Before Brooks came out to entertain audience members, he took a moment to speak to me about his book, zombies, and “The Walking Dead.”
Will Rhino “WR” talked with Max Brooks “MB” about zombies.
WR: I do remember the thing that impressed me the most was the ending. There’s so few zombie things that go from start to finish, the whole war. You did a pretty original thing, obviously. I just want to know how you got your inspiration to have your zombies be weak to the cold?
MB: I wanted them to be easily defeatable, because therefore if they did take over, it would be our loss not their win. I get my inspiration for zombies from AIDS.
WR: Like the disease?
MB: Yeah the disease. When I was a kid, when I was a teenager, AIDS sorta stepped onto the stage and AIDS was like really, really, really preventable, like it is really hard to get it, but we screwed. We screwed up as a country, as a society, as a culture, and we didn’t do the basic smart things we should have done, and as a result, we let the genie out of the bottle, and we’ll never get it back in. That’s the same with zombies. If you’d make the right choices you could stop them really easy. They don’t have frickin’ super powers, at least in my book they don’t. That’s why I made these zombies the way they were. And that’s what inspired about the George Romero zombies, same thing, slow, rambling, easily stopped.
WR: I know in a lot of your interviews you said you were guided to make zombies because you’re afraid of them. What drives that fear for you?
MB: I think there’s a lot of things. There’s obviously the fear of being eaten. That’s not fun. I think there’s a lack of humanity, and that scares me. I’m up against an enemy that, if I can paraphrase the terminator, can’t be bargained with, can’t be reasoned with, doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear or absolutely will not stop ever until I’m dead. Yeah, that’s kinda a nightmare.
WR: I read your interview with David, he said you don’t really watch “The Walking Dead.”
MB: That’s a personal choice because of what they did to my friend.
WR: Oh, you know him?
MB: The show’s creator? Yeah! I’m friends with him now, but I stopped watching the show out of general principle because you don’t fire the man who created the most important television show I think of the decade. You don’t reward him by firing him. Even if I didn’t know the guy, even if he was a dick, I would say that’s not cool. I became friends with him later, actually by accident.
WR: That’s one of things that’s interesting to me because you kill your zombies with the cold, but in “The Walking Dead” between seasons two and three they survive the winter.
MB: So do mine. The cold doesn’t kill my zombies, it just freezes them and then they thaw. So in the spring they come back.
WR: It made them easier to kill, right?
MB: They’re easier to stop because in the winter they’re frozen. You just go out and chop them up.
WR: I just thought it was interesting that in “The Walking Dead” the whole winter was unseen.
MB: That’s because it’s a television show. The thing is when you write a book, and this is really important, when you write a book you can do anything you want. You don’t have to worry about a budget, you don’t need to worry about a schedule. You can just be creative. As soon as you step out of that into another medium like television or movies then you’re at the mercy of all these other elements. You have to worry about budget, you have to worry about the schedule, you have to worry about actors leaving the show to do other jobs. You need to worry about the network firing the show’s creator. You know, there’s a million other things. When I’m writing a book, it’s just me and my ideas.
WR: I just have one more question. I read that you were working on something that’s taken you 13 years to work on. How long did “World War Z” take you?
MB: Definitely a few years, but it took me longer to research than it did to write. The research is what took all the time.