Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Dorkland Interview with Max Brooks

Max Brooks, the best selling author of World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide, the comic book series Extinction Parade and the riveting historical graphic novel Harlem Hellfighters, sits down with Dorkland! to give us further insight on what makes undead creatures tick, what inspires his creations and a glimpse of what he is working on for the future.

Dorkland!: Thank you for taking the time for this interview. Before we discuss the new chapter of your Zombie vs. Vampires book, Extinction Parade: War, can you give a little background about your inspiration for writing the Extinction Parade single issue comics? What gave you the idea to put vampires into a world filled with zombies?

Max Brooks: I've written a lot about how countries and individual humans would survive a zombie outbreak, but I wanted to focus specifically on the emotional and psychological survival skills. Beyond the guns and blades and bottled water, there’s the mind and heart and without those you have nothing. Humans have proven themselves to be phenomenal survivalists and I believe that talent was earned clawing our way from the middle of the food chain. Our greatest strengths come from compensating for inherent weaknesses. Our problems have made us amazing problem solvers. But where would be if we had natural strengths; claws and fangs and agility and immortality? How soft and arrogant and unprepared for adversity would we be? That’s the problem with vampires. It’s a precarious place at the top of the food chain. I wanted to explore how vulnerable they are to a major crisis (and hopefully whisper a warning to some humans as well).

DL: In the beginning of Extinction Parade, the vampires find the initial chaos of the zombie outbreak to be entertaining and then advantageous. When some of them realize that their human food supply is on the verge of extinction they spring to action. Why are the vampires so unwilling or unable to predict this catastrophe earlier?

Max Brooks: Vampires have no history of adaptation. Why should they? They are apex predators. Life’s been very good to them. In my world humans have never hunted them, so anonymity is just one more supposed advantage.  To make matters worse (or better, at least in the short term), they have a class of human caretakers who do the grunt work and get their hands dirty with all the little details of life. This existence has made them comfortable and complacent. Unlike humans who are always looking over their shoulder, vampires just assume that they’ll be fine.

DL: Without giving away too much of the story, what can readers look forward to enjoying in Extinction Parade: War? Will we see the further development of the vampire characters that were introduced in the single issues?

Max Brooks: Definitely! Each issue will be a journey of self-discovery for vampires, which is in itself hard for a species that’s been too inward looking. Each issue they will have to make choices about HOW to fight the war against the zombies. Will it be more effective to go down the path of innovation, creating new tactics and weapons completely from scratch? Or will they just copy the humans and try to fight like them? They will also have to confront their limitations, both physical and mental. For a species that has never bothered (and never needed) to challenge themselves, this will come as a particularly cold shock. Lastly, they will discover something the world has never seen before, an entire army of nothing but Vampires.

DL: You have written a survival guide for humans to use in the event of a zombie invasion and also the various ways that people might fight against zombies in your work of fiction World War Z. What advantages do vampires have when battling the living dead?

Max Brooks: NONE. Every supposed advantage will turn out to be a disadvantage. Every physical strength will be paid for with a character weakness. As we will see, they are a painfully vulnerable.

DL: If you had to choose between the existence of zombies or vampires in the real world, which would you pick and why?

Max Brooks: Vampires, definitely. Zombies are a true threat to humanity. They are a potential extinction level event. Vampires are just a bunch of blood sucking parasites. Statistically, you’re more likely to be hit by a car than be killed by one of those well-dressed dear-ticks.

DL: Over the past several years there has been an unending stream of books, movies and comics that prominently feature zombies as well as a treasure trove of vampire-centric media. How would you respond to critics who dismiss the theme of the zombie or the vampire as a fad?

Max Brooks: I don’t dismiss them. Maybe they’re right. I have no idea what’s going to be popular and what’s not. I will say that I've been hearing about the zombie ‘fad’ being over since 2004 so go figure. As far as vampires, well, I will say that we don’t see as many vampire movies as a few years ago, but that’s mainly because the bulk of ‘Twilight’ fans have, by now, lost their virginity.

DL: From the different periods in human civilization that you reference in the "Recorded Attacks" chapter of the Zombie Survival Guide to your compellingly written graphic novel The Harlem Hellfighters about a real, heroic black regiment in World War I, you draw from history as an inspiration for your work. How do you go about researching these different histories?

Max Brooks: I’m always devouring history. I've been fascinated by it as long as I can remember. I’m always watching some new documentary or listening to an audio book on my ipad (dyslexia makes reading a challenge so audiobooks are how I compensate).  There’s always so much more to learn, you can never stop.  Specifically with Harlem Hellfighters, my sources were books, documentaries, and even the actual recordings from their regimental band. It’s one thing to read about early WWI jazz, but to listen to it, to hear that tinny voice and rapid beat is a much deeper education.

DL: In some of the other interviews you have given, you mentioned that you write about what interests you. Which of your  other interests could you see potentially influencing your future projects?

Max Brooks: I don’t like to give too much away. I've got a few things in the pipeline, but, right now, I have to finish The Extinction Parade comic series and the screenplay for the movie version The Harlem Hellfighters. That alone are more than enough work for the next 12 months.