Hailed as “the world’s foremost expert on zombies,” Max Brooks, author of the novels “World War Z” and “The Zombie Survival Guide,” said he started writing about surviving a zombie apocalypse because no one else approached the topic with the intention to educate rather than solely entertain.
As part of the Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Distinguished Lecture Series, Brooks said unlike glamorized survival shows such as “Man vs. Wild,” he used common sense when outlining the steps to survival in the “Zombie Survival Guide.” He said his intention was to create a legitimate individual preparedness guide in the event of a zombie apocalypse.
“I didn’t think [The Zombie Survival Guide] was going to be published, I was just writing it for me,” Brooks said. “I thought ‘okay I’m just going to write for me and write what’s practical.’”
Unlike in popular zombie movies or television shows, Brooks said it is more practical for individuals to carry weapons that could be used in hand to hand combat situations compared to machine guns and to use bicycles to get around, compared to cars, which would eventually run out of gas.
Brooks added the key to survival in any disastrous situation, including a zombie apocalypse, is specialization.
Creating an interlocking group in which every person does one particular thing really well increases the chances of survival, he said.
Brooks said the only reason he writes anything is to answer his own questions. He said he wrote both books to answer his own questions about what would happen during a zombie apocalypse.
In writing “World War Z”, Brooks said he particularly wanted to know how governments would respond to a zombie plague, since no other book, television show or movie was addressing that aspect.
Brooks said he drew a lot of inspiration for the book from his experience as a history major and strong interest in history.
“Before I was a zombie nerd, I was a history nerd,” he said. “As a history nerd, everything I put in World War Z was from history.”
Brooks explained all of the accounts in the book were based events that actually occurred and all he did was add zombies. He cited the SARS epidemic in China as the basis for the origin of the zombie plague.
Brooks also addressed what he described as the “Brad Pitt-sized elephant in the room,” referring to the adaption of “World War Z” into a movie starring the actor released last summer.
Brooks said because the movie’s only similarity to the novel was in name, it was easier to divorce the movie from the novel.
“They didn’t ruin my book, they ignored it, which made it much easier to watch,” he said.
Brooks added if he were anyone but the author he would have really enjoyed the film.
Brooks added unlike in the movie adaptation, where Pitt’s character is the hero, he did not intend to write a novel where one hero saves the world. Additionally, he said he designed the zombies in his two books in his books to be slow moving and for the disease not to affect other animals to give people the idea they were not doomed.
“Someone asked me once whether I would write a new zombie survival guide for Brad Pitt’s type of zombies and I said yes, it would be a pamphlet and it would say ‘Find Brad Pitt or kiss your ass goodbye’,” Brooks said.