February 11, 2009

Politically Correct Zombies

Filed under: Games — bilbo @ 2:57 pm

As I was writing up the outline for locations of note, I came to a place I wanted to have some spotty civilization going on, Utah. Yeah, the first thing that hit me was Mormons. I want to have the Mormon Free State centered near but not at Salt Lake City. The problem I am having is I also want to make it a theocracy.

Danger Will Robinson! Danger!

See, I have not shied from such issues int he past and have gotten my share of hate mail. Shades of Earth was the first of it. The Catholics hated it. The Neo-Nazis hated it (yeah, lots of “Why did you make the Nazis bad guys?”). I even had some African-Americans folks up in arms. The problem was, that in the 1930’s, blacks were not well treated. I know that may come as a surprise to some but when I portrayed the historical facts of the Harlem Renaissance and the treatment that black characters may receive, it offended some. Generally though, they were reasonable and when given a chance to explain they understood. Not so with the neo-nazis. They would go on and on about how the Holocaust was a hoax and how I exaggerated the number of deaths and how those deaths did not happen and if they did it was not that bad…yeah, you got it. Eventually, I just had to black list these folks off my mail server.

So now, once again, I face the possibility of offending someone with setting information. Sure it would be easy enough to just not include it or make it more a Mad Max post apoc type place but it really feels right. There will be benefits as well as minuses. There will actually be a fairly high level of religious tolerance but there will also be little tolerance for homosexuality. As I delve deeper into my research we will see what else comes up but I see this as potentially one of the biggest issues with this book.

As an aside, to be clear, I have never used any of my settings as a springboard for my views, political, religious or otherwise. I will do my honest best to portray the Mormons as I believe the circumstances would affect them. However, I fear that my zombies will not be politically correct.


  1. Before I go into potential possibilities/problems, let me preface this: I am Mormon, born and (mostly) raised. I have spent some time on both sides of that particular fence, and am Mormon again, a lifestyle I intentionally chose for myself. That said:

    1. Mormons aren’t all the same. Mormons outside of Utah and Mormons in Utah don’t see eye to eye on many issues. To make matters more complicated, Mormons in Utah Valley (about an hour-ish south of Salt Lake City) and Mormons in the rest of Utah tend to have distinct cultural traditions. In addition, Salt Lake City itself is barely Mormon at all (about 48%, of which approximately 40% are ‘active,’ giving you a total of only about 20% or so that attend church services and serve callings in their local “ward.” RPG’s tend to focus on stereotypes (Elves are X, Dwarves Z, always), but I can guarantee that if you use stereotypes as Non-Mormons see them, you WILL offend, as below.
    2. Mormons are barely like anything people think they know. We don’t have horns, we aren’t polygamous, we are Christians (according to us. We don’t follow the Nicean Creed, which disqualifies us in the eyes of many, but we choose to worship Christ, so we consider ourselves to be Christian). Basically… do your research. Talk to Missionaries, yes, but also regular people who are part of the church here in Utah and have to deal with the church the way it is. More than one source is good, as everyone is different.
    3. The Mormons are *supposed* to be prepared for the end of the world. Not everyone manages it, but about one in ten active members has between 6 months and a year of food supplies stored away. Many also garden actively, or engage in other self sustaining activities, so as a general population Utah will be more prepared than most for Zombiepocalypse. Add in the rednecks/hunters/concerned citzens/gun owners and the outbreak would be contained more quickly here.
    4. Impact of the Church itself: The church keeps grain and other foods stored in massive warehouses/silos. At one point it was believed to be enough food for the state for a year, but with rapid growth it would probably be more like 6 months. Also, consider that the churches would serve as natural rallying points for people, and would be points of order in a world of chaos, overall the church would significantly reduce the time of chaos, even without church-wide leadership.
    5. Leadership would emerge quickly, as a natural order already exists at virtually every level, from the neighborhood up to state/nationwide. This allows for quick mobilization that is fairly unlikely to break down.
    6. Due to a variety of modern prophecies, the church as a people would be inclined to head toward Theocracy if they thought this was the end of the world (a difficult notion to ignore). The form this would be most likely to take is a large scale form of Communalism known as the “United Order” which is similar to (but not based on or as compulsory as) Communism.
    7. The church would quickly work to expand safe zones to include areas with either large numbers of members (Boise, Las Vegas) or culturally important areas (Independence, MI or Nauvoo, IL). These may not directly connect immediately, but they would do everything they could to keep them Zombie-free.

    I personally wouldn’t be offended if you did your research, took rational ideas into consideration, and created a Zion that makes sense.

    I personally would be offended if you only paid attention to national stereotypes and made it look like some kind of stupid cult that doesn’t think.

    Comment by Dominic F — February 11, 2009 @ 5:23 pm

  2. Dominic,
    Thanks for your insight! I think anyone who has my books and is not an extremist (it is hard to reason with such) knows I do my research and present what I find as fairly as possible. I do not intend to portray the LDS as a force for evil. Many of my games are rife with themes of good people forced through hard decisions to do evil things. Your points are actually some of the basis of why I chose the Mormons. It went like this.

    Base Premise : The Infected have a rough time with arid, rough or extreme terrain. This is a natural barrier to the spread of the virus and thus there will also be parts on a number of southwest and western locations.

    Thus Utah came to mind. Plus, salt is not the Virus’ friend.

    It followed then that:
    1. I had heard of the supplies maintained. This seems a very good basis.
    2. The missionary works and general community sense of the Church of LDS (your point 7) made for a great basis for adventures. Now you have a group that must trek to Las Vegas or MI (the center of the plague) on missions.
    3. Your Point 1 is one of the reasons I wanted it near SLC. It makes for potential characters who are not Mormon but have skills needed. Also, a point of potential contention (a good thing for RPGs).
    4. Organization and rallying points was the other reason. It seems rather obvious but your points make it more so.
    5. I admit to being an outsider but I am not planning on anything nefarious here. I actually initially had the idea of making the LDS a kind of beacon. Theocracy often summons up images of oppressive middle ages or a Handsmaid’s Tale sort of thing but I actually had a more “rugged survivalist” bend on it with a veneer of religion.

    Think of this as more a “Utah suffered the storm better for where it was and it allowed the strongest entity (the Church of LDS) to fill the vacuum lef by the collapse of the government”.

    If you are interested Dominic, I would be very appreciative if you would review the part on the Mormon Free State when I am done with it.


    Comment by bilbo — February 11, 2009 @ 6:38 pm

  3. I’d love to review the section, no problem at all. Chances are good it would be called either “Deseret” or “Zion” by the people that live there, though.

    Comment by Dominic F — February 12, 2009 @ 9:12 am

  4. Zion sounds good. Change made.

    Thanks again!


    Comment by bilbo — February 12, 2009 @ 9:27 am

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