Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.


Last week I picked up World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, by Max Brooks, who also wrote the Zombie Survival Guide. Everything was going well until I tried to go to sleep after taking the book to bed with me. Bad idea.

My mother has a terrible fear of vampires, something overexposure to our fangy friends purged from me during the heyday of Anne Rice and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, my fear of zombies continues unabated. As I was drifting off to sleep that first night, a voice in the back of my head piped up, "You're going to have zombie nightmares."

"No, I'm not," I said.

"Oh yes, you are," it said.

"Well, maybe not. Mind over matter, you know? It worked with The Exorcist. . ."

But it was too late. I was soon entrenched in a dream where I was trying to rid a subterranean basketball stadium of zombies, and searching the swamp in a fan boat for my stepfather, who is an ordained minister. I guess I must have thought this would make him better qualified to fight zombies, a la the priest in Peter Jackson's Dead Alive: "I kick ass for the Lord!"

The next night, I got smart. I had been trying to read Pride and Prejudice since Christmas, because I realized - to my horror - that I had earned a degree in literature without ever cracking a Jane Austen novel. I hadn't been having much luck, though. Ms. Austen kept putting me to sleep.

Then I struck upon a plan: I would read World War Z during the day, but once the sun went down, I would switch to Pride and Prejudice, allowing me to read the zombie book without nightmares and build up enough momentum to finish the Austen novel.

It worked. I was able to sleep and have now reached the juicy bits of Pride and Prejudice. But the combination brought to mind a new world of possibilities for the Bennett sisters:

Chapter 46

On quitting her father's study that morning, Elizabeth encountered Jane in the parlor, and by silent entreaties with her eyes, made her sister to understand that she wished to speak to her alone. The two elder Miss Bennetts retired to their room, where, once the door was securely closed, Elizabeth began to speak with great feeling:

"Oh, Jane, our dear uncle's letter from London is most distressing! If only we had revealed what we knew of Mr. Wickham's disposition earlier, calamity might have been prevented altogether."

"Yes," Miss Bennett replied. "But we cannot judge ourselves too harshly, as our intentions were only the best. We could not have known the true nature of Mr. Wickham's affliction at the time. It would have been imprudent to speak out on such private matters without comprehending the particulars. Had we known that Lydia would exercise equal imprudence in eloping with Mr. Wickham, I am sure I would have spoken to our father myself."

"If only I had spoken with him more plainly on that unhappy occasion!" cried Elizabeth. "For
however shall the rest of us find husbands not similarly afflicted, when our sister's disgrace is so commonly known?"

"And yet," said Jane. "I cannot think too poorly of Mr. Wickham, for surely his affliction was occasioned through no fault of his own. Only think of how fortunate you are, dear Elizabeth, to be spared such a match yourself! Nor would you have done better with Mr. Collins, who, I hear is now similarly afflicted, along with Lady Catherine and the other residents of Rosings.

"Yes, very fortunate," Elizabeth agreed, although her thoughts were now turned to Mr. Darcy, who, the last she had heard, was seeking out Mr. Wickham to determine the extent of the damage wrought by his affliction, and to see if he could not put it right.

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