same part of the country, which means we’re likely going to have the same surpluses and shortages. Still, they might grow some crops that we don’t. If nothing else, we can swap books.)

I’ve read that gasoline goes bad after a couple of years. We can’t get the refineries going again because they’re massively complex and we have no way to get more oil. (Since American oil is either imported, piped thousands of miles, or acquired via offshore drilling. Those systems require a ton of infrastructure and expertise to operate and maintain.) Which means all of our fossil fuel systems are eventually doomed. We might get them going again in a generation.

On the other hand, coal is still crazy plentiful and we ought to be able to make hydro power work. Which means we might have this oddball future with no cars but plentiful electricity. I don’t know enough about these systems to say for sure. I suppose the few electric cars we have floating around will be in big demand. An even bigger demand would be figuring out how to make electricity power our farming equipment, since that’s the most pressing and labor-intensive thing we face these days.

Assuming zombies are not perpetual motion machines, then they ought to have decomposed in the spring thaw or spent their energy in the first winter. Maybe we can hand-wave a few more months of activity, but by year two the zombies are gone and the only zombie threat is from people who otherwise die of natural causes. That sucks, and funerals are going to be really odd from now on, but humanity should be just fine.

I’ll miss the internet, though. Even if we get it running again, it will never be quite the same without a couple billion creative, bored, healthy, and well-fed people using it every day and adding new content.

I wonder if I’ll be able to go back to blogging?


From The Archives:

175 thoughts on “My Zombie Plan, Part 5

  1. Harry says:

    I think most zombie stories do assume that zombies are perpetual motion machines. This makes as much sense as anything else about zombies, to me – use whatever technobabble that you want, the only real way to explain traditional zombies is “magic,” and if that’s the case, zombies can work in whatever unlikely ways the writer demands, as long as they’re self-consistent.

    So it is possible for cities to require dedicated purging of millions of zombies, rather than just waiting for them to die off – in this case, it might take ten or fifteen years of rebuilding in the countryside before humanity could possibly be organized enough to pull that off, and there’s always the possibility that the zombies would start to migrate away from the cities and towards these new population centres. In this case, a few sharpened sticks won’t be enough to hold off a 400,000-strong horde from the nearest city – the biggest advantage zombies have always had over humans in these stories is sheer numbers.

    On the other hand, if we assume that Shamus is right and the zombies do die out naturally after a year or two, his burgeoning agricultural community’s new biggest threat would be other people. Imagine the group led by Bob Crawford, that Shamus describes. A group of people who’ve been staying alive by scavenging, and who’ve been systematically killing both zombies and each other to try and stay ahead of infection. If they survive the zombocalypse, they’ll be suffering from severe PTSD at the very least – they’ll be hardened and traumatized to the point that anything human-shaped begins to look like a target, rather than potential ally. These people will also, to have survived this long, be well-armed and battle-hardened. Now imagine that this Crawford group, however small a size it may have dwindled to over the years, is facing the reality that the zombies are dying out and there’s no food left to scavenge.

    The solution that these people will be most likely to see isn’t the rational one – to settle down and start a farm. The solution will be to go out, find a farm like Shamus’s, and either threaten it into giving them food or just straight-up take over. Of course, if Shamus’s group put up a resistance, Bob Crawford and co. won’t realistically stand much of a chance, but it’s worth keeping in mind that even though humanity generally aren’t as stupid evil as zombie movies make out, desperate, hungry, traumatized humans are capable of almost anything, and they’ll probably be the biggest threat by far in a zombocalypse where the zombies have all fallen apart.

    1. You know, after the collapse, wild animals might become somewhat of a threat too. Lions, bears, tigers, oh my, so to speak. It wasn’t long ago that man-eating lions were a threat even to Europeans operating in Africa, and even today in the developing world and parts of rural America wild animals like bobcats can be an issue.

      1. Shamus says:

        True story:

        My grandmother, who was born near or during World War I, had memories of walking home from school in the deep winter when it got dark early. Wolves would sometimes follow them home. They never got close to the group, but it’s a safe bet that if anyone had lingered the wolves would have made a go of eating them.

        Assuming there are any left around here, I don’t see why they wouldn’t behave that way again.

        1. Stranger says:

          Wolves and other predators would make a resurgence if there was enough prey to sustain larger numbers . . . which there might be if fields were left untended elsewhere, and smaller animals thrived.

          1. Dev Null says:

            “if there was enough prey to sustain larger numbers”

            Which there definitely would be; zombies are meat, and slow and easy to catch.

            1. Jeff R. says:

              Zombies are rotting meat, so only scavengers and carrion-eaters will even try to eat them. (So wolves, okay, but no big cats.) They may also be deeply unhealthy as food as well, even to animals that can’t actually go zombie themselves.

              1. madshaw says:

                I’m not sure about North american animals, but I’m pretty sure that lions in Africa get about 50% of their food from carion

            2. X2-Eliah says:

              Look, if animals can eat zombie meat, then so can humans. So either humans have just as much of a problem with foodsources as animals, or humans have just as easy time with super-easy-to-get meat as animals.

              1. Asimech says:

                I’m pretty sure humans have weaker stomachs for spoiled meat than carrion-eating animals.

                1. X2-Eliah says:

                  Yes, that’s why we can use the magical technology of fire on the meat.

                  1. Asimech says:

                    Frying meat is not magic, it doesn’t make spoiled meat palatable. Try frying and eating minced meat that has gone grey and I can guarantee you either lose your appetite within the first mouthful or need your stomach pumped after finishing.

                    Nor does cooking meat get rid of all of the bacteria or viruses.

            3. Moriarty says:

              Zombie eating wolfes result in zombie wolfes though. Which would be either TERRYFYING if we go by resident evil mechanics or would result in actually a more harmless version of wolfes if we go by traditional slow-zombie versions.

        2. Stranger says:

          Well, if fields lay fallow and untended and extra food exists for small animals and deer, then predators who feed off those animals will see an increase as well . . .

          . . . so yes, we might actually see an increase in wolves. Not to mention feral dogs and cats.

          1. Stranger says:

            Terribly sorry about the almost double post – the first time it threw up a “cannot find the website” so I reloaded and typed a new one.

          2. And cougars; cougars would be happy and extend their range and even today some of them aren’t shy about preying on human if it’s a hungry day and that happens to be the meat they see.
            Bears are omnivorous and many of those near human habitation eat human-produced food waste, of which there will suddenly be a lot less. One might find the bears multiplying deeper in the countryside as viable bear habitat replaces fields, and on the other hand a fair number of really hungry, pissed off bears closer to the city in the first year, scouring the area for anything edible to replace their normal gravy train.
            Then there’s zoos. It’s perfectly possible that you might get some actual lions and tigers and leopards managing to escape from zoos once their food stopped being delivered. Some attendants might even let them loose, not wanting their charges to starve. Could they become successful invasive species? Tigers in particular used to have quite a broad range in terms of climate until humans killed most of them off. I bet they could survive just fine in a North America suddenly being overrun with deer.

            1. Paul Spooner says:

              Bears, panthers, and lions = awesome foes once the zombie menace has subsided.

            2. Ashewyntr says:

              The largest populations of lions and tigers in the world are in private collections in North America.

            3. Ghoul says:

              Had 3 cougars chase me home last night. Never leave the bar at closing time, go home earlier.

        3. Nick Pitino says:

          Maybe so, maybe no.

          According to Wikipedia (for whatever that’s worth) the list of confirmed cases of people being killed by wolves is…surprisingly short all things considered.

          Many of them were killed by wolves being kept as pets, some were killed by rabid wolves and a good number of the rest were people by themselves in the wilderness.

          So the most important things I’d take to heart is:

          – Wild animals are poor choices for pets.
          – Rabies is bad news.
          Wandering alone into the wilderness is often a bad idea, and should be recognized as such.
          – Related to the above, stick together in groups. Moseying around the forest by yourself is asking for trouble but the notion that wolves would attack a group of people around a camp fire is…silly.

          1. Jakale says:

            Could always get a jump start on re-domestication, though. Not without significant caution, of course, and there are probably some feral dogs and cats running around.

          2. Zombie says:

            Just as a side note, the case fatality rate for Rabies is about 100% unless you get the vaccine within 2 or 3 months. And most diseases transfer from animals to humans. So really, if it even looks a little sick, just stay away from it in a Zombie apocalypse.

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      If zombies really are perpetual motion machines, then killing them is a huge waste. With some cleverness it should be simple to harness them as pack animals. Imagine a “team” of zombies pulling a plough… and you never have to feed them. This would be a huge boon to re-developing society.

      1. Chauzuvoy says:

        Patent 15342

        An apparatus to enable the practical application of zombie power

        Football-helmetted zombies (A) are disarmed (literally), and tied to plow (B). Armored human (C) walks in front of them. Their hunger drives them to follow.

        1. Deadpool says:

          Cut off the arms to be certain and you’re good.

          1. Naota says:

            And here I was, thinking of and about to post exactly this.

            Unsounded is such a great series – its range of dialogue (and dialect) gets me every time, to say nothing of the impeccable composition and visual language.

      2. Adam Fuller says:

        You aren’t thinking this through completely.

        Place them in a giant armored hamster wheel for infinite free electricity!

    3. Jakale says:

      I was thinking about that too, while reading. Lots of cases where civilizations produce war experts and then suddenly lose the need for them and have to scramble to give them something to do instead of stirring up trouble (see conquistadors). If the community bunches are lucky, the winter, the relatively short time spent in the new lifestyle, and the welcoming nature of the community will make more warrior groups prefer to join up rather than raid. Fortunately, as you said, the communities have their own fighters due to circumstances, so it won’t be vikings raiding helpless monasteries.

    4. Jon Wood says:

      Wait a second.

      I think most zombie stories do assume that zombies are perpetual motion machines.

      So is there any reason anyone couldn’t just take a zombie, put them on a treadmill, hook it up to a generator, and…

  2. A brilliant end. As I noted in the previous thread, I personally think that scavenging is likely to be a frequent activity even early on for a group of fifteen people. Even if someone is very prepared for disasters, there’s all sorts of things someone needs. These include:

    *Eggs (before they go bad)
    *Other seasonings
    *Coals for barbequing
    *Wood for firefood, construction, etc.
    *NSAID medication
    *Other forms of medication (I’d certainly want asthma medication, antibiotics, etc. even if our group didn’t need it, as a trade, emergency bargaining chip, or in case we need to help someone new)
    *Canned food
    *Plastic wrap
    *Paper towels
    *Hydrogen peroxide
    *Sewing needles, thimbles, etc.
    *Automotive and other mechanical parts to keep generators running, vehicles running, etc.
    *Tires as a subset of the above
    *Plates, glasses, etc. (this sounds like a luxury but it keeps you from having to eat off of unsanitized surfaces)

    I pick all of these things just to indicate that you constantly need to go out.

