You may think that stalkers are weirdos obsessively watching your every step from the bushes.In the place called the Zone, stalkers are something different; gun-blazing ruffians ready to kill your sorry ass for a slice of radioactive bread.

I'll give you a second or two to spot the difference.

Just The Facts

  1. Stalker mythos includes novel Roadside picnic (1971), movie Stalker (1979) and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. computer game franchise (2007 and going). Also there are bunch of game inspired books not available in English (Conspiracy I tell you!).
  2. The novel and the movie are subtle and philosophical works of art, but by far the most popular are the games (don't try to act surprised now), so much that there are festivals held to glorify it.
  3. There is no good radio station in the Zone, so stalkers listen to Geiger counter to relax.

About The Zone

While the exact location of the Zone differs depending on the medium, it is definitely on our planet. But it's alienated from the rest of the world and is deadly to all Earth life forms with laws of physics and reality working only sporadically here.

Also, origin of the Zone is different in the novel/movie and the games. First one involves aliens (more about that later) and in the games creation of the Zone is caused by the second meltdown at the nuclear power plant in much beloved Chernobyl, Ukraine.

It's safe to say that in this moment uranium shit hit the reactor fan.

Fun fact: there isn't many human inhabitants in the Zone and while some think this is because that only one of every three stalkers survive inside, my theory is somewhat different: Reason the Zone is so poorly populated is because there are no women there!

Probably because chicks and gas mask don't go well together.

Seriously, space-time anomalies, mutations and random spots capable of killing by fire, lightning, gravity or other bizarre ways are all part of Zone's local folklore.
So why would anyone want to go there willingly? Why, for the same reason I'm writing this article - money.

About The Stalkers

Enter stalkers, the men who risk their lives to find and recover strange artifacts from within the Zone and sell them for large profits. This is an extremely dangerous and illegal line of work since one wrong move inside the Zone could be deadly, from various reasons.

Let's check them out, shall we?

It always comes down to gettingshitfaced.

You are jobless, hungry, yearn for power and recognition and ready for some adventure to come your way? Great! Become a stalker and prove your worth! After some guide takes you around military cordons guarding all known entrances to The Zone, for some minor fee of course if you both make it alive, all your dreams are coming true.
Oh, wait. Basically, you are on the street again, moneyless, still hungry and that thirst for power is shaping into primeval fear.

Your first day in the Zone.

There is no recipe for success here and if you don't have it in you, you'll probably die. In the games you can join organized factions to help you along, but either way the truth is that you shouldn't trust anyone.

He is sad because the only thing he
brought back from The Zone is
radioactive AIDS

About the Artifacts

Such an extraordinary phenomenon as the Zone didn't go under the radar and was welcomed with plans for large scale exploration. After many, many scientific and military teams went in only to find gruesome deaths and horrific nightmares for those who survived, these explorations were abandoned. There just wasn't any pattern to base your plans onto, things were constantly changing there.

The only reason stalkers are in the Zone is because of the strange artifacts that can be found deep inside its borders. In games it is little more complex than that, since there are various organized groups with different agendas, but universally, main interests are artifacts. Oh yeah, and the wish granter (which is also an artifact, originally).

So, artifacts are mysterious objects with various properties whose original purpose was incomprehensible by humans. Most artifacts have strange and useful characteristics which can be used outside the Zone for solving energy problems or even health issues. Needles to say, outside corporations would pay hefty price to obtain some of these. That's why there is the whole net of traders and stalkers black marketing this stuff.

Stalker transporting artifact to nearest trader

Original idea from the novel about emergence of the Zone sheds new light about these artifacts and is so awesome that I have to quote it word by word. You just have to know that in the novel it is highly suspected that aliens visited Earth and left us these 'Zones'.

"A picnic. Picture a forest, a country road, a meadow. Cars drive off the country road into the meadow, a group of young people get out carrying bottles, baskets of food, transistor radios, and cameras. They light fires, pitch tents, turn on the music. In the morning they leave. The animals, birds, and insects that watched in horror through the long night creep out from their hiding places. And what do they see? Old spark plugs and old filters strewn around... Rags, burnt-out bulbs, and a monkey wrench left behind... And of course, the usual mess-apple cores, candy wrappers, charred remains of the campfire, cans, bottles, somebody's handkerchief, somebody's penknife, torn newspapers, coins, faded flowers picked in another meadow."

Aliens don't care about us, there's no grand plan for humanity, the Zone is not some cunning test or mean of salvation. They just stopped by for who knows what reason and probably won't be coming back ever again, completely unaware of the people that will find, glorify, debate, create philosophy and religion over their junk.

A sign from Heaven itself!

About The Mutants

There are not many abiding laws in the Zone but 'Don't negotiate with mutants' is considered official policy. You can imagine that they are not nice folks, at all.
In the novel/movie mutation is present, but is not really aggressive, rather it slowly takes its toll. Would you consider clones of your dead relatives coming back to life to creep silently inside your house a mutation related problem? I don't have the answer, but that kind of happens to those who visited the Zone.

Well, it could be worse...

In the games, as you can imagine, mutation problem is much more obvious.
Zone is affecting animals and humans giving them unusual powers, new cool looks, psychic abilities, you name it. Some believe that they all share consciousness or some other is controlling all of them.
Either way, they bring much joy and excitement in stalker's life.
For example, one of the most memorable is Bloodsucker. It is humanoid creature capable of optic camouflage, which allows it to temporarily become almost invisible to get closer and wrap it's tentacles around your face and drain you of all that unnecessary blood.

Join me! With my invisibility and your ability to suck, we will rule the galaxy!

In The End

Now you know about the Zone. Use this knowledge to stay away from it. Don't let my effort go to waste, avoid it and be safe. God knows it's too late for me.

Last known picture of me.