The Zombie Panel – Comic-con 2010

“Reading with Brains” might have been my favorite panel of the entire Con – an hour of zombie reflections from eight of the leading undead authors: Max Brooks (World War Z), Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer), Walter Greatshell (Zombies: Apocalpyticon), Mira Grant (The Newsflesh trilogy), Ameila Beamer (The Loving Dead), John Skipp (Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead), Joan Francis Turner (Dust) and Ryan Mecum (Zombie Haiku).

Here are some of the highlights:

Moderator: The first question is a time honored one – fast zombies or slow zombies?

Max (straight faced): Fast vs. slow – slow, based on the hypothetical mobility scenario of necrotic flesh and high impact energy.

Seth: Ask Romero. I just copied everything from him.

Walter: I write fast zombies. As one who shockingly didn’t steal from Romero.

Max (to Walter): No, you stole from Night of the Living Dead – we’re back from the dead and we’re ready to party!

Walter: I changed the name to Xombies to reflect how different they are – they don’t eat flesh.

Max: Then what the hell do they do?

Walter: They suck your soul.

Max: (incredulous) They’re fast soul-suckers?!?!

Moderator: And back to the original question…

Mira: They begin fast, then eventually break things they need, and so turn to the classic zombie shamble.

Ryan (who because of his book was asked to answer in haiku):

I like slow zombies.

Fast zombies are less creepy.

George Romero, yeah.

Moderator: Next question – zombies as a metaphor?

Max: What’s a metaphor?

Water: I wrote my book after 9/11, that was my metaphor – the country had been swamped by a weird radicalism that didn’t represent the best of the country and it was kind of a frightening thing. I was working on a nuclear submarine at the time and just thought I could combine subs and zombies – the catalyst was 9/11, that social transformation that can be a good or bad thing.

Moderator: And what is this I hear about Smurfs?

Walter: My zombies are blue because they don’t breathe – so yes, they’re smurfs.

Max: Fast soul sucking smurfs?!? (he hides his face in his hands)

Mira: I tend to approach zombies like it’s the flu you can actually see coming, and the quarantine you can enforce with a shotgun.

Amelia: Have you ever seen a Trader Joes? It’s lik a zombie attack – you can’t get a parking spot and people stumble around aimlessly, wending into things, seeking sustanance…

Joan: Zombies are a zenophobic steretype – they don’t speak the language, they eat weird food, they bring diseases. You can kill them with a shotgun at the border and what is society going to do to you?

Ryan (let off the haiku leash): Zombie metaphors are interesting to me – how easy it is to put metaphors on the zombie genre. Romero said his zombies are zombies – he doesn’t see the metaphor, but everyone else does. Like Shawn of the Dead as a metaphor for sloth and laziness.

Seth: In my book, zombie are just things for hot chicks to kill.

Max: Going to the swamp, the desert, the abandoned summer camp (i.e. where the zombies will kill you), it was a choice. My defense mechanism was saying I wouldn’t have done that. It’s like the crocodile hunter – everyone says it’s such a tragedy that he died. He was a crocodile hunter! If he was a tax accountant and he opened he door and… STING RAY. That would be a tragedy.

Moderator: How, as writers, do you get to the point where you like your own work?

Seth: I don’t know anyone who reads what they wrote and goes “I’m a GENIUS.”

Mira: Burning helps a lot. Burning.

Max: I hate everything I do. The point of the first draft is just to write The End. Then I go read it a few weeks later and go, my god, it’s so bad…

Walter: It never ends. I turned in my forth book, and I thought it would be a well oiled machine by now, but it’s still the same thing.

Amelia: Midwestern guilt and shame.

Moderator: Why are zombies so popular?

Mira: Thanks to the humanization of vampires, zombies are the only monster it’s okay to enjoy killing.

Max: The last time zombies were this popular was the 1970’s, a time of global anxiety, terrorism, war, an oil crises… Gee, what was that like?

Moderator: What was your inspiration for writing zombie books?

Max: I’m just really scared of zombies.

Mira: I wanted an excuse to call the CDC on a regular basis. “Hi, can I talk to the level 5 guy again? Hi, it’s me. Would this result in living death?” They’re probably tapping my phone… The virology made no sense to me, so I felt the need to design a virus that would function and make people want to eat you.

Ameila: I wanted to write something with a plot, so I figured, add zombies.

John: Night of the Living Dead. It made my head explode.

Joan: Dealing with a death in the family inspired Dust – and I was a big fan of Night of the Living Dead, the original.

Ryan: My inspiration was largely George Romero and Evil Dead 2.

Max: I was trying to be funny when I did the first one (The Zombie Survival Guide). If there’s a joke, it’s on me! Someone took the time to write this?

Seth: The hardest part was the Jane Austen. Zombies are easy.

Moderator: What will you do if there’s a zombie apocalypse?

Walter: I’ve got my nuclear sub all ready.

Amanda: My plan is to die immediately.

Max: I’ve thought about this way too much. I am freaking ready!

Joan: Running, hiding, crying…

John: I guess I’d head for a Wal-Mart.

Max: No! That’s on the radar! You need to go to a distribution center!

Ryan: Kohls. I’m all about going to Kohls…

So that’s all I got, but if you want to relive the panel in its entirety – and if your stomach can handle a little shaky cam – you can find video of the whole shebang here.