    As many people have pointed out, the big threat in any civilization collapse situation is other people. Zombies actually in my opinion make the issue ironically EASIER: Zombies are a threat that everyone can point to, and the most psychopathic groups lose out against the zombies for all the reason you’ve identified.

    I also think that “writer” was perhaps a bad way of thinking about it the whole time. A writer, I think, could write an interesting story where zombies don’t show up as much and are just a background threat. Or write a different kind of zombie. GM is more like it. I’ve run zombie campaigns and post-apocalyptic campaigns, and have been part of those, and it definitely is difficult to keep coming up with plausible attacks.

    1. Syal says:

      Zombie-filled space stations crashing to earth behind your defenses are ABSOLUTELY plausible.

      1. Zombie-filled space stations from an alternate timeline, that can spit zombie-infection like spitting cobras.

    2. Andy_Panthro says:

      Easy to forget how hard it might be to acquire even salt and pepper. They’re quite cheap and available now, but in a pre-industrial society it would be much harder to source them.

      We take the vast array of foodstuffs for granted at the moment, but we’d have to say farewell to that amazingly varied diet in such a situation. Spices would return to being a hugely profitable commodity, something for special occasions.

      See also: Sugar, cocoa and chocolate.

      Of course this will vary hugely depending on where you live in this post-zombie world.

      1. 4th Dimension says:

        Since salt is an essential foodstuff, I still say a peninsula or coast close to a river might be a prime spot in the long run. Biggest problem is that such prime spots usually already heavily populated and thus zombies.

        1. Andy_Panthro says:

          You can also mine salt, but either method requires time and labour. If you’re lucky enough to be near farmers, it would be a good business to set up in. Salt is the sort of thing which can be bartered for food and supplies.

    3. Chamomile says:

      I think the secret to GMing almost any campaign is to either end the campaign when its premise has run its course (i.e. zombie attacks are becoming implausible, so I’ll use this one idea I have to stage an epic end-of-game zombie horde battle and then in the aftermath transition straight to an epilogue) or else to take the fact that continuing the premise is becoming troublesome as a cue that it is time for the premise to change.

      Zombie attacks no longer a plausible threat? The game is now a post-apocalyptic game in which humanity is operating on iron age societies but with lots of modern tech leftover. Some people still have fuel for cars and bullets for guns, some people have the know-how to bump their society up to the industrial era in some or all ways, and as Shamus noted electricity might not be super-hard to come by even very late into the apocalypse. All nations are basically a single village of other survivors, the zombies are now a background threat, and your plot is about interaction with other survivor communities, especially ones run by Bob Crawford that have decided to be Assyrians. Once you deal with those (and if you want another paradigm shift rather than ending the campaign there), you’ll have a number of allied and/or conquered villages spanning an area that’s probably about the size of Connecticut, which is the basis for a decent Civilization-esque game wherein you follow a generational saga of different rulers, from the same dynasty or democratically elected or whatever, who each seek to run their fledgling nation…Y’know, however. Ruins from the old world might be restored if you can get the infrastructure up and running again, or you might end up developing one of your survivor settlements into the new Chicago. There will be zombie-infested sections of the world where survivors didn’t make it, barbarian settlements where survivors haven’t moved past the iron age stage, and other nations. Possibly even empires that established proper nations before you and annexed other settlements/nations, violently or not, resulting in something resembling either the Roman Empire or a modern nation.

      As the apocalypse well and truly ends, old world culture begins to bleed away and a new civilization entirely begins to take hold. The players might go on playing as the rulers, or they might take the role of soldiers or rangers or some other frontier/war-related career, in order to keep the scale more or less the same now that running the nation and personally fighting bandits/zombies/enemy soldiers are mutually exclusive professions. The original premise has bled away to the point where mechanically speaking you could start a completely new game and instead of having zombies you just have like regular wolves and stuff, but if your players really want to keep the continuity going, you can do that. You just have to change up the premise.

      That actually sounds like a really fun game. I would play that game, pen and paper or video game or whatever.

  3. Vlad says:

    You mentioned that all this writing might have been better directed to a book, why not actually write a book about this?

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Possibly because there already is at least one that is pretty widely known? For that matter after it was published there were some discussions to improve upon it in the geek community but frankly I think it’s something that really only works once. After the first one it pretty much becomes a matter of “my assumptions of how zombie apocalypse works are better than yours.”

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        That’s a very good point; while this series is largely off-the-cuff and intentionally works on the knowledge Shamus has rolling around already, any book worth reading would need to be seriously researched; otherwise, you couldn’t get an idea of how well these strategies would even work, if at all. The kind of folks likely to buy such a book tend to be pretty picky about the minutiae, too. (see also: this series’ comments)

        But once you actually look into it and have some sort of grip on what you could or should do, then it’s just a matter of adjusting or evaluating the suppositions behind zombies, as far as generating anything original and worthwhile.

        So in the end you’d still come down to needing an interesting narrative/cast to give the book a raison d’àªtre, and if you’ve got that you might as well not sweat the details so intensively; if I’m invested in the folks or the goings-on, I won’t care so much where the cast got all that .041 in. safety wire, and if I did care more about the sundry details than decent story or pathos then I might already be a zombie and my having read this series has seriously endangered you all.

      2. Vlad says:

        Ya, I didn’t know that existed…

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      (I tried posting this reply earlier but it seems to be stuck in some sort of limbo, it doesn’t show on the post, even on reloading the page, but when I tried to post it again it said that it’s a duplicate comment… sorry if the first one gets unstuck and this becomes a double post.)

      Possibly because there already is at least one that is pretty widely known? For that matter after it was published there were some discussions to improve upon it in the geek community but frankly I think it’s something that really only works once. After the first one it pretty much becomes a matter of “my assumptions of how zombie apocalypse works are better than yours.”

    3. СТАЛКЕР of ЗОНА says:

      I’d read a book about pseudo-self insert Shamus leading a mixed group of nerds and “normals” through a zombie poppyclapse with defined rules based on real science.

  4. Guildenstern says:

    Well, consider me humbled. While I’ve been partaking in the “zombie plan” fun for years now, reading a bunch of different sources and drafting a bunch of different plans (even laying the groundwork for a few because remember “zombie plan” is adaptable to pretty much any SHTF situation) there was a bunch of stuff in here that made me slap my forehead and go “why the hell didn’t I think of that?”

    While at times I kept thinking “what ‘writer’ are we talking about here” given that this is purportedly a real-world plan, that’s perhaps a good way of thinking of things: imagine the most contrived, BS, out-of-left field scenario a hack zombie fiction writer could throw at you and make a plan to rebuff that. Probably the best chance you’ve got of zed-proofing yourself against Murphy’s Law.

  5. BvG says:

    I think it’s kinda funny how American your solution is. Here in Switzerland it’s not the bunkers or the automatic rifles that make a difference, but the architecture. For starters, old farm houses are never made of planks… Actually, now that I think about it, no living quarter here is ever made of planks. It’s either logs, cinderblocks or modern armament concrete. The availability of Zombie-secure buildings is incredibly much higher, especially as almost all apartment blocks can be converted into a fortress with a days work, and they’re everywhere!

    So your Americas rural emptiness just does not exist here. Even in the most remote areas in the mountains, ski resort hotel silos from the seventies are never more then 2 days walk away. Of course that means one can’t really hide from the zeds, because they’ll be everywhere too. The hardest part would be to find arable land that is easy to protect, as there’s no flat area anywhere, and visual lookouts would not suffice.

    I’d probably start with protective gear, and go foraging as a group for a few months, building temporary save houses everywhere. Only on the second year I’d care about producing food. Just one food store worth of non-degradable food can feed a population of 5 to 10 people for a year! I’m talking about all the cans, noodles, rice, flours, muesli, dried fruits, etc.

    TL;dr: Zombie problems would be very different where I life, compared to what your solutions are for.

    1. Mimir says:

      So, being fron the netherlands, i really have a problem here. i live in one of the most population – dense areas in all europe. wherever i am in my country, i’m never more that a brisk walk away from a town or village. so really, my main problem will be surviving zombies. i wont have any guns, so i’d probably have to get some hand-to-hand weapons somewhere. i don’t give myself great odds. neither are there really many places that would be really effective forifications. my best bet would probably be a flat or apartment building. then again, i could try and find a castle….

      If i somehow manage to survive there should be quite a lot of food available. I’d try to establish a home base and raid supermarkets for the first year or so (an advantage of this country: lots of roads and lots of bikes for riding on them), and then try to start farming. i’d have to make sure to get above sea level first, though. without maintenance, it’s only a matter of time before dikes start breaking and half the country gets flooded again.

      1. Maharassa says:

        “Ideally they'll drive but if the fuel is gone then we're stuck walking.”

        It’s interesting that in 10,000 words, there is not a single mention of bicycles.
        They are probably your best bet for transportation in the apocalypse, they are silent, fuel-efficient (as in, they do not use any) and while slower than a car, much faster than any Zombies.
        Of course, for transporting lots of goods or large objects, a car is still superior but three people with backpacks and maybe bicycle trailers can still get you a lot of goods.

        1. Shamus says:

          In western PA, the land is so hilly that bikes might be impractical. Unless you’re in phenomenal shape, you’ll spend as much time pushing it up hills as you do riding it. I’m assuming our team will have backpacks of some sort, which will make it even harder.

          Now, if you stuck to the interstates and wanted to go west, then bikes might be a great idea. If you wanted to ride on secondary roads and wanted to head east towards the mountains, it might be better to walk.

          1. Maharassa says:

            Huh, you’re right, I didn’t think to figure hills into the equation.
            That’s where location comes into it again i guess.

