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Fighting Off Zombies The Regency Way
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Dawn of the Dreadfuls

By Steve Hockensmith

Keeping the undead at bay has never been easier. Thanks to such visionaries as George Romero and the National Rifle Association, we all stand ready for any onslaught of flesh-craving ghouls. My basement bunker is packed wall to wall with automatic weapons, ammo, and grenades, and I’m sure yours is, too.

Bring it on, coffin jockeys! America’s got your brains right here!

Once upon a time, however, fighting off zombies wasn’t so simple. Today, with our common household Glocks, Uzis, and AK-47s, it’s easy to forget the challenges our ancestors faced when fending off their slavering, shambling, brains-craving neighbors. Not only were such miracles of modern science as the tommy gun and the Claymore mine still but wistful dreams, the manners and morays of the day often made zombie-killing even more difficult than it had to be.

I recently found myself with reason to dig into the undead-dispatching ways of our forefathers when I was asked to write Dawn of the Dreadfuls, a prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. As my book would be a lightly fictionalized account of the trials and tribulations of the Bennet family, a real-life clan of English zombie slayers active during the Regency era, I had to acquaint myself with the zombie-killing methodology of the early 19th century. What I found were two very different approaches. On the one hand was the pragmatic if hard-to-master discipline known as “the Deadly Arts” — the Eastern-influenced fighting skills the young ladies of the Bennet family would be forced to learn in the course of my book. On the other hand was the traditional, proper, English approach to dealing with the undead. A few simple comparisons will demonstrate why SPOILER ALERT!!! the Bennets are still alive at the end of Dawn of the Dreadfuls and so many of their acquaintances are not.

Scenario #1: You are strolling down a country lane when a zombie steps onto the path before you. What do you do?

The Deadly Arts: Take out your katana and chop off its head.

English tradition: If the corpse in question is a gentleman of higher social rank than yourself, you should call for assistance so that someone of greater status can be summoned to deal with the situation. (It being inappropriate for a commoner to lay hands upon, say, a duke even if the duke is dead and is trying to remove the commoner’s vital organs for the purposes of snacking.) A cry of “Help! Zombie!” would not do, “the zed word” never being spoken in polite company. A cool, collected call of “Assistance, please! Unmentionable here!” would be infinitely preferable. If the corpse in question is not a gentleman of higher social rank, it may be dispatched forthwith — provided it is not a lady. If it is, then one must again call for aid, this time while keeping one’s eyes averted (lest an unraveling shroud reveal regions of the female form unfit for public viewing). Once an armed girl-servant has been summoned to behead the undead lady, you may continue on your way.

Scenario #2: A zombie bursts into a dinner party in your home and attempts to eat one of the guests. What do you do?

The Deadly Arts: Take out your katana and chop off its head.

English tradition: If the unfortunate guest is a married lady, one should wait until her husband has had a chance to deal with the dreadful in whatever way he sees fit. Should his efforts to save his good lady wife fail, the host may take it upon himself to acquire a weapon and have at the zombie himself — always remembering, of course, to hack and slice at the corpse in such a way as to avoid excessive gore-splatter upon the other guests and their food. If the first guest attacked is a gentlemen, the host should calmly inquire, “Is there anything I can do for you, Mr. _______?” Assuming (as is so often the case) that Mr. _______ is unable to make a coherent reply, the host must then address his query to the gentleman’s wife. Only with her assent may he presume to attack the dreadful on the man’s behalf. If the zombie incursion takes place before the main course has been served, the survivors should feel free to continue on with the meal once the unmentionable and its victims and all their various parts have been gathered up and removed from the dining area.

Scenario #3: A vast herd of zombies emerges from the forest and lays siege to your manor house. What do you do?

The Deadly Arts: Take out your katana and chop off their heads.

English tradition: Die.

Steve Hockensmith is the author of the New York Times best seller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, Holmes on the Range, and Just Try to Find This on Amazon: A Compulsive Liar’s Guide to Fabricating Book Titles.

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