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World War Z’ author Max Brooks: ‘I find (zombies) absolutely terrifying’

Sarah Niekamp / Lantern photographer

Society often treats the possibility of a zombie apocalypse as fiction or a joke, but for zombie survival expert Max Brooks, there’s nothing funny about it.

Brooks is the author of best-selling zombie novels “The Zombie Survival Guide” and “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.” Brooks said he was surprised when his first novel, “The Zombie Survival Guide,” was placed in the humor section at the book store.

“That was not my idea,” Brooks said. “I find absolutely nothing remotely funny about being killed and eaten by zombies. I find them absolutely terrifying.”

Brooks gave students advice on surviving a zombie apocalypse Monday night in the Ohio Union Performance Hall. The event was sponsored by the Ohio Union Activities Board and was organized in collaboration with the Ohio State Urban Gaming Club.

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, it’s important to have plenty of water and ammo and recruit a solid zombie survival team, Brooks said. One way to recruit friends is to jokingly bring up the topic of zombies until they realize that they too need to plan for an attack.

“Softly and quietly, with a laugh and a smile, just like Scientology,” Brooks said. 

Brooks said his zombie survival team consists of his wife, son and father. 

“We all have specialization skills where like I’ll go out and hunt and gather for stuff, and my wife can organize and make things and build things, and my son can whine and complain and so will my dad,” Brooks said.

Brooks said he wouldn’t mind adding an additional member to his survival team. 

“And Mr. T, I mean that’s my dream team,” Brooks said. “I don’t really know the man, but if he did show up at my door and was like ‘I’m coming with ya, fool,’ I’d be like ‘yes.'”

After Brooks gave his speech, which was similar to stand-up comedy, about how to survive a zombie attack, the audience was invited to ask questions.

One student asked Brooks about the adaptation of his novel “World War Z” into a motion picture starring Brad Pitt, which is set to hit theaters June 21.

“The truth is, I haven’t seen the movie yet,” Brooks said. “I wasn’t part of making the movie, because why would I be? What could I possibly contribute?”

Brooks added that even though he does not know how the movie will turn out, his original story will always remain.

“Whatever ends up happening, I still have my book,” Brooks said. “You all still know my side of the story. You all still know the story I would have told and the story I wanted to tell. Nobody can touch that.”

Another student asked the likelihood of the OSU community surviving a zombie apocalypse. 

“Fifty thousand people – at least eight or nine of you are going to survive,” Brooks said. 

Brooks announced he is working on a comic book based on a short story he wrote in 2010 titled “The Extinction Parade.” The comic book is set to release in June. 

“It is a zombie-vampire all-out bloodbath,” Brooks said. “It’s what would happen if a zombie plague happens through the eyes of vampires.”

Brooks saved his most important zombie self-defense move for last.

“It’s going to save all of your lives,” Brooks said as he brought a student from the audience on stage.  

As Brooks stretched and geared up for the student’s pretend zombie attack, he assumed stance as the student began to walk his way with a slow walk and sluggish arms. Brooks then ran the other direction off stage. 

The Ohio State Urban Gaming Club teamed up with OUAB to bring Brooks to OSU for the Urban Gaming Club’s love of zombies. The Urban Gaming Club hosts two “Infection” games each academic year in which students play in a weeklong campus-wide game of tag, turning humans into zombies by hitting them with Nerf gun bullets.

“We personally didn’t have enough money to bring Max Brooks, but OUAB was kind enough and wanting to help out,” said Carmen Dalton, vice president of the Urban Gaming Club and sixth-year in Japanese and linguistics. “A lot of people enjoyed it, and it was really funny.”

Molly Ellender, the collaborative events chair of OUAB, said OUAB was very excited to have Brooks at a time when zombies are so prevalent in today’s media.

“With zombies on the rise in public media, it seemed like the perfect time to bring an event that pertained to this topic,” Ellender said in an email. “Many students have witnessed the Humans vs. Zombies game that takes place on campus, so there is obviously an interest in the idea.” 

Brooks also signed books for students who brought copies of his books, and copies of “World War Z” and “The Zombie Survival Guide” were for sale before and after the show. About 130 students attended the event, Ellender said.


Caitlin Essig contributed to this story.

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