          2. Paul Spooner says:

            Well, think of it like this. you can have the bike “carry” the gear, so you can carry more of it. If you push the bike up the hill then it will be little less trouble than just walking. When you get to the top, you can ride it down hill, which will be faster than running.
            So, it’s the question of trading the extra weight of the bike when going uphill (50 pounds?) for the extra speed and carrying capacity. Probably still worth it IMHO.

      2. Toast Goblin says:

        I’m not that up on the exact situation in the Netherlands, but could you not use that water and terrain to your advantage and engineer yourself a nice island with a bit of strategic dike-busting?

        Also, aren’t there lots of nice defensible windmills, or is that just a lie put about by the tourist board?

        1. Mimir says:

          Well, you can. in fact, througout Dutch history, invaders have been stopped by flooding areas their armies had to march through. but i’m not a water engineer, so i don’t know what effect breaking this dike would have on this other dike. plus, there are areas that are just entirely under sea level, which will just flood entirely if the dikes break.
          that said, if there is a hill or something you can live on and the land arround it is polder, you could certanly do it. The safety is probably worth having to leave your home by boat.

          As for windmills: That’s a pretty good idea. you’d have power, and if you find a grain mill it could certainly be used for making flour. Plus they look pretty defensiible, and some of them have a balcony from which you could keep watch over the area. you’d have to find an unoccupied one, but there’s about 1200 of them. assuming most of the 16 million dutch people die or become zombies, and that not every survivor goes for the nearest windmill, that might work very well.

    2. KMJX says:

      The fact that everything is so close here may mean that one could not really hide from Zeds, but in a Zed scenario we Swiss would not need to hide from them.
      Partly because the citizens *are* the swiss army, and partly because the Zed would tend to be attracted to the very close big urban areas of our neighboring countries, so going up in the mountains would be a very solid plan ;)

  6. MrGuy says:

    Since American oil is either imported, piped thousands of miles, or acquired via offshore drilling.r

    Nope. Not even close.

    You’ve clearly never been to Texas or parts of Louisiana. There’s plenty of oil still being pumped up on dry land onshore in the US. There are pumps EVERYWHERE in those regions. WAY more than would be needed for the number of folks post-apocalypse.

    Those systems require a ton of infrastructure and expertise to operate and maintain.

    This part is true. Modern pumping and refining equipment is hard-to-imossible to use and maintain without expertise. That said, a lot of it is in Texas, which is also where you’re likely to have the highest percentage of survivors with oil industry experience.

    But that’s missing a WAY more plausible fuel source you have that you can produce right there in Pennsylvania. Diesel.

    The very first diesel engine ran on unmodified peanut oil. And you can still in principle run most diesel engines oil. But that’s problematic because oil has high viscosity – it can get “sticky” in the fuel system and literally gum things up (especially in the winter).

    Bio-diesel, however, is designed as a motor fuel. And there are numerous kits to produce it at home (it’s a hobby industry analogous to home brewing). While finding a pre-packaged bio-diesel kit might be “too magic,” the main ingredients of a working bio-diesel home refinery are reasonably easy to find.

    First, we need a source of oil. If we have a crop (e.g. corn) with a high oil content, we can produce oil with a press. The second thing we need is methanol, which is admittedly harder to get, but it’s not a complicated process – distillation of fermented wood pulp, and the equipment to produce a viable still isn’t hard to find. The process to produce viable bio-diesel mainly involves combining these and waiting for certain unwanted elements to settle out, leaving viable bio-diesel.

    Admittedly, scale is a problem – you need a fair amount of planted corn to produce a reasonable amount of corn oil (which is your main input), but it’s DEFINITELY possible.

    1. Nick Pitino says:

      Diesel is one option if you have the ability to devote agricultural land and labor to it.

      If not the other thing that you can do is find an older vehicle with a carburetor and build a wood gas generator:

      In the short term that’s probably preferable to effectively burning food which your group probably needs a lot more.

      1. Merle says:

        Technology is freaking fascinating. Thanks for giving me some good reading!

      2. Merle says:

        Perpetual zombie world…hmm.
        How about, zombies are the spirits of the angry dead/inhuman monsters/necromancy gone wrong, and will perpetually self-assemble from component elements in the soil and rise up? Even if you just limit them to “only emerges from graves/graveyards”, that still gives a decent setting with an unlimited supply of zombies to fight/defend against.

        Then, of course, you just need to take a few levels in Cleric and get to work on the Necromputer…

      3. Octapode says:

        I wonder how hard it would be to retrofit a carburettor into a modern car. Probably not that hard, especially since you would be feeding two gasses, not a gas and a liquid. You may well need to strip out a lot of the electronics and whatever, but it should be doable after a bit of tinkering.

        1. Nick Pitino says:

          Most modern cars use fuel injectors, not carburetors, which as far as I know you can’t get this to work with that.

          As to actually converting a car with a carburetor the way it was explained to me is you esentially have to strip off the parts for feeding in gasoline and have a tube or pipe bring in the wood gas to that same inlet, like right above the butterfly valve:

          Of course if you could leave all of the gasoline cruft in place you might be able to dual-fuel the car depending on what’s avalible.

          1. Octapode says:

            What I mean is, how hard would it be to rip out the injectors and fit a carb instead?

            Dual fuel would probably require either adding a whole new feed in system, or just putting a second carb in line with the current petrol one, and shutting one off when not needed.

            1. Octapode says:

              Checking the wiki articles on carburettors and throttles, it looks like the answer to my question is “really pretty easy”. All you need to do is block the injectors and add a fuel input just before the throttle. A bit harder if you want to feed liquid fuel, but for gas fuel you just need a decent seal and some proper sized pipe. (I guess. I have no idea if this would actually work, but it seems like it would.)

              1. Nick Pitino says:


                I did not know that you can convert a fuel injected engine to a carburetor.

                Learn something new every day, which validates Shamus’s point about having more people around the better.

                If you’ve got the gear to try and fabricate a wood gasifier then you can probably work out a mount for a carburetor.

                Just need to find a carburetor first…which will probably already be attached to a car…which raises the question of why not just put the gasifier on that one.

                Well I guess you might run into just a carburetor by itself if you’re scavenging in an auto parts store or something, or if the engine blows on a vehicle then you could transfer over the pertinent bits-n’-bobs.

                Neat stuff anyway.

                Thinking back to something I mentioned on a different comment, namely that the TV show The Colony is awesome if you’re interested in stuff like this, someone was nice enough to put together a clip reel of all of the parts of the show having to do with the gasifier they built:


                1. Octapode says:

                  I am kinda guessing on the conversion, but it looks pretty reasonable (if the wiki diagrams are correct, a carburettor is basically just a throttle with some way for the fuel to get to the air flow). From what I remember on my reading on this, the main complexity of a caburettor is getting the fuel into vapour form in the airflow, which of course is not a problem for wood gas, since it is already a gas. So (if I am right, and I would want to ask someone who actually has experience with cars to check my reasoning) you would just need to run a pipe from the gas source, drill a hole in the air intake right next to the throttle and mate the two with sufficient duct tape or araldite, and you should be good to go.

                2. Josufu says:

                  Speaking of “The Colony”, they used rotting pig carcasses in season two to make bio-diesel. I have a feeling there will be plenty of rotting animals, sadly, and, with the predicted deer explosion, is it possible that they might be able to just make their own bio-diesel from rendered deer fat? Of course, fat is one of those macro-nutrients that will be in short supply in the future, so this may not be the BEST use of the fat; it depends on the circumstances.

                  1. Nick Pitino says:

                    I don’t see why you couldn’t.

                    Take a lot of deer though but then again that probably wouldn’t be a problem, especially for someone like Shamus who lives in Pennsylvania where the damn things are like hoofed rats *RIGHT NOW*.

                    Generally speaking though unless there was some sort of surplus it would probably be wiser to save the fat for the eating, when you’re spending each day doing backbreaking labor to eke out a meager existence of subsistence farming you’ll need all the calories you can get.

                    Thinking of deer fat and fat in general it would be useful for a bunch of other things as well. If you render the fat down you can make tallow which is useful for greasing things and making usable but somewhat smoky and smelly candles.

                    Beeswax candles are much better, but unless you have bees then you make do with what you can. (Bees would be somewhat further down, but definitely on the list of Things To Acquire in these sort of ‘The End Of The World As We Know It’ situations. Besides beeswax you’ll also get honey which is nice for obvious reasons and the help they’d give pollinating certain crops is a welcome benefit as well.)

                    Furthermore rendering animal fat is also part of the process of making lye soap, also useful. The soap making process yields glycerin as a byproduct as well which has all sorts of nifty uses.

                    1. Peter H. Coffin says:

                      Deer are, unfortunately, a pretty lousy source of fat. They’re very lean, even in the fall hunting season, when they’re at the fattest they’re going to be for the year. Hogs, on the other hand….

    2. krellen says:

      From the point of view of someone in Pennsylvania, oil production in Texas and Louisiana might as well be imported or offshore given the circumstances we’re discussing.

      1. MrGuy says:

        Which is a better worry than “it’s imported or piped in from overseas.”

        1. Wedge says:

          Is it? If you’re in Pennsylvania, in a world where there’s no reliable source of fuel, Texas may as well be on the moon for how easy it is to reach. Our world seems pretty small, since I can (and have) driven from one end of the US to the other over the course of a few days, but there is an exorbitant amount of infrastructure required for me to be able to do that–roads for me to drive on, gas stations placed every few miles, electricity grids to run the gas pumps. When that all shuts down, things aren’t so easy anymore.

          1. MrGuy says:

            Um, yeah, dude. That’s what I was agreeing with.

    3. krellen says:

      From the point of view of someone in Pennsylvania, oil production in Texas and Louisiana might as well be imported or offshore given the circumstances we’re discussing. It certainly qualifies as “pumped thousands of miles”, at any rate.

      1. Peter H. Coffin says:

        Remember where Penzoil and Quaker State got their names and tell me how far the Pennsylvania mountains are from oil production… (;

    4. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Don’t forget the Dakotas.

      And there’s another possibility: Liquid Natural Gas, which is prevalent in Pennsylvania.

      Coal could work as a source of energy on a small scale, but if you wanted to get the electrical grid up and running, Natural Gas is going to be simpler as it is easier to transport and the turbines are less complicated than the pressurized pulverized coal boilers.

      1. Then there’s windmills. Heck, most of the existing windmills and solar panels and hydro dams would probably still be working, or need just a bit of maintenance to get back in gear. Given a much smaller population, you’ve probably got sufficient electricity right there if you can connect a wire between it and you.
        Depending where you live, after the first year it might actually be worth migrating to somewhere you know there’s a wind farm or a dam.

