Twain and Zombies


My favorite Mark Twain novel is A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.  It’s the most sci-fi Twain ever gets, as it involves time travel and sciencing the sh*t out of Medieval England.  Of course, there are some flaws in the basic plot concepts.  The Yankee in question is struck on the head and wakes up in 6th century Britain.  Even if we ignore the glaring change in location on the part of the protagonist, there are other factors to consider.  For instance, there is more and more evidence that King Arthur’s fabled court never existed at all; if it did, it was under and entirely different reality than the romanticized versions that survive into the modern day.  Also, the fact that the Medieval characters speak modern English is unlikely.  They’d still likely be speaking Old English, which is a lot closer to German than what we speak now.  Or they’d be speaking Gaelic or Welsh dialects, depending on location.

All this is besides the point since this is a fictionalization of the time period based on common literary sources at the time of its inception.

What matters (and is truly the core of this ramble) is that an ordinary man from 1889 gets mystically transported back to Camelot and not only survives, but supplants Merlin and drags the kingdom into the almost-20th century.  For a few years, anyway.  There have been many modern adaptations of this story in film and on stage.  The most recent seem to focus on how ridiculous the Medieval knights are and seem to forget that the Yankee survived through ingenuity and practical skill sets.  I mean, the protagonists escapes death in his first few days by remembering when the solar eclipse was going to be.  In Britain.  In the 6th century.  That type of stuff is not common knowledge any more.  He also knew how to fix a well, set up an electrical grid, and establish a telegram system.  Do you know how to do any of that?  Realistically, a person sent back to that time from now would be dead in a matter of days.  And not just because of the rampant disease.  The guy knows the ingredients list of fireworks, for goodness’ sake.  In the last battle, he sets up an electrified fence and machine guns.

No, this is not a rant about how much we suck as people now thanks to advanced technology.  This is actually about the zombie apocalypse.

See, zombie apocalypse happens now, we face global destruction and the collapse of civilization.  The survivors in the extreme cases (like TWD), learn to survive without things we take for granted (electricity, running water, Google).  They also have to acquire skills like growing food, first aid care, and basic carpentry.  The strongest survivors tend to be the ones who echo the lifestyles of people from the late 19th century or earlier.

If the zombie apocalypse struck in Twain’s day, I don’t know if anyone would notice.  Except for the zombies walking around.  Oh no, we no longer have electricity.  Well, we only got that last week, so no loss.  No running water?  I guess we’ll have to keep using the outhouse and mock our neighbors who got them new fangled crappers.  Ah, the telegraph system is down!  How will we communicate with everyone?  Well, everyone I know lives here, so…

Sure, big government would fall apart.  But on the whole, I think the Reconstruction Era Americans would thrive against zombies.  At least it would be a cause to bring unity back to a nation recently torn apart by civil war.

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2 Comments

Filed under Misc Short Stories

2 responses to “Twain and Zombies

  1. People of intelligence would not be completely helpless in a modern Zombie Apocalypse because we have LIBRARIES with all that information…the next eclipse, the ingredients for fireworks, how to make alternating current, the internal combustion engine… I agree with you on sending a modern person back to the 6th century though. “What is this ‘cooking’ you talk about?” “Wait, you have to Kill Pigs to get Bacon?!!!!” “Oooh! this is GREAT! I’m going to Tweet this! hmmm, no bars?” “What do you mean, ‘bathing is dangerous to your health?'” Course if an Amish person from the Amana colonies went back, King Arthur would have a microwave oven and a refrigerator/freezer within the 1st couple of months…

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