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Zombie Survival Guide author comes to Ottawa to discuss post-apocalyptic survival plans

 Photo courtesy of Madison McSweeney

When the undead rise from the grave, adequate preparation will mean the difference between life and death. Recognizing these concerns, the University of Ottawa Science Students’ Association hosted Max Brooks, author of The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z, at the Mayfair Theatre on March 5 for a riveting discussion on movies, writing, and what will happen when the dead walk the earth.

U of O professor Robert Smith? opened the presentation explaining his mathematical model for predicting the outcome of a zombie apocalypse. He determined that direct attack is the only way of defeating the undead scourge — logistically, a quarantine or cure would only buy humanity a few extra days. Afterward, Brooks took the stage with speculations on the zombie pandemic and insider explanations of the writing process and film industry.

The inspiration for The Zombie Survival Guide was the Y2K scare, during which Brooks noticed a significant lack of zombie literature amongst the more conventional survival guides that permeated the market.

“I thought, what about zombies? I’m scared of them,” he said. Brooks credited “obsessive compulsive disorder and copious amounts of unemployment” for enabling him to complete the book that launched his career.

His guide differs from other literature of the undead because it assumes that most post-apocalypse deaths would be from natural causes — disease, accidents, malnutrition — as opposed to attacks.

“I have never seen a zombie movie where someone drank from a puddle and crapped themselves to death,” he said.

He continued his realistic approach with the geopolitically focused World War Z.

“I didn’t want to write just another zombie adventure book,” he said. “I write for one reason — to answer my own questions.”

His next project is the World War I graphic novel The Harlem Hellfighters, which he doesn’t expect to be very profitable because it has nothing to do with zombies.

Throughout his stand-up comedy-esque presentation, Brooks dispersed his trademark survival tips.

“Guns don’t kill zombies, bullets kill zombies,” he said. “If I was going to write a zombie story where somebody was only armed with guns, I would just call it Click. Because that’s the sound you’d hear before getting eaten.”

He recommended hand weapons that require no reloading, but cautioned against display weapons that are more useful for impressing women than actual combat.

“If you go out to fight zombies with the sword of Gryffindor, you’re going to die.”

Brooks couldn’t resist taking some shots at the controversial World War Z movie adaptation, calling it “28 Days Later on crack.” He admitted taking a risk and relinquishing creative control, saying he “felt nothing” when he saw the movie.

“Anger comes from watching your characters being mangled. They didn’t mangle my book. They ignored it.”

Brooks also reflected on Dawn of the Dead, which he calls “the greatest zombie movie ever made and the greatest social commentary,” and Zombieland, “I liked the book better. Did you read it? It’s called The Zombie Survival Guide.”

He said the resurgence in zombie fiction is a result of the current political climate and is likely to continue.

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