        1. harborpirate says:

          Seeking out the nearest hydro dam seems like it would be a good idea once you’ve established your fort. Especially if you’ve got the manpower to send out a small team and it isn’t too far.

          The mission of this team has several critical purposes:
          1. Make sure the dam is in a safe condition so that you don’t get unexpectedly wiped out by a massive flood (since you’re probably living near a river). The primary concern is water is overtopping the dam due to clogging or improper setting of the water regulation gates, which would lead to its destruction.
          2. Attempt to gain control of facility or work out an agreement with those holding it to ensure that that water flow is regulated and available year round downstream.
          3. Work to restore power generation. (Hopefully one of the engineers survived!)

          In fact, talk about a topic for a kickass book or game! I’d be really interested in an adventure where a small team was responsible for making the arduous journey to the dam with the goal of obtaining control or signing a formal agreement to restore permanent power and water regulation.

    5. The Rocketeer says:

      As I recall, Los Angeles itself is smack dab on top of a massive reserve.

      Seems like I always passed by oil pumps(?) traveling south to Florida, too.

      If we’re still working off of Kirkman rules, only one in 5,000 people are still alive. There’s not as much oil available, but our need of it will be quite reduced.

      What would worry me more than raw resources is rebuilding all the infrastructure and middleman industries, things that paradoxically cannot exist without the industries they service but without which these industries cannot be restarted. The watchword of the next century would not be ‘fuel,’ it would be ‘replacement parts.’

  7. braincraft says:

    If zombies ARE perpetual motion machines, maybe we could get them to power the farming equipment.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      If zombies are perpetual motion machines,that would mean that magic has entered our world.So Id start with forming a group of wizards to research some spells that we can cast at the darkness.

      1. swenson says:

        I hear Magic Missile is a good one for that.

        1. СТАЛКЕР of ЗОНА says:

          I’ll buy all your Potions of Cure Disease.

      2. The Rocketeer says:

        WHM LF3M WHM pst

      3. MrGuy says:

        If zombies exist AT ALL, that would mean magic has entered our world.

        Saying we have a world that contains zombies and yet cannot contain counter-to-observed physics is a very specific amount of magic.

        1. pat says:

          step one; gather drawing materials
          step two; hide somewhere quiet.
          step three; start drawing runes, talismans, sigils, what-have-you until one works.
          step four; profit.

          note step 3 requires magic to have entered the world, otherwise use ???.

        2. Deoxy says:

          Only for rather specific definitions of “zombie”.

          If “zombie” is something that does not care for its own survival, wants to eat other members of its species, does not pay any attention to injuries, and has highly reduced mental function, then yes, they most certainly can exist. There are examples of all of these (including up to 3 of them in the same package) in nature… just luckily, none* that affect us.

          If “zombie” is all of that plus perpetual motion, not needing food or water, or being immune to bleeding out or other forms of destruction other than the nervous system, well, OK then, you’re right.

          * There is a toxin which is claimed to be behind the claims of voodoo zombies – tetrodoxin or something? Anyway, it is claimed to occasionally produce all of those but “desire to eat own species” (and other times to do nothing or kill the victim).

        3. krellen says:

          Magic already exists in our world. By almost any definition, this sure looks a lot like magic.

      4. Don’t forget the clerics! Invaluable in a undead-heavy world.

    2. Katesickle says:

      Y’know, zombie power isn’t actually a terrible idea. If you can make a human-sized rodent wheel, with something that makes noise to get the zombie to run, you could get some energy out of it. Obviously the type of zombies they are would determine how viable such a plan is. If we’re talking super-strength zombies then deliberately keeping them around is asking for trouble. But if they’re of average human strength, with far sub-average intelligence? People should be able to handle them safely without too much trouble. It’s arguably less dangerous than dealing with a vicious dog at that point (dogs are smart, have much sharper teeth, and the larger ones have bite forces that are downright scary).

      …Now I want to play a zombie-themed version of The Incredible Machine…

      1. Anyone seen the movie “Fido”?
        It has 50s-style suburbia with zombie manual labour. It’s great.

  8. Mimir says:

    places that would be really effective forifications. my best bet would probably be a flat or apartment building. then again, i could try and find a castle….

    If i somehow manage to survive there should be quite a lot of food available. I’d try to establish a home base and raid supermarkets for the first year or so (an advantage of this country: lots of roads and lots of bikes for riding on them), and then try to start farming. i’d have to make sure to get above sea level first, though. without maintenance, it’s only a matter of time before dikes start breaking and half the country gets flooded again.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “The final tally is over 10,000 words, which would have made a pretty good start on a book.”

    Why not just sell it as a book then?Do some beef ups here and there,and you have a “zombie survival plan handbook”.Not every book has to be huge,the small ones sell as well.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      +1 to this.
      If you do so, see my previous comment on defining the setting on some clear “optimism” scale.

  10. Zoe M. says:

    Suddenly it occurs to me… This would make a great game. Postapocalypse survival, emphasis on the survival. Not just zombies – you have to keep your group alive through Valley Forge – style winters, build a functioning economy, and handle interpersonal problems – sort of like Dwarf Fortress where the murderous angry entities are the ones you’re (mostly) trying to keep out.

  11. Pearly says:

    Of course, there’s also the possibility of zombie animals. Most zombie stories seem to be set in an urban center, for whatever reason, and therefore can get away with ignoring the issue, but it’s always struck me as the most terrifying of things. I mean, a regular raccoon is not the most charming thing in the world, but a hyper-aggressive zombie raccoon? Worse than a shambler, if for no other reason than that you’re unlikely to see it coming before it’s got its sharp little teeth in you.

    If you have the time, I recommend reading Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy, which is a pretty nifty zombie story and deals with this kind of thing by having it clear that anything with more than about 40 pounds of mass is at risk of spontaneous zombification, unless they exhibit a certain amount of immunity, which also makes raising children pretty interesting as there are a certain percentage of toddlers who become horror stories as they cross the threshold weight.

    (‘a certain amount of immunity’ is something of a simplification, but it’s still a pretty neat conceit, overall.)

    1. swenson says:

      I was reading about wolverines last night. I am now terrified by the prospect of zombified wolverines. Those things routinely hunt elk.

      Although, just about every predator becomes a whole lot scarier when zombified. They’d likely lose all fear of humans, and they (probably) wouldn’t be shamblers if they were already fast or sneaky animals. I’m picturing zombie grizzly bears and zombie wolf packs now.

      1. Nick Pitino says:

        Zombie squirrels!

        Stay away from the trees man…

        1. Scourge says:

          Zombie Carp.

          Wait, are we talking Dwarf Fortress now or still Zombie apocalypse?

      2. Pearly says:

        Zombie grizzlies do show up in the books. Also, consider pets that have gone feral”” dogs, even some cats! What about zombie birds? I’m not sure I could get behind the idea of zombie birds, or zombie fish, but even if you just leave it at large mammals like deer, it’s pretty crazy.

        Just here in Ohio deer are already a nuisance species. Without humans to regularly kill them, there’d be a huge population boom. And with a zombie virus potentially among just a fraction of the current population…

        I mean those things are already many times faster and stronger than humans.

      3. BeardedDork says:

        They are also very rare. In Montana they cannot be hunted, only trapped, and I think there are less than ten permits for wolverine issued per year. The US is currently considering adding them to the endangered species list. I would be more concerned with Grizzly bears which are arguably more plentiful (the US government is considering de-listing them), occupy roughly the same territory, and are aware that humans equal plentiful relatively hassle free food. Without a functioning department of Fish and Game to relocate them they will become far more of a problem than the nuisance they currently represent.

        1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          Old joke: hikers should wear pepper-flavored perfumes and bells, as the peppers and the noise discourage bears from attacking. You should also be on the lookout bear droppings. Regular droppings are probably from black bears.

          Grizzly Bear droppings are laced with pepper and frequently have bells in them.

          Once went to a bear preserve in South Dakota. Hundreds of black bears just hanging out in the sun. If not for the warnings not to, I think I could have gone out and petted them.

          And then there was the grizzly bear enclosure. Massive angry animal -think Hannibal Lector meets Chewbacca.

      4. MrGuy says:

        Really? I’m way less scared of most zombie predators than I am of the non-zombified varieties. At least if we assume zombification affects animals in the same way it’s expected to affect people.

        Zombies may or may not be stronger than “standard” people (accounts vary). They have bites that are pretty much a death sentence. So that’s bad.

        But in every other way, they’re less fearsome. Zombies are generally unintelligent, with only basic response to stimuli. They have near-zero problem solving skills. They have incredibly impaired agility. They show cooperative behavior only to a limited extent of behaving similar in response to specific stimuli.

        Non-zombie wolves are cooperative, fast, intelligent pack hunters. Zombie wolves are shuffling, crippled dogs that coulnd’t figure out how to get around a downed tree, let alone work together to trap prey.

        Bears are fast, clever, and exceedingly agile predators. They can catch fish and climb trees. Zombie bears? Lumbering, growling balls of fur.

        Unless zombie animals get the the “magic videogame ninja zombie” property, we’re safer from the zombified versions.

        1. pat says:

          And zombie birds, without their basic agility? they might lose all flight capability.

      5. I dunno. I’d actually be less scared of zombie wolverines than of normal wolverines. What makes wolverines scary is their sheer attitude, plus their cunning. Make it mindless and it’s lost its mojo. And the damn things always seem like they’re unkillable even when they’re not zombies, so there isn’t much gain there.

        I mean, we’re talking about critters no bigger than a good-sized raccoon that go after deer. According to the stories, they can’t run as fast as deer obviously but they will walk them into the ground, just stumping after them until the deer is collapsing from exhaustion. Critters that bears think twice about taking on. Not that the bear won’t win, but wolverines have this “I have no fear and I will hurt you as I go down” vibe; bigger predators will often conclude it’s just not worth it. Critters that, if pissed off, will harass a person for weeks on end because they’re that stubborn and ornery. Wolverines are cool. Zombie wolverines just wouldn’t be the same.

        1. swenson says:

          Actually, one of the things I was reading about wolverines relayed an anecdote about a wolverine going up against a black bear for something the bear had killed… and the wolverine won.

