Newsflesh: Worst Case Zombies, Best Case Survival

Feedback, by Mira Grant

While reading Feedback, it occurred to me that Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series features the worst-case scenario of zombie design, and yet humanity survives with civilization mostly intact. That’s impressively optimistic.

I mean, look at the parameters of how zombies work in this setting:

Everyone who dies becomes a zombie, regardless of whether they’ve ever been near a zombie. This is fairly common, but there are settings where you can keep zombies out with a quarantine. Not this one.

Direct contact with a zombie is extremely contagious. Bites and scratches, sure, but imagine a zombie with late-stage Ebola. (A modified Marburg is one of the component viruses). Zombie drool landing on an open wound can convert you. The blood spatter from the zombie you’re shooting can get in your eye and convert you. The body of the zombie you just killed, lying on the ground motionless, is still a high-level biohazard that can convert you.

Anyone who goes out in the field must go through decontamination. Showers include a standard bleach cycle and won’t let you out until it’s done. Outbreak sites have to be hosed down with bleach, burned, or simply condemned.

Any blood that’s been outside the body long enough will trigger conversion on exposure, even if the person isn’t a zombie. Even your own blood.

Sometimes people spontaneously convert. It’s not common, but it’s been known to happen.

The newly-infected can be as fast as a normal person before their body starts decaying. (Yep, fast zombies and slow zombies in the same ‘verse.)

Any large mammal can become a zombie. Dogs. Raccoons. Horses. Bears. Cows. Red meat is now a biohazard.

Mobs of zombies can plan ambushes. Enough zombies together exhibit just enough rudimentary intelligence to set a trap. Even across species.

There’s a really scary twist in the virus’ transmissibility late in the second novel that I won’t spoil.

The only factor that isn’t maxed-out is their indestructibility. A zombie in the middle of the desert or at the bottom of the ocean will eventually starve.


And yet humanity survives the Rising and is able to rebuild civilization in many — not all, but many — parts of the world.

That’s…well, that’s kind of inspiring.

Walk for Food Allergy: Studio Edition

Today I joined hundreds of people at the CBS Studios in Los Angeles to raise money for Food Allergy Research and Education through the FARE Walk for Food Allergy.

We skipped last year and decided to join this year’s event at the last minute. Rather than walking along the shore at Long Beach, this year’s course ran through the CBS Studios lot. It started on what looked like a suburban New England street, and wound past production trailers, soundstages, prop storage, and even the Los Angeles river….

Walk for Food Allergy by the Los Angeles River

…such as it is. Other parts of the river are much nicer, even navigable at times, but this stretch is basically a concrete drainage ditch inside a bigger drainage ditch. It looks bleak now, but during flood years the channels fill completely, preventing the city’s streets from flooding instead.

Wait, Walk for What–Who–Why?

FARE funds studies to explore the causes of food allergy and develop new therapies. They run outreach programs to make it safer to visit restaurants, or just be at school or the workplace.

Food allergies can range from mild to life-threatening — yes, people die — and those of us on the far end of the range need to be constantly on the watch for hidden ingredients and cross-contact between foods we can eat and foods we can’t.

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Finally pulled the HTTPS switch!

That took a lot longer than I intended.

But I’ve finally made all of run over HTTPS.

It’s been possible to view the whole site over HTTPS ever since I turned it on for the admin area of this blog years ago, but I left HTTP as the canonical URL and didn’t redirect anything until I updated the Les Mis section, and later this blog. Now, any page you visit on this entire site should load over an encrypted connection.

(Well, any page except for the old Dillo RPMs page, since that minimalist web browser still only has experimental HTTPS support.)

The problem is when you have decades of hand-crafted web pages to go through, it can take a while to make sure everything embeds only secure or same-origin content. Every image, every script, every video. I had to update lots of absolute links, remove some widgets and ads, update other widgets, embedded videos and metadata…and just a bit at a time in my spare time.

Finally I switched on the redirects this morning. Even that took longer than expected, because I’d forgotten that mod_rewrite rules in a directory override any parent directory’s rules, so I had to copy the HTTP-to-HTTPS rewrite rule to each folder that had its own rewrite rules. Then I had to fix the interaction between mod_rewrite and ErrorDocument that was causing custom errors to redirect to the error template instead of loading it behind the scenes.

Zooming Through Long Beach Comic Con 2016

One of the weirdest things about this year’s Long Beach Comic Con is how much moving the entrance to the other side of the convention center changed the flavor of the experience. For the last seven years, they’ve used the western entrance off of Pine Ave. with a big, open, glass lobby and an outside area that stays sunny all afternoon. There’s always a mass of people in costume out in that lobby — I’ve called it “Lobby Con.” That didn’t happen this year.

This year, they used a larger section of the convention center for the main floor, and brought everyone in on the east side between the theaters and the big circular arena with the Wyland mural. The lobby is smaller and feels more closed-in. There’s a lot more open space outside, but it’s divided by stairways and balconies.

Outside LBCC

The result: No Lobby Con. There wasn’t room for people to gather inside the lobby, and outside was so fragmented that it didn’t feel like a gathering. On the plus side, the lines for the food trucks didn’t look too long either, and the varied space made for some interesting photo backdrops: the mural, palm trees, lamp posts, sunny spots, shady spots, etc.

Going Somewhere Solo?

Whitney Frost CosplayI usually do Long Beach Comic Con solo, while we make WonderCon and San Diego (when we get tickets, anyway) family trips. We planned to change that this year. Katie has been putting together a Whitney Frost cosplay outfit (from Agent Carter). J. is in the age range for kids’ programming now. Then things fell through so that Katie couldn’t make it, and then J. got a cold, so I ended up going solo after all. We did do a full makeup/hair test and photoshoot as Whitney Frost first, though!

Anyway, I arrived around lunchtime on Sunday, leaving me with just one afternoon to cram in as much Comic Con as I could. That meant I only attended one of the panels that looked interesting, picked a few artists to seek out, didn’t spend much time browsing for comics (though I did buy a few), and made several cursory circuits of the floor, pausing when someone or their art or merch caught my eye, rather than really exploring.

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