The Tragic Optimist

zombies in the library!

(Chris has been pushing me to combine my Ann the Librarian blog with this one.  I don’t publish much in the librarian blog, so I’m going to give it a shot.  All library-related posts will be under the new category “Ann the Librarian.”  Clever, eh?)

Some days, I really love my job.  Today I decided to take a look at and update my subject guide for Cognitive Studies.  So I was in our library catalog, looking for some good reference books and came across the Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science.  Sounds good, right?  You’re wrong, it’s awesome, and here’s why:

OMG Zombies!!! (and I don't use the term OMG lightly)

OMG Zombies!!! (and I don't use the term OMG lightly)

That’s right, the fourth volume of this four volume set covers topics from similarity to zombies.  Zombies!  In a cognitive studies encyclopedia.  I had to check it out.  Which given that my office is mere feet from the reference collection wasn’t actually difficult.  But still.  For the sake of zombie-ology, it was worth my dragging my butt off of my chair and over those few feet to the encyclopedia.

And what an encyclopedia.  It’s quite a good one, with in-depth articles covering a wide range of topics in cognitive studies (this is, in fact, what I’ve written on my research guide).  The article on zombies did not disappoint.  I feared that the cognitive studies zombie would be just a term for something that had nothing to do with actual zombies (you know, the shuffling kind), but it really is a thought experiment done by cognitive scientists to see whether it’s possible, given our current theory of the mind, for humans (or human-like creatures) to exist without full consciousness – essentially, can those zombie movies be right?  There are two schools of thought on this.  The school that says yes and the school that says no.  (I’m probably over-simplifying things here, but I’m a librarian, not a zombologist, damn it!).

As I said, the encyclopedia is very nice, the article on zombies included a section on types of zombies, complete with a (and I’m not making this up) “zombie scorecard” so that you could determine the type of zombie.  But I wasn’t content with just the encyclopedic overview.  Any librarian will tell you that encyclopedias are great places to start your research, but you really need to get into the disciplinary-specific literature to really get a thorough understanding of the current thought.  So I dove into a few databases (psycINFO and Web of Science for any library types that are interested).

People, I am telling you that unless you study zombies, you are in the wrong field of study.  In what other field can you have articles – scholarly articles,  no less – with titles such as:

  • Zombies and Consciousness.” 2007, Brown R.  Philosophical Psychology, 20(3), 399-402.
  • Zombies and Other Problems.” 1974, Johnson, NA.  Language Learning, 24(1), 105-133.
  • Zombies Are People, Too.” 1990, McDermott, D.  Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 13(4), 617-617.
  • I, zombie.” 2002, Skokowski, P.  Consciousness and Cognition, 11(1), 1-9.
  • Human zombies are metaphysically impossible.” (thank goodness!) 2006, Webster, WR.  Synthese, 151(2), 297-310.

(note the first, this is a made up bibliography style, my apologies to anyone who’s upset by things like that.  note the second, this is only a small subset of the articles I found on the topic).

Ok, but my absolute favorite thing that I found?  This article, titled “DONT CREATE ZOMBIES” (it was all caps and missing the apostrophe in the Web of Science database).  The best part is the journal that it’s published in.  Postgraduate Medicine.  Yes, thank you, I would like postgrads in medicine to NOT CREATE ZOMBIES!

God I love my job.

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7 Comments

  1. thanks a million for taking the time to track these down. my knowledge of zombie and zombification has grown significantly, but my fear of them still burns strong and bright.

    -tj

  2. ha ha!! wow that is soo awesome! I read books about zombies and necromancers so I am all about the zombie encyclopedia!! awesome find!

  3. This just *completely* made my day – nay – my week! I just looked up that first Encyclopedia in our catalog, and we have an online version, so I’m happily perusing the article on Zombies during the rest of my deadly dull interim period ref desk shift!

  4. Isn’t it awesome when you are at work and find something so funny, you have to sit down and laugh?!?!

    I am going to be laughing all day . . .

  5. val

    I think this one is my favorite:

    http://www.chspr.ubc.ca/node/614

    Who are these zombie masters indeed?

  6. I hope someone asks you about zombies for their research papers. This is a reference question waiting to happen. I’ve got to incorporate the zombie scorecard into a library program. Or, search for a vampire scorecard.

    And I’m glad you moved ann the librarian over here!

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