When the going gets tough, the zombies get going.
It's been roughly a decade since the great zombie renaissance of the 21st century began, heralded by the surprise successes of director Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later and Man of Steel director Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead, featuring Canada's own Sarah Polley as an unwilling soldier in the zombie apocalypse.
And now you can't swing a rotting dismembered limb without hitting a zombie. World War Z is the biggest moneymaking movie of Brad Pitt's career. We breathlessly await the new season of The Walking Dead on TV. Zombie video games, from The Last of Us to Day Z, are hugely successful. The zombified version of Pride and Prejudice has kicked off its own mini-industry of mashing up classic literature with undead monsters.
Zombies are bigger than they've ever been. But their popularity doesn't come from a fear of the living dead. It comes from fear, full stop.
This resurgence of zombies in entertainment and fiction "is fuelled by anxiety," says Max Brooks, author of World War Z, the excellent and serious novel that has very little in common with Pitt's big, loud movie adaptation.
"I think as long as times are tough, as long as people are uncertain about the future, as long as there's this sort of global anxiety, there's going to be an interest in zombies," says Brooks.
That's not a new idea, sure. George Romero, the grandfather of the modern zombie movie, knew that his shambling, brain-eating undead were a metaphor for the times people lived in. Romero's original Night of the Living Dead in 1968 preyed on fears of nuclear radiation and the post-war population explosion. Dawn of the Dead - Romero's 1978 original - was a comment on consumerism. Hell, the movie's set in a shopping mall.
Yet it's never been quite so nakedly evident. When we're happy and comfortable and content, zombies tend to slip off the entertainment radar. During the boom times of the '90s, zombies fell out of vogue and were relegated to the bottom racks of Blockbuster's horror section.
But now that we're worried about forces beyond our control - the economy, the environment, terrorism, the government tapping our mobile phones and snooping through our e-mail - zombies are once again everywhere.
"I don't how it is in Canada, but in the U.S. there is a Grand Canyon separating the American government from the American people. And there are people now actively working to widen that chasm," says Brooks, who is scheduled to be at this weekend's Fan Expo Canada in Toronto.
"Most Americans don't know what their government does. And that's really dangerous. I think what's great about zombie books is it gives you a chance to sneak in genuine information about things like the Centers for Disease Control, or the military, the intelligence networks, logistics, supply..."
So whether it's a source of information to help us prepare for a genuine disaster, or an outlet for our uneasy fears, or just a distraction to take our minds off all the bad news in the real world, zombie entertainment isn't going anywhere any time soon.
For better or, more likely, for worse.