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Max Brooks explains why zombies are cooler than vampires

July 9, 2010

I’ve always preferred vampires, which in the age of Twilight makes me appear a bit of a sissy I realize now, after reading an interview with Max Brooks, author of the surprise bestseller The Zombie Survival Guide. Yet he offers the best defense of Stephenie Meyer I’ve seen anywhere.

In my behalf: My taste for vampires goes back to my own teenage reading, when I devoured Stoker’s Dracula, then John Polidori’s short story “The Vampyre” (featuring the proto-Drac, Lord Ruthven),  and encompasses such unassailable cultural touchstones as Christopher Lee, Joss Whedon, Nosferatu, Count Yorga, Blade, Underworld.

But I have to say that Brooks makes a compelling argument for the supremacy of zombies in this Q&A at Shelf Life, Entertainment Weekly‘s book blog.

In case you didn’t know, Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide came out to little fanfare in 2003, in part because the author, son of Mel Brooks and a former writer for Saturday Night Live, had no cred in the geek universe, where potential readers thought he was making fun of their beloved obsessions.

Brooks worked hard to win over his natural audience, however, and the book gradually gained momentum. Recently it passed the one-million mark in sales — not bad for a zombie self-defense manual that sat in a drawer for nearly five years before Brooks got up the nerve to show it to an agent. Brooks’ 2006 novel World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War has done well, too, with a move version in development at Plan B Entertainment, Brad Pitt’s production company.

Now considered a zombie expert, Brooks gives lectures on how to survive zombie attack and has appeared with his hero, George Romero, whose 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead, is the ur-document of zombie culture. He felt compelled to include a section in the book titled “Obey the Law,” lest the more impressionable among his readers take it upon themselves to proactively chop people’s heads off.

If this kind of geek lore is to your taste, be sure and read to the end of the somewhat lengthy interview for Brooks’ incontrovertible explanation for why, in “a battle royale,” zombies would prevail over vampires.

Meanwhile, let me close with Brooks’ defense of Stephenie Meyer and Twilight:

“I think the vampire craze, particularly the Twilight movement, is great, because there has to be a market for tween girls who are afraid of penises. Clearly there’s a large demographic that thinks that male genitalia is scarier than vampires. And I think, ‘Good for them.’ Everybody’s gotta have something. So good for the vampires. Never been my thing.”


8 Comments leave one →
  1. Connie permalink
    July 9, 2010 5:42 pm

    Well, that pithy little quote made my day. I am a big fan of World War Z. I skew toward vampires, but I think zombies are a LOT scarier. Especially those newfangled, track star Michael Johnson-style zombies they have in movies now. They eat your brains, Chauncey!

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      July 9, 2010 10:37 pm

      Zombies offer so little potential for character development, though, Connie.

  2. Tommy permalink
    July 10, 2010 8:08 am

    Zombies better than Vampires? And Superman is better than Batman, right? Zombies are cool. And Scary. But in his Battle Royale between the two, Brooks forgets that vampires would do anything they could to protect their food source, us. So they would never allow the walking dead to infect the entire population thus letting the flesh-eaters win a war of attrition. Nope, Vampires still win.

    Best Zombie book? The Serpent and The Rainbow – Wade Davis.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      July 10, 2010 11:04 am

      But…The Serpent and the Rainbow is, purportedly at least, a nonfiction book, an examination of zombies in Haiti, which is very different from the brain-eating undead of popular culture. So it’s an apples-oranges thing. Your notion of how vampires could prevail is very interesting, recalling an excellent British miniseries from the 1990s called Ultraviolet. Alas, it doesn’t feature Mila Jovovich, but it does star Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean, Flash Forward) and a young Idris Elba…

      • Tommy permalink
        July 11, 2010 12:28 am

        Okay, Serpent and the Rainbow is my favorite zombie book and maybe not the best zombie book. I get my favorite and the best mixed up all the time. You will agree, apples and oranges or not, the zombification(?) in TSATR is frightening to the core or whatever is at the center of an orange. Unlike Brooks, I like the George Romero zombies who still have an imprint of life before becoming the un-dead, which makes killing them a little more difficult to do from a empathetic angle.

        Chauncey, I like and respect you, but if/when you are made into a zombie, I will not hesitate to aim for the head. And I hope you would do the same for me.

        Where are all the Werewolves? Or Creatures from the Black Lagoon?

  3. July 11, 2010 5:16 pm

    Old stick that I am I just don’t get this vapid escapism – zombies and vampires – Jesus the real thing is available on the media whenever congress or the senate is in session or Sarah Palin gives a $100,000 speech about what a grizzily mom she is. “Grizzily” – she’s proud to say it. Doesn’t get the irony at all : )

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      July 11, 2010 5:34 pm

      I hear you, Duff, but let me say that not all escapism is vapid. Sometimes it’s craftful and clever and full of intelligence and humor and pulp energy. I could offer examples from, say, Wilkie Collins and Arthur Conan Doyle through Eric Ambler, Robert Heinlein, Daphne Du Maurier, to Jim Thompson, Joss Whedon, Stephen King….

  4. rachel permalink
    July 12, 2010 4:28 pm

    I think Vampires are way better. But that probably stems from my love for Joss Whedon.

    Also I find the Zombie Survival Guide kind of tiring.

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