I was writing another unspeakable scene in my zombie opus when it suddenly occurred to me what a gift blood is to writers. Everything about it is so dramatic - the colour, the taste, the sound it makes hissing from a severed artery - and active - it spurts, it drips, it gushes. We can easily imagine a character's life ebbing away as the blood leaves their body and forms a shallow pool on the coconut matting.
Would things be so exciting if our bodies were driven by clockwork and bulked out with sawdust, or if we were robots who could be incapacitated with a single bullet to the wrong circuit board? Blood provides a wonderful shorthand for the rushing vibrancy of life and the fragility of the human condition.
Whole swathes of fiction exist almost solely because of the presence of blood. Vampires are a key reference point, but without blood who can imagine Dexter or the slapstick "splatter movie" horror genre? (my favourite example of the latter is Peter Jackson's Braindead, in which the hero ultimately solves his zombie infestation by attacking them with a hover mower)
The red liquid is one that is generally frowned upon in material aimed towards children (which is probably why I get such a transgressive thrill from it). In recent years we have seen film adaptations such as Prince Caspian and The Golden Compass in which brutal violence is permitted at PG providing that no blood is shown. I have seen arguments that we should turn the current classification regime upside down, that the lower ratings should be given to those films which realistically show the effects of violence. In this world, Saving Private Ryan would be a U and the TV version of the A-Team would be banned. And not a day too soon in my opinion...
Finally, to prove that this blog really is a set of interconnected posts (rather than just some random thoughts I had on a Sunday night), I leave you with the hidden track from My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade, a bracing barbershop ditty. Its one word title? You guessed it.
"So give them blood, blood, gallons of the stuff!
Give them all that they can drink and it will never be enough..."