I’m going to be giving a talk at the sure-to-be-amazing Zombie Apocalypse Medicine Meeting. The meeting celebrates all things zombie-related, and includes 2 public lectures: one by Max Brooks (which focuses more on the fiction side of zombie stuff) and one by me, focusing on parasite manipulation of host behavior (the fact side of zombie stuff).

This invitation got me thinking about how unfamiliar I am with sci fi treatments of parasite-induced changes in human behavior. I started reading Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, and then asked Twitter to suggest parasite-related literature for me to check out. I was deluged by suggestions for movies, TV series, books, and video games, and decided to collate a list of suggestions to share with everyone.

I’ll be working my way through this list, and hope it proves useful for anyone else interested in this topic. Please note that inclusion in the list does not necessarily mean I recommend the book/movie/show/game, nor can I confirm at this point that they really even belong on the list. I included almost anything that was suggested, and will prune the list accordingly as I work through it. Enjoy!

(Also, Matt Zefferman pointed me to this post in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.)

*indicates that the media is zombie-themed in particular (I’m sure many in the list are zombie themed and lack the * as I haven’t gotten to them yet to confirm)

Books (Author: Book)

Aldiss, Brian: Hothouse

Applegate, K.A.: Animorphs series

Asimov, Isaac: Does a Bee Care

Bear, Greg: Blood Music

Brin, David: The Giving Plague

*Brooks, Max: World War Z & The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

Butler, Octavia: Bloodchild

Carey, Mike: The Girl With All the Gifts

Chalker, Jack: The Four Lords of the Diamond series

Clement, Hal: Needle

Corey, James S.A.: The Expanse series

Cutter, Nick: The Troop

Dee, Roger: Unwelcome Tenant

Dick, Philip K: VALIS

Douglas, L. Warren: Cannon’s Orb

Grant, Mira: Parasite

Heinlein, Robert: The Puppet Masters

Herbert, Brian & Anderson, Kevin: The Hellhole Trilogy

Herbert, Frank: Santaroga Barrier

King, Stephen: Dreamcatcher

Lumley, Brian: Necroscope series

Iwaaki, Hitoshi: Kiseiju (Parasyte)

Martin, George R.R.: A Song for Lya, Sandkings, Tuf Voyaging, Song for Ice and Fire (I haven’t read these yet or seen the TV Series, but Helen Keen tackled parasite manipulation themes in Game of Thrones in a book called The Science of Game of Thrones, for which she interviewed me about parasite manipulation)

Meyer, Stephanie: The Host

Preuss, Paul: Human Error

Rucker, Rudy: The Ware Tetralogy

Slonczewski, Joan: Brain Plague

Sigler, Scott: Infected

Simmons, Dan: The Hyperion series

Stross, Charlie: Laundry Files (specifically the The Apocalypse Codex)

Tepper, Sherri: Grass

Vance, Jack: Brains of Earth

Vonnegut, Kurt: Sirens of Titan

Watts, Peter: Echopraxia

Wilson, Colin:The Mind Parasites & The Space Vampires

Westerfield, Scott: Peeps (and the sequel, Last Days)

White, James: Star Surgeon

Movies & TV shows

*28 Days Later

*28 Weeks Later


Babylon 5


Brain Damage



Futurama (episode: Raging Bender)

*In the Flesh

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Kiseiju (Parasyte)


Life Force

Night of the Creeps

*Night of the Living Dead

*Shaun of the Dead


Star Trek: The Next Generation (episode: Conspiracy)

The Bay

The Expanse

The Faculty

The Girl with All the Gifts

The Hidden

The Puppet Masters

The Thing

*The Walking Dead

*Train to Busan

Twin Peaks


*World War Z

X-Files (episode: Ice)


Video Games

Dying Light

Left 4 Dead




Resident Evil 4

The Last of Us

3 Responses to “Parasite manipulation of host behavior in pop culture”

  1. Noah

    Ayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy thank you finding this post is a dream come true you saved me an epic amount of staring at a computer. Blessings from all the gods of every pantheon created and yet to be imagined on you and your descendants.

  2. Noah

    Do you happen to have information regarding the prevalence in pop culture plotted to a time graph?

    • weinersmith

      Glad this post was helpful! Unfortunately, I don’t have info regarding the prevalence in pop culture over time. You might be able to get some info about the popularity of this topic in science and pop culture by playing with ngrams:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


September 1st, 2018

Graduate student position available studying alternative reproductive tactics at BGSU

We seek a graduate student for a newly NSF-funded project examining the life history decisions made by male smallmouth bass. […]

June 14th, 2018

Part of that World

The other day I was singing “Part of your World” from The Little Mermaid, but was changing some of the […]

June 13th, 2018

Parasite manipulation of host behavior in pop culture

I’m going to be giving a talk at the sure-to-be-amazing Zombie Apocalypse Medicine Meeting. The meeting celebrates all things zombie-related, and […]

June 4th, 2017

Soonish giveaway on Goodreads!

Five copies of the advance reader version of Zach and my new book Soonish are up for grabs on Goodreads! Click […]

March 7th, 2017

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything

Zach and I wrote a book! Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything explores 10 emerging technologies, and discusses the roadblocks […]

January 26th, 2017

Tales from the Crypt: a parasitoid manipulates the behaviour of its parasite host

I have a new paper out with Dr. Scott Egan, Dr. Andrew Forbes, and Sean Liu! The paper is Open Access […]

May 30th, 2016

Postdoc with Dr. Ryan Hechinger (and me!)

We’re looking for a postdoc! See below! —————— Postdoctoral Opportunity with the Marine Biology Research Division at SIO Postdoctoral Scholar […]

May 7th, 2016

Science…sort of Episode 240: Moon Rocks Don’t Glow

I co-hosted an episode of Science…sort of recently. I pasted the show notes below, but you’ll have to head over […]

February 24th, 2016

Books on parasites

I’m often asked by students to suggest books they can read about parasites. Below is a list of books that […]

August 22nd, 2015

Great Adaptations – A kid’s book about evolution

Zach Weinersmith and I contributed to Tiffany Taylor’s children’s book about evolution. Tiffany worked with scientists to create Seuss-style stories […]