“I’m Just A Zombie Nerd” The Max Brooks Interview, Part One

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AT: Do you find yourself critiquing zombie movies more so now?

MB: You know when you go to the movies and there’s always some nerd bag in the group who won’t let you enjoy the movie because he’s trying to deconstruct the reality of it? Well, that’s me. I’m the movie ruiner for my group of friends.

AT: I feel like I haven’t done that as much with any other movie, but Scream. I’m always shouting, “Don’t go outside.” And they’re shooting another, so I’m sure it’ll happen again.

MB: Right. Does it really need to be remade? Where there that many unanswered questions in the first one?

AT: Maybe it’s … actually, I have no idea who the killer could be now.

MB: How many times does Drew Barrymore have to get her throat cut? I think we’re done with that.

AT: But will we ever be finished with zombies?

MB: Zombies are apocalyptic. I think that’s why people love them because we’re living in, not apocalyptic times, but I think we’re living in fear of the apocalyptic times.

AT: It’s like the other year with the Large Hadron Collider. There was a small chance the universe would implode if they turned it on.

MB: And it was the same for the first atom bomb. They wondered if the atmosphere would catch on fire. Literally, they thought, “Will the chain reaction just not end?”

I think that’s why people are scared of zombies. Other monsters, you’ve got to go out and find. We’re living in times where there are these really big problems. We’ve got terrorism, economic problems, unpopular wars, social meltdowns. The last time we dealt with this stuff was in the 70s, and that was the last time zombies were really popular.

AT: People are proclaiming this a mini zombie renaissance, but were zombies ever really out of the cultural landscape?

MB: That’s the thing. When I started writing, there was nothing about zombies. It was all teen movies, which to me are scarier than zombies, but that’s another story. I think now, people need a sort of safe vessel for the end of the world. You can read The Zombie Survival Guide or watch Dawn of the Dead and then go to bed saying, “Oh, it’s just zombies.”

Try doing that with The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Nuclear war can really happen. I think zombies are safe. Zombies are manageable. You can’t shoot the Gulf oil spill in the head. I think some of these problems are too big and too tough to understand. What does the global financial meltdown of 2008 mean? I can’t explain it, and I sure know you can’t shoot it in the head.

AT: There are so many metaphors you can get into with zombies because they have no overarching characteristics.

MB: I think that’s what’s so scary about them is their lack of a middle ground. You can’t negotiate with them. They’re like a disease.

AT: Even the whole idea that zombies are like a virus. Take away the living dead and focus on the idea that there could be a virus as deadly as a zombie apocalypse.

MB: It’s terrifying that’s there’s a life form out there that you can’t negotiate with.

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