Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Heart Zombies and So Should You

Zombies are a brilliant thing. They are an infinitely malleable metaphor for so many things: our habit of mindless consumption; disaster management in an apocalyptic scenario; the dwindling sense of civic duty and community engagement in the Regan years; or useless government programs that won’t die. Moreover, planning for a zombie plague is possibly one of the most entertaining things possible. It essentially becomes a battle of wits that forces you to creatively leverage all the existing resources you have at your disposal in your geographic area against a horde of slow-moving, not very intelligent, but very hungry bad guys. The possibilities are endless. It’s amazing!

In the growing flood of Zombie literature, one concept stands out in particular. Max Brooks’ World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War is by far the most interesting zombie themed book I have yet to encounter. If you haven’t already read it, run to the bookstore.

Max Brooks, a former screenwriter and the son of Mel Brooks (I just found that out today), takes zombies to a whole new level. World War Z is a fascinating and thoroughly researched analysis of a doomsday scenario that details our governmental, societal, and economic failures in preventing the spread of, what is essentially, a global disease. It examines real life phenomenon such as human trafficking, the government procurement process, and the black market for organs in alarming detail.

If you remove the zombies, the book gets truly scary as it becomes an analysis of how societies around the world will struggle with basic things like food, water, and shelter in a mass catastrophe. Admiral Wisecup, President of the Naval War college, even went so far as to recommend it to incoming post-graduate students. It's seriously that good that future Admirals are using it as a starting point for discussing strategic scenario planning.

GQ just published a fantastic interview with Max Brooks, where they get into a fascinating and intellectual discussion regarding the zombie genre and the potential for it to be a vehicle to explore the end of the world.

Of particular note, is the surprising observation that the concept of Saving Private Ryan is essentially a zombie story. A bunch of people have to get from Point A to Point B but they are besieged on all sides by the enemy. Other interesting topics include growing up in the paranoia of Southern California, writing scripts for Freddie Prinze Jr., and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road being potentially the most literary zombie book ever.

On a final note, I’ll leave you with this gem from Max Brooks on Twilight. “I think the vampire genre, specifically the Twilight genre, is for tween girls who are afraid of penises. Who want to be loved, but don't want to be touched.”

If you don’t love zombies by now, you’re a robot.

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