Would vampires survive a zombie apocalypse?

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First aired on Q (20/8/13)


He's the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, has had gigs as an Emmy-winning writer for Saturday Night Live and has done acting and voice work. But Max Brooks is best known for being a zombie expert. He attracted much attention with 2003's The Zombie Survival Guide and his 2006 apocalyptic novel, World War Z, was turned into a Hollywood blockbuster starring Brad Pitt. But Brooks isn't done with zombies. His latest project, the comic book The Extinction Parade, looks at the zombie apocalypse from a different angle: through the eyes of vampires.

Why vampires? Brooks was done with writing about the apocalyptic underdog, Homo sapiens. He wanted to explore what the species at the top of the undead food chain would do during a zombie apocalypse. "I wrote it for me to explore the depths of a privileged race...and how that privilege robs them of the survival skills afforded weak Homo sapiens," Brooks told Q guest host Kevin Sylvester. "If you take a species like vampires, which are at the top of the food chain, [with] speed, agility, strength, immortality. Everyone else thinks that's cool, but I think that's dangerous. I think that makes you inherently soft and arrogant and devoid of any kind of survival mechanism."

Brooks originally became interested in writing about zombies in the late 1990s, in the middle of the Y2K crisis. "The late '90s was an awesome time to be an American. We were having the largest post-war boom in our history. And yet there was this fear that Y2K was going to bring it all crashing down." Brooks noticed a surge in the publication of survival guides and decided to seek out one on how to survive a zombie apocalypse -- only to discover none had been written. He decided to do it himself and stuck it in a drawer until a literary agent convinced him to try to get it published. "I thought this was going to be my passion project. I thought I was going to have to do other things to pay the bills and in my darkest moments when I was feeling like a sell-out, I'd dig out my old, dusty copy of The Zombie Survival Guide and think, well, at least one time I was true to my heart."

World War Z came out of a similar search. Brooks didn't understand why so many zombie stories focused on individual survivor stories. "They miss out on so much more that's so inherent to the global nature of a zombie plague," he said. "To me, zombie stories are big stories. Zombies are a global threat...I had all these questions, so I literally set out to answer my own questions. What would countries do on a massive scale?"

While Brooks is surprised by his success, he's not surprised by the widespread fascination of zombies. "We're living in very uncertain times and I think that people need a place to put all these apocalyptic anxieties," he said. "Zombies allow us to look at the apocalypse safely."

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