          You’ve got a good point, though. Zombified, they’d get stupid.

    2. Dev Null says:

      “a hyper-aggressive zombie raccoon?”

      We have those. Its called rabies.

      Seriously; if you’ve never seen videos of animals or – if you have a strong stomach – people with rabies, google it. There is absolutely no question as to where the zombie myth comes from.

    3. braincraft says:

      Zombie insects would end all surface life.

      1. Nidokoenig says:

        I’m amazed this thread took this long to get anywhere near mentioning ZOM-BEES! Seriously, imagine those death swarms.

        1. Pearly says:

          Everybody drink!

  12. swenson says:

    Your thoughts on NOT killing the bitten are really good, I think. In a real zombie apocalypse, I think so many people would be used to the movies/books/games, they’d kill off anyone who was bitten, but who’s to say that’s actually how it works in this universe? Maybe we think it works like the Walking Dead, but it turns out it’s subtly different in an important way. Whatever the case, it’s true that maybe, just maybe, someone who we know was definitely bitten (aka we saw a zombie chomp down on their hand) might still not turn. And if you’ve got a reasonably secure base, there’s no real reason not to keep them alive as long as possible. Just close them up in a shed outside of your main house or in the basement or whatever until they’ve healed.

    The one case where it might be acceptable to just shoot them would be if you were travelling, I suppose, and had no way to restrain them just in case. But having somebody sit up on watch (which you’d want to do anyway) or tying them to a tree would probably work anyway, right?

    Electric cars: oh, you clever clever man! I never even thought of those, but that is a brilliant idea. Sure, they have a short range and require a good electrical system, but hey, they might still work! Another idea is anything that runs on biodiesel (which is any diesel vehicle) or ethanol, both of which can be created with relatively simple machinery and readily accessible materials (once you get to farming), and both of which are currently created by small groups–my high school, for example, had a small group that made it out of used cooking oil, and they made enough to fuel one of the schoolbuses. In regards to ethanol, while E100 is not exactly recommended for cars, it’s still possible to run a car on it. (it would help if you had a car mechanic here to actually mess with it, of course!)

    1. Factoid says:

      Small scale production of ethanol is easy…just make moonshine basically. A lot of cars will run on it, especially cars designed for E85. In reality you can put high ethanol gasoline into almost any car made since the mid nineties.

      You’ll eventually wear out the fuel lines and damage your fuel injectors, but that can be fixed with some different plastic tubing and a few programming changes to the injector’s regulator chip. Not that complicated but you need someone who knows what they’re doing. IN the short term it’s best to just denature your ethanol with as much gasoline as you can spare. If you have a true flexfuel vehicle you can run on E100 just fine. There’s lots more of those out there than electric cars.

      Industrial ethanol production is incredibly complex, requires special enzymes. massive amounts of corn and water, etc…

      But you can get kind of the same results just by running a still.

      1. swenson says:

        Yeah, ethanol, you basically just need a normal still, right? Might not be the most efficient production, but it can’t be all that hard. I mean, I don’t know a thing about making a still, but there’s gotta be at least one hick who survives who made their own booze.

        1. Hick, hell. I know a guy with a doctorate in biology. Anyone who’s spent a few years in labs knows how to distill stuff.

      2. Peter H. Coffin says:

        For that matter, there’s probably a fair number of cars out there after Z-day that are available for parts or taking. It’s not like too many people are going to care…

      3. HiEv says:

        Speaking of ethanol, “I’ve read that gasoline goes bad after a couple of years.” Well, that used to be the case, however since October 2010 US gasoline pumps have only been able to sell E10 or higher gasoline, meaning 10% or more ethanol.

        The problem with ethanol is that it is hydrophilic, meaning that it attracts water. While “pure” gasoline used to last years under ideal conditions, modern gasoline only lasts about 6 months under ideal conditions, and in case like gas sitting in a vehicle’s fuel tank it’s only good for around 3 months (depending on local weather conditions).

        If you want the fuel to last as long as possible, start hoarding up ASAP. The fuel should be put in air-tight, alcohol-safe containers, completely filled so there is as little air as possible, and stored in a cool place. I’d also recommend storing most of that months worth of fuel well away from the residences. No sense in tempting fate by storing explosive materials too close to where you live.

        1. Nick Pitino says:

          In the US at least and I’d imagine elsewhere as well there are pretty strict laws about storing gas at home, something to do with ‘what happens if your house catches on fire.’

          Having said that if you are going to store gas only use containers made for gas, buy metal ones over plastic if possible, rotate through your stocks to keep them fresh, and use a fuel stabilizer to keep it longer.

          Fuel stabilizer for example:

          Also gasoline will keep longer than diesel.

          Around here there are a couple places you can find gasoline without ethanol, I’d buy that if possible.

        2. Peter H. Coffin says:

          For a counterpoint, at one point about eight years ago, the car I owned at the time got stored suddenly, for nearly two years. That is, no preparation for storage was done At All. 22 months later, it took about two hours to charge the battery and about 40 seconds of cranking and it started and ran.

          I think also you may be overstating the hygroscopic properties of a small amount of ethanol in a large amount of gasoline. The water that alcohol pulls in is dissolved in the alcohol. It’s not, therefore, pooling the bottom of the tank, it’s not making the 90% of the other gasoline fail to burn. Remember back many years ago when there was a fuel addititive called HEET sold as a fuel-line antifreeze and water-removing condition for fuel? THAT was alcohol. (Isopropyl (C3H6O) in this case instead of ethanol (C2H4O) but chemically they work very similarly.) If you’ve got what’s essentially a closed container, like any gas station’s underground storage tank, you’ve got a stable enough environment that it should be just fine for several years.

  13. Factoid says:

    I think that news of the outside world won’t be that difficult to come by. There are a LOT of ham radio operators out there. And they are exactly the kind of people who are paranoid about this type of event so I think the likelyhood of a good number of them surviving is excellent. Ham signals can travel a great distance. Around the world even given the right atmospheric conditions (radio signals bounce off the ionosphere so you can get signals from places you can’t contact via line of sight)

    Plus I would imagine there are some military communication satellites that do not rely entirely upon ground computer control that would keep working for a couple years until their orbits decay due to lack of course corrections. Some of our military survivors might know how to operate those. That doesn’t help every group of survivors, but it’s a way for long distance information to be relayed and then further disseminated via the ham network.

    Rebuilding is always the most interesting part of a zombie apocalypse story to me, and not a lot of zombie fiction focuses on it.

    1. Dave B. says:

      There are a LOT of ham radio operators out there.

      Good point, there are now an estimated 700,000 licensed hams in the United States alone. Plus, participation in volunteer emergency response programs like ARES is a significant part of the ham radio community.

      And they are exactly the kind of people who are paranoid about this type of event so I think the likelyhood of a good number of them surviving is excellent.

      Well, that’s a very wide generalization, but if you are serious about being a “hardcore survivalist” then you will almost certainly see the value of amateur radio. As a side note, with the recent reduction in the cost of photovoltaic cells, more and more hams have been powering their equipment with solar energy. You can’t overstate the value of that if the grid goes dark for years after a zompocalypse.

  14. Mersadeon says:

    I just noticed something when I read the thing about doorknobs. Here in Europe, we have door handles. These are much easier to open for zombies. Just think about it – a doorknob means you have to consciously grab and turn the thing. A door handle can be opened by flailing your arms against the door and hitting the thing by accident. This means houses in Europe are much less safe against zombies.

    Of course, there is a way around that. When you have dogs that might jump at the door and open it, you can put the door handle in turned by 90°, so that the handle points up. But that is a thing you have to do, it costs time. Once you have an area for yourself, sure, you’re gonna do it to every door there, but while scavenging, doors are simply not as safe.

    EDIT: Great, I forgot to say why I found doorknobs so interesting. It’s just that so small differences in culture can make such a difference.

    1. 4th Dimension says:

      On the other hand houses in Europe are usually made out of much stronger material, concrete and bricks. Basically subconscious European always expects panzers/stormtroopers to puour over the next hill.

  15. Mari says:

    Yeah, you can keep your coal and hydro power over there in Pennsylvania. I’m in west Texas and if, by some miracle, I survive I’ll be in oil and gas heaven. Know where a lot of that “thousands of miles” that oil and gas reserves are piped begins? My back yard. Seriously, thanks to current conditions you can’t walk a mile right now without running into new drilling activity or an old, reactivated well. 40 miles away (a fair distance in a zed wasteland but manageable in the post-zed world) is a refinery and I’m willing to bet at least ONE person employed by it survives. Even if none does, I suspect that by combining the regional survivor knowledge pool we can work out how to make the refinery run again. Granted, most of the oil refined from our area is usually shipped to Russia these days because it’s of a slightly inferior grade but in a post-zed world I think we’ll made due with what we have available.

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      Not that my particular occupation would be at all useful in the post-zombie world, but as a technician I am rather painfully aware of the amount of on-the-job training and oral history critical to running basically anything more sophisticated than Eli Whitney’s cotton gin. If, by some miracle, you have someone that actually worked there and had hands-on experience, then they can teach you their job. Their one job, on one system, out of the hundreds of tasks critical to running an enterprise of that scale, perfectly, and in unison.

      The bad news is that’s the easy part. It isn’t operating the refinery, or any industrial operation, that’s the problem- although it would be next to impossible. It’s keeping it serviceable.

      Where did the refinery get its power? Do we still have that? No? Will that be any easier to get running again?

      There’s a few hundred miles of pipes in this refinery, do you know how to fix them? If one is over-pressured or blocked, and it bursts, what do you do? This light is blinking, is that bad? Is it supposed to blink? Will we know before it’s too late?

      These machines need constant maintenance. Does anyone know how that’s accomplished? For every machine in the process? If something was dreadfully, fatally wrong, would anyone know? Would anyone know how to find out?

      If a part breaks, can you fix it? Can you replace it? Are there spare parts on hand? Maybe? No? You think you found a box for the part you needed. It’s empty. The labels are in Swiss.

      Is there documentation for anything you’re using? Is the documentation useful? No. No, it won’t be. You will spend weeks trying to learn the terminology and instructions of documentation you don’t know is telling you to do the wrong thing. The old tech knew what to do when this problem came up. He never wrote it down. You will never figure it out.

      Was any of this maintenance subcontracted? Yes, a lot of it was. No, the documentation and equipment needed to troubleshoot and repair them are not on site. Some guy always had to fly in from out of state with that stuff before.

