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

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AT: So will we get our sequel to Survival Guide?

MB: You know, maybe. People seem to keep wanting more. I remember when the first printing of came out of The Zombie Survival Guide, it was only 17,000 copies and I thought, there’s no way. You can’t sell that many of something about how to fight something that isn’t real. That’s why I started doing my self-defense lectures. Out of sheer panic. I was going to sell as many books as I could. I said I’d go door to door if I had to.

AT: So, I interviewed George Romero before his last movie came out and I asked him how to survive a zombie attack, you know, because his characters never seem to make it out. He told me that was a question only for you.

MB: George thinks I take this way too seriously.

AT: That’s exactly what he said.

MB: (Laughs) And what does that say? That would be like George Lucas thinking you take space movies way too seriously. Well, George is all about telling the social metaphors and I think that’s what zombie movies that have come out after him have totally forgotten. Those are more about just heads being blown off. George is old school. He’s from the era where you have to use science fiction as a metaphor because they wouldn’t let you tell the real story. It’s like Star Trek or Twilight Zone. There had to be something underlying it. Like with George and the original Dawn of the Dead. It was all about the end of the baby boomers dream and surrendering to materialism. I think the old Dawn of the Dead should be put next to Easy Rider and sold as a box set. It should be called The Baby Boomers: Beginning & End.

AT: But I never got my answer! How do I survive a zombie attack? What if one came into this room. (Conference room on the 22nd floor of an office building.)

MB: Is there one zombie?

AT: Yes, just one.

MB: If there’s one zombie, that’s easy. There are three of us. One person becomes the bait. Then, the other two circle around, grab the zombie by the back and throw it out the window.

That’s the thing about zombies. They don’t adapt and they don’t think. Literally, you could have a zombie on one side of a chain link fence and you could be on the other side and they could be trying to get to you and six feet down could be an open door and they will not go through that door in the fence. That’s why they’re so scary. They’re like a flesh-guarded weapon.

AT: So, can I get you to clear something up for me? Sometimes I’ll find clips or comics where zombies are running. Zombies can’t run, right?

MB: We all know that.

AT: I needed official word. I’m not an authority. No one will listen to me.

MB: Zombies don’t run. They don’t dance. They don’t say, “More brains.” There is no Thriller Night. Those are stereotypes that are perpetrated by Hollywood, which I think is very irresponsible because it can get you killed.

AT: Speaking of, there is a lot of weaponry in the book, but not everyone is going to have a shotgun at home.

MB: As they shouldn’t. “Blades don’t need reloading.” It’s right there on the back of the book. We’re going for something you don’t need to reload. Plus, you’re going need a weapon that you can train with, something that looks remotely legal.

AT: Can I kill a zombie with a baseball bat?

MB: It would take a lot. A human skull is really hard. You’ve got to destroy the brain. You’ve got to hit and hit and hit. If you’ve got a bladed weapon, just chop the head off. Just don’t step on head because it’s still biting. So Birkenstocks are a no-no.

AT: Attire is also extremely important in the book.

MB: Tight clothes and short hair. You don’t want to get grabbed. Dreads are not a good idea. Footwear, no matter what, it’s got to be broken in. You don’t want to go out and get a new pair of combat boots the day before a zombie outbreak because the blisters you’re going to get are just going to slow you down and hurt your feet and then they’re going to get you.

AT: So my shoes probably aren’t the best, huh? (I’m wearing heels, seriously missing my Oxfords.)

MB: No, those probably aren’t the best runners. I don’t care what they showed you in Single White Female, you can’t kill someone with a stiletto.

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