Max Brallier is the author of Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?, an interactive, choose-you-own-adventure-style horror novel. Alan Goldsher is the author of Paul is Undead, which reimagines the career of The Beatles if the Fab Four had been brain-munching zombies (except for Ringo, who’s a ninja, instead). The two of them recently got together to talk (zombie) movies, the future of (zombie) literature, undead celebrities, and more….
What’s your one favorite zombie flicks and zombie books?
Alan Goldsher: Flick: Shaun of the Dead. That gave us license to take these gross creatures and be 100% silly. Book: Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry. Jonathan’s genetically engineered zombies, combined with his crackling prose and charming banter make for a great read.
Max Brailler: I’m about to be very unoriginal here. Flick: the original Dawn of the Dead. That was IT for me. I saw that when I was a kid and I was instantly hooked. Plus, I was living in Pittsburgh at the time, so that made it sort of special. And then Shaun of the Dead. Shaun of the Dead does what all the great action comedies do—it’s hilarious, but it also hits these great dramatic notes. Like at the end, when Ed gets bit, and Shaun lights his last cigarette with him—that scene is SO GOOD. I could talk about Shaun of the Dead for hours.
Bookwise, David Moody’s Hater, with a nod to Patient Zero. Hater’s scary as hell because it feels like it could really happen.
I think it’s easy, too easy, to lump Patient Zero in with the rest of the current crop of zombie lit. Zombie hook aside, it’s a SUPERB techno-thriller. Patient Zero, and even more so, its sequel, The Dragon Factory—they’re right up there with the best of Crichton or Clancy, IMO.
Why zombies? Why not werewolves, swamp monsters, or Tea Party members?
Alan Goldsher: For me, zombies are appealing to write about because in a sense, they’re a blank slate, i.e., they don’t have a set mythology like vampires, etc., so it enables the writer to ascribe whatever characteristics they want to. Like I made my Beatle zombies not only high-functioning, but higher-functioning; for instance, they could hypnotize and play their instruments, all at once, plus they could fornicate, although there were problems with their johnsons staying on. Swamp monsters and Tea Party members can’t detach and reattach their weenies, and I think that if you can have your characters do stuff like that, it adds another layer of fun.
Max Brailler: For me, they’re just fun to kill. It’s like a playing a videogame or watching one of those classic 80s action movies with an endless supply of bad guys—that’s what I get from zombies: a limitless supply of meat to shoot, stab, dismember, and destroy. And you never feel bad about it, ‘cause they’re zombies. You want to blow up little kids in your story but not make people mad? Make ‘em zombies. Want to chop off the heads of old ladies? Make ‘em zombies.
What’s the future of zombie lit?
Alan Goldsher: What with The Walking Dead blowing up TV land, I think the undead trend will keep growing, both in terms of creativity and audience. You’ve got people like Max and me who are shooting for disgusting and goofy, rather than flat-out scary—which makes sense, because let’s face it, zombies are goofy—but you’ve also got Brian Keene, Mira Grant, and Robert Kirkman keeping things creepy. From what I saw at NYCC last year, zombie fans will roll in either direction, so y’all are stuck with us.
Max Brailler: Agreed, I think folks are stuck with zombies—like it or not. As long as people like Kirkman and John Ajvide Lindqvist are out there writing truly scary, moving, and powerful zombie fiction—the genre will never die.
What’s the most disgusting moment in your book?
Alan Goldsher: I’ve been told that when zombie John Lennon turned Paul McCartney undead by snaking his tongue up his ear and into his cerebral cortex, then lapping up some of his brain juice and spitting it into the stump where his arm used to be was a tad offputting.
Max Brailler: There’s a scene in my book at a strip club. All the strippers become zombified—as the hero (you) makes his escape, he falls face first into a torn-open torso. He’s pulling long, stringy pieces of intestine out of his mouth and as the chapter goes on, the blood is caking onto his face and hardening. Writing that, I was just like “ewww, that would be awful.” So yeah, I’ll go with that.
If you could turn one dead celebrity into an undead celebrity, who would it be, and why?
Alan Goldsher: My biggest influence on electric bass, Jaco Pastorius, because if he’s undead, his fingers will fall off whenever he tries to do those false harmonics, and if his fingers fall off whenever he tries to do those false harmonics, that’ll means I’m better than him.
Max Brailler: I’ll go the musical route as well. Big Pun. He had that amazing breath control—but I’d love to hear what he’d sound like rapping if he never had to breathe at all.