      You do not get to jump back to the top of the tech tree. Welcome to the beginning. Go farm.

    2. Tse says:

      Doesn’t the refinery need electricity, though?

    3. Octapode says:

      Instead of trying to get a modern industrial refinery up and running again, with all the attendant requirements and massive amounts of skilled personnel needed, why not just build your own? The basic principle of a still, especially a batch production still, which would be a lot easier to run than an industrial style continuous still, is pretty simple and easily buildable. You’ll end up with lower grade petrol, in all likelihood, but you should still get something you can run a vehicle off, with a bit of luck.

  16. BenD says:

    “The final tally is over 10,000 words, which would have made a pretty good start on a book.”

    Nooo. It IS a good start on a book. A book I wish to read! I will hold out hope that this idea keeps its dead, rotting claws on you for another hundred thousand or so.

  17. 4th Dimension says:

    The main problem that electric cars would have is I think the maintenance. After all a large amount of people at least know basics of mechanics, and in rural areas most of male population are probably serious gear heads (you need to keep all that machinery in working order, and you don’t have much of a profit margin if for every break you need to pay a mechanic) so it’s pretty much given that any sizable group of survivors will include somebody that understands basics of internal combustion engines maintenance.
    Electric cars on the other hand are completely new thing. They are also probably designed with plenty of electronics and to fine tolerances in order to squeeze every possible mile out of the batteries. So a problem with an electric car might be practically unsolvable with tech/knowledge on hand.

    1. Something to that. On the other hand, apparently it’s not hard to jury-rig electric cars, actually. There’s hobby groups that do it. They take ordinary cars and stick in electric motors and a bunch of ordinary lead-acid car batteries. Takes up some trunk space and it’s less efficient than a snazzy awesome modern one, but it works. And the result would be pretty easy to maintain.
      In a situation where you’ve got masses of ordinary cars that will otherwise just gradually rust into nothing, what the heck. Might be worth cannibalizing a bunch of their batteries and giving it a shot.

    2. Octapode says:

      The other problem with an electric car is batteries degrade over time, and the only way to deal with that is replacing the batteries. Internal combustion engines are pretty close to entirely repairable if you have a machine shop and sufficient materials, but a dead battery needs half the chemical industry to fix.

      1. Aw, come on. Near as I can make out you need lead (in somewhat frilly sheets with little holes), lead oxide powder, and sulphuric acid. And a box to put it all in. None of that stuff is hard except maybe making the lead into thin frilly sheets. Even that, if you can maintain a normal internal combustion engine, is no biggie.
        Actually, you need the battery for a normal car anyway, unless you want to start it with a crank.

        1. Octapode says:

          That’s a car battery, not an electric car battery. Electric car batteries are generally some flavour of lithium ion battery, and that requires a very specific organic solvent for electrolyte, and some form of fancy lithium salt, plus graphite sheets of sufficient quality.

          You need all that complex and expensive stuff because that’s the only way to get a lightweight, high energy secondary cell, pretty much. Sure, you could swap out for lead acid, but you’re not going to be going very far with that as a power source, especially not with a load.

          1. Peter H. Coffin says:

            Nope. Hobbyists (as mentioned above) made electric cars for decades powering them with deep-cycle marine batteries, which are plain, ordinary lead-acid batteries though rather large ones. Lithium-ion’s nice and powerful, but unless you’ve got an easy way to work with lithium and access to it…. lead’s cheap. And the batteries down at your local Walmart are warranted to last for 7-10 years *in use*. They’ll last much longer on a shelf.

  18. Hal says:

    I hope your post-zombocalypse society figures out textiles. I’ve lived in a world with toilet paper, I’m not sure I want to transition to one without.

    1. Hmmm, good point. I reckon you could work with hand-me-downs from the dead’s closets for a few years though, including rags for that important function you note. Although the idea of textiles == toilet paper makes me imagine the following incongruous piece of dialogue:
      “Oh dear, I fear I have mislaid my pocket butt-kerchief.”

      1. Bidet, or squeeze bottle of water. Both work, and are both reusable. (Learned that from one of those extreme shows where a lady lived without toilet paper)

  19. Dev Null says:

    Also, we're avoiding needless death, like when Bob Crawford decides to execute a bite victim that wasn't really infected. Perhaps that wound is a crescent-shaped scratch and not an actual bite? Perhaps it's a bite, but the zombie was wearing dentures that don't spread the pathogen the way real teeth do? Perhaps the plague is losing potency? Perhaps some slim margin of the population is immune? Perhaps pouring that hydrogen peroxide over the wound improved their odds of survival?

    This is a pet peeve about zombie movies for me; there could be a cure, and no one would ever know, because 24 hours in everyone kills everyone who ever gets a papercut.

    Sit the whole group down. Explain that the policy of identifying, isolating _and caring_ for the potentially bitten is the only way to protect them, their loved-ones _and discover a cure_. Explain that if they are truly infected then they’re definitely dead unless they let the medical / research team know so they can try to help. And then _experiment_ on them! I’m not saying let people get bitten on purpose or anything, but definitely bitten, still-unturned people are a precious precious resource! You do NOT waste them.

    Oh also; everyone sleeps in a room with a dead-bolted door. Most versions of zeds aren’t real good at locks, so even with the lock on the inside, anyone who dies in their sleep is trapped, and has two dead-bolted doors to get through to get to everyone else.

    1. Hitchmeister says:

      Another plug for the recent movie “Warm Bodies” which touches on the idea that zombification may not be permanent.

      (Some may argue that it does more than touch on it, but there’s a lot going on and I choose to remain mostly spoiler-free in my description.)

      1. Scourge says:

        I remember faintly hearing about a story that was as this:

        Civilization is normal but then suddenly! BLAM! Zombies! Lots of people get infected, lots of people who die get turned to zombies, etc.

        Then after some time space aliens return (because the zombie-fication was their fault) and distribute a cure into the rain to cure them of zombie-ism. Suddenly everyone is back and healthy and.. all the wounds they suffered as a zombie remain. Ouch. Lots of people die, people are good. Then suddenly some zombies come from a cave!

        Now people are in a dilemma. Do we kill them or do we wait until the aliens, possibly if ever, return.

        The end.

  20. Merle says:

    This series of yours gave me an idea for a setting I’d really love to use in a tabletop game. Now if only I can come up with a name for it:

    Mostly-modern world; recent discoveries of “positive”/”negative” energy rock scientific world.

    Terrorists steal research and use necro-bombs to flood major cities worldwide with negative energy. Millions of people die immediately and rise as the undead; much of civilization collapses, with the death toll rising into the billions as the bomb sites spread and corrupt surrounding regions and vast swarms of zombies attack the living.

    Though seemingly mindless, they can act with frightening coordination at times and are vastly durable – shrugging off all damage that does not directly affect their brain. Even with the loss of eyes and other sensory organs, the undead are drawn to the traces of positive energy given off by the living. Worse, bites and other contact can infuse a living person with negative energy – this infects them, sickening them and attempting to convert them to undeath.

    Survivors find that holy ground, as well as certain other areas, is charged with positive energy that disrupts zombies on contact. It even negates negative energy in wounds, removing the certain death sentence of a bite. However, these powerful wells of life attract zombies like a torch; vast swarms converge on them, attempting to snuff them out with sheer weight of bodies, corrupting and converting them into more sources of undeath.

    Worse yet, areas saturated with death spontaneously generate new zombies – soil and organic matter reshaping into shambling bodies that spill forth from the bomb sites and graveyards and fields of war, seeking to spread their corruption and swell the hordes of the undead.

    Rumors persist of even stronger, stranger undead forms, of bodies twisted and swelled with negative energy into truly monstrous creations, but none who have seen these abominations up close have lived to confirm their existence.

  21. Hitchmeister says:

    On the subject of armor, even post zombie apocalypse I’d want to be a bit more fashion forward than a bunch of random sports equipment. Besides that sounds bulky, uncomfortable and awkward to get in and out of. On the other hand, motorcycle protective gear covers you head to toe is designed to protect you from injury when laying down or being thrown from a bike at up to a reasonable speed. If it’ll protect you from road rash, it should keep zombie teeth off. A motorcycle helmet with full-face visor should provide all of the function you’re looking for in a football helmet and safety glasses. This might seem a bit exotic, but I wouldn’t suspect it to be that much harder to come by than enough improvised sports armor. On the gripping hand, I haven’t really spent that much time thinking about this, so I’m sure this is probably not the ultimate solution.

    1. Toast Goblin says:

      A lot of hardware shops and builders’ yards will have reasonable supplies of very hard-wearing gloves, steel-toed boots, face masks and possible even welding masks. This is to say nothing of the huge amounts of building materials. Garden centres will be another good source of protective equipment, as will certain types of factory. Usefully, both the latter tend to be built in relatively isolated places.

      They will also have trolleys of various kinds, which will be invaluable for transporting stuff. Forget cars.

      This will probably sound like a really stupid idea right off, but supermarket trolleys are well worth acquiring in huge numbers. You can store things in them. You can transport them easily. You can strip them for wheels and spare parts. As storage, they can protect things from quite a few types of wild animals – dogs, foxes, sheep, basically anything than can’t wriggle through, climb over or tip the trolley. But that’s not all! Grab a whole line of trolleys and circle them into an instant zombie-proof fence! They’re far too tough to break with normal force, don’t tip easily (especially in a line – far too heavy), and too high for zombies to just barge their way over. You can transport kids in them safely, at least with a bit of adaptation, and they’re also great if you get the chance to loot some poultry, or even the odd sheep – it’s potentially much faster than trying to lead animals along.

      Pull-along trolleys are also handy, since apart from anything else they might be a nice source of wood in easily portable form.

      There are some other, weirder options you might consider. If you have access to a very large supply of plastic boxes – like those storage boxes for keeping things in the attic or under the bed – then fill ’em with sand or pebbles and you’ve got a pretty much impregnable wall (at least, stacked two or three deep and six or seven high). Fill ’em with water mixed with bleach or something, and you’ve got a near-impregnable see-through wall. If you’ve got an opportunity to scavenge significant amounts of a town, you can probably find a decent number. Even rectangular ice cream tubs would do at a pinch. Old tyre heap nearby? You can build something approaching a fortress out of tyres with earth rammed down inside them.

