Here’s my 2012 interview with World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide author Max Brooks in full.
ØH: What were your first meeting with zombies?
MB: When I was about 12 or 13, I accidentally saw an Italian zombie movie on my parent’s cable tv. I’m not sure what the title was, (I think it was Night of the Zombies) but I’m also pretty sure that the filmmakers mixed real cannibal documentary footage into their movie. It pretty much scarred me for life. [edit: I think he means this zombie flick.]
ØH: My own father covered fiction as a journalist, which meant that our house was filled to the brim with classics of literature. Which made me seek out comics and horror fiction to find something of my own. Is your own interest in zombies and horror rooted in a similar “rebellion”?
MB: I don’t think so. Rebellion implies a conscious choice, and I never chose to be different from my father. I just am. I was always a different animal. I always wrote, and thought, about different things. Even the way we go about creating our art is different. My father is a collaborator. He loves working with others. I love solitude, probably comes from being an only child.
ØH: How close do you think our fascination with zombies is linked to our fear of disease?
MB: Zombie stories often remind me of modern-day versions of the black plague. I’ve always said that zombies are a walking plague. They don’t act like predators, which attack one or two individual humans, they treat the human race like a host that needs to be infested. The virus aspect scares me more than the predator metaphor. A virus is mindless, it can’t be negotiated with. Any enemy that has no mind, or heart, truly terrifies me.
ØH: Why do you think we are so obsessed with making rules for our imaginary monsters. There are lot of defined rules for how zombies, vampires, and werewolves are supposed to act? Why is this so important?
MB: I think people crave logic. We need our world to make sense. The same goes for monters, if there are no rules, then there is no way to really enjoy the story. Once the rules are in place, you can root for the hero, or yell at him when he makes a mistake!
ØH: And on the other hand, what are your favorite zombie rule breakers in fiction and movies?
MB: Actually, I’m not a fan of the rule breakers. I think its harder to tell a good story when you stick to the rules. For example, Shaun of the Dead, one of the best zombie movies ever! They didn’t change the rules, but they crafted a perfect story within it. I’m also not a fan of movies that don’t even make sense. There was this one zombie movie where they ate brains. How is that possible? If the virus lives in the brain and the zombie eats its victims brains, how do you make more zombies?
ØH: World War Z is constructed as an oral history of the zombie war. My guess is that such a fragmented storytelling are not going to be put in use in the movie? How involved have you been in the story for the film?
MB: I’m not involved at all in the making of the movie. I’m just a bystander, sitting on the sidelines, hoping they do a good job. I was invited to visit the set and met Brad Pitt, who was a surprisingly nice guy. He was very clear that he wanted to make an intelligent, deep movie and not just some action flick. I sincerely wish him well on this project.
ØH: One of the main advantages about zombie movies are that they are cheap to make. But has this also been a disadvantage, I am especially thinking of the flood of zombie movies we’ve seen in 2011?
MB: There have been so many zombie movies lately. Some are good, some are crap. Some are made by people just trying to make a buck off the zombie craze, and it shows in their work. I haven’t seen Dead Snow yet, but I’m looking forward to it! It reminds me of a story I used to hear about a headless German from a Norwegian girl I used to date. Sounds pretty creepy.
ØH: What are you working on now, is there a new book in the works? Comics, movies?
MB: Working on a ton of other projects right now. My short story «The Extinction Parade» is being adapted into a limited comic-book series. I also have a World War 1 graphic novel coming out in about a year. No zombies, sorry. That one is a true story. And then I’m just days away from another book that is so different from anything I’ve ever done that I will probably publish under another name, and that’s if I find a publisher!