The limited edition hardcover treatment for a short story might seem like overkill, but some pieces deserve to be highlighted on their own. Such is the case with This Year’s Class Picture, a classic zombie tale by Dan Simmons that first appeared nearly 25 years ago in John Skipp and Craig Spector’s stellar anthology Still Dead: Book of the Dead 2.
Ms. Geiss is dealing with the aftermath of the zombie uprising as best she can – staying vigilant, fortifying her sanctuary, keeping a watchful eye out at all times. She’s also trying to maintain some sense of normalcy, albeit through some rather extreme measures. Ms. Geiss was a fourth grade teacher in another life and another world; a dedicated educator who chose the school she taught in for years as her safe place during the end of the world; a woman who now maintains and attempts to teach a small class of undead children in her former classroom.
Simmons could have easily portrayed this woman as a raving, delusional lunatic, making Class Picture an effective if somewhat predictable story. Instead, Simmons shows a woman trying to hold onto her sanity through insane means, someone turning to the most important thing in her life as her last true shelter in an unimaginable storm. Yes, her path is one that puts her in constant, avoidable danger, but it is also the only thing keeping her anchored to reality.
This Year’s Class Picture stands as a powerful example of the best kind of zombie fiction – the kind that doesn’t focus on the sad and gory fate of the ghouls, but instead examines the ways in which the living might actually be worse off than the dead. This new edition from Subterranean Press is highly recommended.