    2. Maybe it’s just that I’m Canadian, but the most protective sports helmet I’m aware of is the hockey helmet, which also includes a face shield. Definitely better than a football helmet, but easier to do physical activity in than a motorcycle helmet which after all is intended for someone just sitting on a vehicle and so is a bit on the bulky side.

      Actually, a complete set of hockey gear would give you good protection over a whole lot of your body.

  22. Jeff R. says:

    I still think that the most typical ‘trade’ between communities is going to be food for protection/’protection’. The most government-like thing you’re going to find is the largest, best armed local gang, and your main interaction with it is going to be giving them more stuff than you can easily afford as ‘taxes’ or openly tribute, and the only real way to avoid getting effectively turned into peasants is to arrange to be that largest, best armed group in your region. Presumably you’d do it in the nice way, renting out your surplus military as mercenaries against Zeds and bandits and incorporating smaller communities into your coalescing new government as full citizens, but the only real way to gaurantee that the core of the rebuilt community isn’t unacceptably illiberal is to be that core yourself.

    1. Syal says:

      The most government-like thing you're going to find is the largest, best armed local gang

      Well, that’s what a government is anyway. Post-modern-day government should just be modern-day worldwide politics smashed down into a ten-or-so-mile area.

  23. Paul Spooner says:

    The idea of a “quarantine room” is an excellent one, and I agree with all of your implementation ideas. There is, however, the problematic case of human laziness.
    Say we’re all working hard in the fields. I’m feeling tired, annoyed, and just want to sit down and rest. So I bite myself on the arm. Now I get to sit in the nice safe quarantine room, comfortable, with food, water, and everyone’s attention and fond wishes instead of working. What a deal! The only downside is I’ll appear to be immune to infection from zombie bites, but that affects the entire group more than it affects me. This kind of duplicity would be insanely easy to pull off, extremely difficult to detect, and almost impossible to avoid. I really don’t have any good suggestions for how to get around this drawback either, but figured it makes an interesting drawback to the “compassionate” approach you propose.

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      This is an awful Crawfordism, but…

      “Malingerers will be made to feel as bad as they claim to.”

      Nah, not really. Malingering really is a difficult problem to prove. You can’t know how someone else feels, and if someone is injured, you may or may not have any more than their word regarding how they got that way. So even suspected malingerers are often entitled to the benefit of the doubt. But there are red flags to look for.

      Generally the type of people who malinger are the same folks who are lazy and unreliable in every other instance as well.

      This, I think, would not be too big a problem, though; for one, no one should ever, ever be off on their own. Every task should be accomplished here in at least a pair, so any attempt to defraud the community would have to involve some level of collusion, and is that much more unlikely.

      Furthermore, the first question you’re going to be asked when you report the zombie bite you got in your fifteen-second absence is where the zombie is and how you dealt with it. That’s a tough question. It’s also the kind of thing that only works once. How many non-infectious bites can one person reasonably receive? And from zombies who flee the scene of the incident immediately and without a trace?

      Really, the biggest remedy for malingering is that folks in crisis just generally care enough for each other and form a tight enough bond in crisis to not try and screw each other over like this. Otherwise, someone would only try this under pretty serious stress or exhaustion, and if otherwise conscientious people are reaching that breaking point, that’s a far larger problem in itself. As said before, anyone who would regularly fake injury or illness to get out of work is probably not otherwise a model worker or typically trustworthy, and trusting such personnel with critical or dangerous labor isn’t well advised in the first place, so dirtbags who would defraud the trust of their community would likely end up getting cycled to menial, low-risk tasks where they wouldn’t get the opportunity to try such an audacious scam.

      The largest deterrent of malingering and deliberate shirking- beyond a conscience- is that in a community that must work to survive, someone who chooses to put their share of the labor on others quickly becomes a pariah. Think back to any job you’ve had, and that one person that no one wanted to work with, who would always complain and never pull their weight. Now suppose the stakes are survival. That’s the formula for a dire resentment, which few would risk and none could bear for long.

      But if it did happen? Someone genuinely caught attempting to fake a zombie bite infringes upon both the gravest fears and most gracious ideals of their comrades, and would be subject to the strictest censure. Two strikes, and exile is very reasonable, subject to vote.

  24. “Assuming zombies are not perpetual motion machines”

    You know, if they turn out to actually be perpetual motion machines, then one can “simply” make a giant zombie wheel and dangle idiots like Larry in front of it (thus making the zombies run in the wheel).
    Now you have solved the asshole problem and zombie and energy all at once.

  25. Kavonde says:

    I have only one suggestion to make: concerning the quarantine room, I’d want to have the choice of dying as a human. I’m not religious, though some who are might feel similarly, but I wouldn’t want the last memory my friends and loved ones had of me to be of a mindless walker with my face. Let those who know they’re bitten and know their time is up bow out gracefully, should they so choose.

    Admittedly, “gracefully” in this case means “someone from the Smasher Squad putting a pickaxe through your skull,” but still.

    1. It’d be more graceful just to fill the room with carbon monoxide or coal smoke so they could go in their sleep, and you can do this fairly simply, particularly if you’re reliant on burning stuff to cook and keep warm.

      1. Kavonde says:

        True, but there’s still the problem that, if the zombie apocalypse is operating under Walking Dead rules, death by gassing will still result in a reanimated walker. That’s what I’m trying to avoid. In hindsight, though, just providing the soon-to-be-departed with a handgun (or a close friend with a handgun, if they’re of the belief that suicide is a mortal sin) would be more humane than using a melee weapon.

  26. Oh, Shamus, you can run diesel engines on *vegetable oil*. Or make use of natural gas and coal for a lot of purposes. Fossil fuels aren’t just refined gasoline. And a lot of Pennsylvania is coal country, isn’t it?

    Heck, if you find another nearish community, it’d probably be worthwhile to locate some train tracks (there are tons of them around here) and cobble together a steam engine that can move a track car. It wouldn’t have to be fast, just enough to set up regular transport between locations in decent weather.

    Moderns tend to have very little appreciation for what our ancestors used to accomplish with plain muscle power or very simple machinery. If you find tracks, send a party to locate a staging area and try to locate one of those track cars you move by pumping the bar. People used to build ferries that were operated by a couple of guys hauling on a rope. The train tracks and rivers aren’t going anywhere.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Keeping the tracks (and to lesser extent, rivers) clear is a big job though. Weeds and trees growing up through the tracks would make them impassable in just a year or two without heavy traffic and concerted effort. I still think bicycles would be your best bet, though if you could rebuild fast enough to save the railroads it would be a huge boon.

    2. James says:

      thinking about cars, now assuming we cant get a general car to run cus “no gas” sure diesel cars can run on various things, you can even convert cars to run on methane (poop) but lets assume we either don’t want to, or cant for whatever writer shenanigans, you can convert traditional cars to electric relatively easily, removing the engine and having a motor that drives the prop shaft(drive shaft whatever), you can even build one without much fuss,

      baring that Push Bikes are fine

    3. Steve C says:

      Zombie worlds always seem to run out of fossil fuels and I don’t buy it. There would be tons of gas for years. Gas goes stale after a few years but it’s [i]stale [/i]not unusable. Kind of like bread. If it was properly prepared (crumbs, croutons) you’d enjoy it stale. You’d eat it if you were starving even if it was like a rock.

      Using stale gas will dirty up your engine and degrade it’s performance, possibly to the point where the engine has to be taken apart and cleaned. If the option is between that and no machinery at all I think everyone will pick the former. I’ve seen a gas engine run on diesel because someone was stupid. It ran like shit but it ran. That’s just the stale gasoline. There’s still diesel and propane (yes cars run on propane too.)

      There wouldn’t be any more fuel being refined but there would still be a lot left from before. Assuming there’s 1 survivor per 10,000 that would mean on average all the fuel of a town that size per person in your group. Running a generator full time for a year straight wouldn’t put a dent in the overall supply.

      1. HiEv says:

        As I pointed out in an earlier comment above, the idea that gasoline can keep for years is out of date. Modern gasoline in the US contains 10% or more of ethanol, and ethanol is hydrophilic. This means that modern gasoline rapidly absorbs water from the atmosphere, thus is only good for about 6 months when stored in ideal conditions, and only about 3 months when stored in a vehicle’s gas tank or the like. The gas isn’t “stale”, it’s waterlogged, and water isn’t good for things you’re trying to burn.

        So while gasoline used to be good for years, that isn’t true anymore. At least anywhere that uses ethanol in their gasoline.

        1. Steve C says:

          My lawnmowers, weedwacker, chainsaw, snowblower and boat would all tend to disagree with you. They routinely have gas sitting in them without any special precautions for over a year (sometimes two) and run fine* every time.
          *”Fine” being not great but acceptable.

  27. Jeff says:

    “There should be plenty of jobs for non-combatants.”

    This is one heck of an understatement. Historically, the vast majority of people involved in armed forces and defense are non-combatants.

    1. The Rocketeer says:


      Do tell!

      Of course, in this hypothetical encampment, the ‘armed forces’ will consist of reasonably fit folks carrying guns and baseball bats. But due to the nature of the crisis, the population is the organization, and the organization needs food.

      Honestly, if defense requires more than a handful of folks picking off occasional stragglers, you’re probably all screwed anyway, so the only regular defense personnel needed shouldn’t be much more than two-man perimeter patrols, and a few designated laborer-soldiers who can be depended on to respond to incursions; you just won’t have the people to dedicate more than that to defense instead of farming; even in the first year or so when walkers will be most numerous, food will likely also be at its scarcest, so the need for personnel in both areas remains at about the same proportion.

      Just have a few points scattered around the compound where a few sets of bite suits and weapons are kept. There are really no excuses not to have these, both for zed response and emergencies. Run drills in which the militia have to drop what they are doing, don gear, and respond to staged incursions. The life you save may etc. etc.

      The only manpower draw will come from the nighttime; someone will need to keep watch around the fort at night, and that will mean people who won’t be up during the day to help farm. I have a feeling this is best kept on a weekly rotation, but time will tell how that shakes out.

      As for folks who just can’t do hard labor, though, you’re right there, too; there’s not going to be an empty set of hands. Even if it’s just keeping the compound looking nice, there’s always something that’ll need doing. Presumably Shamus, as the superintendent, would have an office set up to do office work in, watch supplies and stocks, manage programs, that kind of thing. Kids can clean. Nonner adults can repair, cook, babysit, paint frescoes, whatever.

      1. skd says:

        On the subject of night watches: Why not do the same thing military organizations around the world have done for centuries. You work during the day and stand watch shifts at night, say four hour shifts. No one sleeps all night and everyone contributes to both daytime work and night time watches. If you have managed to fort up you will likely only need one watchstander at any given as long as you have a viable group it shouldn’t be any increased hardship.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          The military doesn’t do that; security is provided by people whose job it is to provide security. The military also never puts guards by themselves, and for good reason. Also, being alone in zombie media is like a death sentence; if two pairs of eyes aren’t on something, zombies will crawl out of it and take any loners unaware. While that certainly shouldn’t be as likely as drama tends to make it, there’s no reason to give it a chance, either.

          Whether or not the group should dedicate people to guard duty or have people take turns really depends on how many people the group has. Counterintuitively, the guards don’t necessarily need to be the most physically fit people in the group; either way, those people are needed to farm. As long as someone can walk a fence, they can serve as a sentry. If the group is a bit small, then there probably won’t be any way around having them pass double duty around. But tired people can’t work a field very well, and really shouldn’t be standing guard either. A group that has the manpower to do so would probably be better off dedicating some folks to guard duty; it will lead to them being better trained and without fatiguing farmers or sending sleepy folks to patrol.

          How many sentries need to be posted just depends on the area needing them, of course. I’d assume either two, to walk a small patrol route, or four, to set at two fixed points that could together observe all directions.

  28. 4th Dimension says:

    I just realized the Chinese wheelbarow might be a really usefull thing in post apocalypse, since it’s basically the most efficient way to cart around large loads powered by humans. It’s trick is that all of the load is balanced on a large wheel, so the operator needs only to push the over sized load.

  29. LunaticFringe says:

    Nice work, but I will mention a problem I find with your ‘quarantine’ method. I, for one, would gladly hide a bite from your community Shamus, because I’d rather not spend my last moments alive crammed in a tiny room being observed while dying in an incredibly miserable and painful fashion. Quick suicide after a brief moment with loved ones would be rather preferable to that. There’s definitely still a reason to hide bites if your community’s response is to offer up no valid option for euthanasia before turning (if they are actually bitten of course).

    Not that the ‘shoot anyone with scratch in the head’ plan is any better morally, but you seem to have described involuntary human experimentation.

    1. ? says:

      If you are concerned about your loved ones then you should still reveal the bite. After all, you don’t want them to be endangered by your zombiefied corpse. I’m sure with Shamusesque reasonable leadership some kind of solution to this problem could be worked out. Keeping you alive against your will is hardly optimal use of resources and it’s too late for sanctity of life debates. I can’t think of any suicide method that will damage brain to prevent zombiefication and wouldn’t waste bullets, so it’s still in everybody’s best interest for infected to die in zombieproofed room, preferably with their legs and hands tied, chained to the floor. Building euthanasia into the plan could be seen as pushing people to do it, and that’s exactly sort of thing that would keep most people from revealing their bite. Better to deal with it on case by case basis.

      1. LunaticFringe says:

        “Building euthanasia into the plan could be seen as pushing people to do it.” And telling someone if they’re bit that your typical policy is they’re going to die slowly and painfully in a locked room chained to the floor is going to make people want to reveal their bites?

        I’m definitely open to people voluntarily ‘donating’ themselves if they’re bit for observation. But involuntary experimentation ‘for the greater good’ is a little too Mengele for my taste. Case-by-case choices by leadership opens it up for corruption and also could easily generate a rather large power divide between them and everyone else (i.e. not the best thing in small communities). Providing options for euthanasia or even just letting the infected person leave the walled community if they wish to at least gives the individual a sense of agency in their fate. In fact, I’d argue that presenting these choices would more likely result in people revealing their bites, rather then a single option that treats people less like people and more like lab rats. Giving people some control over their fate rather than decreeing a horrific standard is more likely to get people to reveal their bites.

      2. Shamus says:

        For the record: We’re talking talking about a really small group of people here. If one of the last 20 people in the world that I knew showed me a bite and was sure they were going to die, I wouldn’t MAKE them go in the quarantine room, but I would make it clear they needed to leave the village OR go in the room. (And if you’re going to kill yourself, please do so in a way that doesn’t leave a mess for kids to find and adults to have to clean up.)

        Really, once the symptoms kicked in, this line of debate would sort itself out quickly. Some people would want to escape the misery of those last few hours, some would cling to hope until the last possible moment. As long as we can avoid murder and suicide at the moment an injury is discovered, then we’re good. Anything more is a personal or religious argument and I’d let people decide for themselves.

        This brings up an interesting question: What would be the best way to give someone the ability to painlessly kill themselves (in a brain-destroying way) without making a ton of noise (gunshot) or having to build some sort of contraption? (And ideally, one that wouldn’t spill a ton of possibly-infected blood all over the place.)

        1. LunaticFringe says:

          Thanks for the clarification, thought you went Crawford there for a minute haha.

          In regards to your last paragraph you could just let them overdose on something and then just destroy the brain with your choice of melee weapon, but that brings up the issue of medical supplies.

          Also I suggest you mail your zombie survival plan to Canada’s Parliament because apparently they need good ideas.

          1. Steve C says:

            That’s awesome and hilarious. I loved this comment on that video I had to repost it:
            I’m an American, and I found this hilarious. Then I imagined the same discussion taking place in our House of Representatives and realized it would probably be taken seriously. Now I’m sad.

  30. Dreadjaws says:

    “Football helmets are preferred… …they distinguish survivors from the zeds in the midst of the fray”

    Not in the Plants vs Zombies universe. We don’t know if it’s not the same one as the TWD one!

  31. Mukk says:

    I once hypothesized that animals would at least be carriers of the disease if they didn’t outright zombify as well. I then considered carrier mosquitoes/flies/ect. Then I decided I didn’t care for the zombie genre anymore. My suspension of disbelief broke.

  32. froogger says:

    “..funerals are going to be really odd from now on, but humanity should be just fine.”

    Hahaha, thanks for taking your time. This was a really good read.

  33. Thomas says:

    Remember ‘Zombie bites are preventable, as long as we take precautions. ‘

    That sounds perfect for a governmental propaganda poster

  34. skd says:

    Shamus, Stephen King has taken one of the best looks at the kind of situation you are outlining when he wrote The Stand. Once you gat past the SuperFlu/Zombpocalypse and get into the rebuilding you start seeing the criticality of recovering those “old-world” systems of doing things, specifically power. Hydro plants should continue running as long as no one shut them down and your real problem with those or nuclear plants is killing the power drain of all the cities, towns and rural communities which they supply. To use any power plant you would have to be able to isolate the output to only where it is useful and figure out how to limit to the output you need only going where you want it.

    Otherwise I am much in agreement with what you have outlined so far. When it comes to dealing with human issues there must be a reasonable system of maintaining discipline and dealing with trouble individuals but you run into the same problems as we do in current society where there are exceptions to every rule. Just remember one thing, Compromise is a system where no one is happy with the end result. :)

  35. Oleyo says:

    Clearly you need to forget all these fuel sources and use the magic motion machines directly:

    Simply allow a few Z’s into a human sized hamster wheel and go about your business as usual. You will get used to the constant grunting and moaning. Indeed you will soon find it a comforting sign of endless clean power.

    Slap a car alternator and battery on there and viola!

  36. Venalitor says:

    Actually I knew a guy who made bio-diesel in his back yard with vegetable oil from local fast food restaurants.
    On another not, I really wish zombie stories didn’t assume Freude was right. I do, however, think that the “The Walking Dead” TV show is very progressive as they actually give a nod to armour, despite it not being used much. They also start making a point in the third season about fighting in formation so friendlies can’t be mistaken as dead-heads (which I know is usually used to define another group of people).

  37. Futurehero says:

    I know you’ve addressed this in part in the last article, but what would you do in case of pragmatic, but not crazy survivors?

    So for example, let’s say that at some point a small group of people come to trade and they have a working vehicle.
    Let’s say some of your group propose stealing the vehicle from them , or taking them hostage. A working vehicle in a time like that might justify robbing people or taking them hostage considering the massive increase in mobility it would provide.
    What would you do if some of your group wanted to do that?

    1. Shamus says:

      I’m not trying to run a bunch of bandits, so I would want to prevent this behavior. HOW I would prevent it would depend on circumstances. (Exile, direct force, censure, etc.)

      Even if I didn’t care about the moral aspect, theft is a stupid way of acquiring stuff if you’re trying to run a civilized community.

      You’re robbing a family to take their car. Dad panics and shoots back, even if doing so is tactically unsound. There’s always a risk that dad is more formidable than he seemed, and he ends up killing some precious team members. More than likely, you’re obliged to shoot him dead. Now what? Do you just kill the rest of the family? Do you send mom and the kids away on foot? They might tell others, and we’ll get a reputation as a tribe of murderer bandits. The kids might harbor a grudge and come looking for you later on. The family might go back to the last town they visited and get help.

      The REALLY thorny problem would be if some of my people ALREADY did such a crime. Like, they show up with a new car and the story comes out that they took it at gunpoint. Do I exile them, thus setting some bandits loose? Do I execute them? What do I do with the stolen goods? Why if my bandits have families in the village?

      I have no idea how I’d handle that.

  38. John says:

    Hi Shamus,

    (Since American oil is either imported, piped thousands of miles, or acquired via offshore drilling. Those systems require a ton of infrastructure and expertise to operate and maintain.)

    It seems like oil workers are quite remote from the main cites, are mostly made up of young, strong men and they have access to vehicles and bludgeoning instruments. Maybe a large percentage of the survivors would be in the oil and gas industry.

    Also I am not sure how valid your original premise of going to a farm is. There will probably be a mass exodus from the cities but also you seem to think you will find a deserted farm. I find that hard to believe. More likely they will all be defended by the farmer’s families who are all armed, know the terrain and want to protect themselves from the plague outbreak in the city.



  39. Steve C says:

    I just saw this review of DayZ. It’s a zombie survivor 3rd/1st person shooter. It’s not like Left for Dead. The game looks really cool and the review was good entertainment on it’s own. All I know about it was the review. You could try this and see if your zombie survival plan works or gets you killed. (Perma death.)

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