Saturday, July 31, 2010

Zombie Survival, a lecture by Max Brooks

April went by with very little to report, outside of the aforementioned injuries. The one very note-worthy event was getting to meet Max Brooks, the son of Mel and the author of the two zombie-phile bibles The zombie survival guide and World War Z. You cant call yourself a zombie lover if you do not own at least one of these books. The zombie survival guide is one of the few books I have owned multiple copies of, because I kept giving mine away.

For those of you who read this blog yet somehow aren't familiar with the zombie lore, The Zombie Survival Guide (from here on referred to as ZSG) is crafted like a traditional survival guide; however, instead of how to survive in the woods its how to survive a zombie uprising. Which, lets face it, is way more handy than learning how to pitch a tent.

World War Z (WWZ) is written as if the zombie apocalypse has occurred and it is years later during societies reconstruction. A military correspondent is gathering reports from various eyewitnesses and survivors in order to craft a comprehensive guide of the world wide disaster for the United States government. I highly recommend the audio book for WWZ as its incredibly well produced, with the actors adding an extra weight to the stories narrative. During my first sampling of the audio book, I have a very scary memory of a road trip where I found myself on a bridge over a lake right around 11pm. About 50 yards from shore, there was a fire burning in the woods. I couldn't see the flames but the smoke was glowing with a dull orange light, illuminating cedar trees from behind, casting them in shadow so they looked like cloaked and hooded giants. On my ipod I had just reached the point in the story detailing how Cuban refugees were being pushed into a shipyard, the living being chased into the ocean by zombies of their families and friends. Trying to reach the relative safety of a few barges and ocean liners a hundred yards offshore, the eyewitness spoke of how the water was deep enough that a zombie could stand on the ocean floor unseen and grab the legs of the people swimming overhead. He spoke with a tremble in his voice that all around him people swimming toward their perceived safety were suddenly jerked out of sight under the crimson waves, never to resurface. The combination of the bizarre destruction I was seeing along this midwestern lake and his incredible testimony left me in a nervous mood for a good 40 miles.

Before I speak about Max Brook's lecture at Missouri State, it is worthwhile knowledge for this story to know that I idolize Kevin Smith and Sam Raimi and based the production style of my first two films after their example. The reason for this necessary exposition will soon be apparent.

Apparently Missouri State University was having a zombie week. How my nerd alarm didnt go off with this happening so close I have no idea. It was simply a matter of luck that I noticed a friend on facebook had posted he was going to see Max Brooks at the student union that very night (a thursday). I thought surely not, I would have instinctually have known the moment Mr. Brooks had bought his tickets to Springfield. But sure enough, he was going to be there that night.

I got a little excited.

And then disappointed when I found that due to this or that only one of my friends was free to see him with me, not even my wife was available. Seats were free, and after his lecture he would sign his books. How could this be passed up?!

I assumed that there would be a ridiculous line considering how awesome he was. I should have recalled that this is the Show Me state, and people only show up early for events when there is a chance they may win a year of smokes or a lawnmower or something. My friend, David Lee, and I got to the union an hour and a half early expecting to be a fair distance back in the line even at that point. However, when we got to the union doors there was no line. Even the majority of the tables near the theater entrance were mostly empty, save one couple seated near the door who when I tossed down my books on an empty table in confusion and dismay simply said, 'You too huh?'

'Yeah, I was sure there would be a line. I'm disappointed in my fellow nerds.'

'Dont feel too bad, we've been here two hours already.'

The doors were locked, so Dave and I sat and read, visited with the slowly collecting group of zomb-geeks and waited for a line to form. After about 45 minutes I saw Max Brooks walking toward the union speaking with who I assumed was the show organizer and being basically ignored by everyone he walked past. The two walked past our table, but stopped within earshot. The show organizer was telling him how after the show would go down.

'We will have a table set up in front of the book store over there for you to sign at. Someone will escort you from back stage to the-'

'Will you excuse me for just one moment?' He interupted her.

He then turned around, walked over to me, put his hand on my left shoulder and with a smile said, 'Kevin Smith, I love all of your movies.'

Then with a wink he turned on his heels and walked into the union theater with the girl.

This proved without a doubt in my mind he was a cool guy. True, I get told I look like Kevin Smith often as most bearded, be-speckled and overweight filmmakers are apt to be, but coming from him somehow it seemed grander. I could have left at that point and still considered the night a good one.

Once they finally opened the doors for the show and he got onstage...well, the lecture was amazing. His wit was astounding as was his grip on the subject matter. This wasn't a how to write a book talk, or my process of writing or even my dad was Mel Brooks ego speech. It was an incredible deadpan lecture on how to survive in a zombie apocalypse. Never once did he even remotely let on as if the content of the book wasn't based in pure fact. A personal favorite line was 'Return of the living dead did for zombies what Adam West did for Batman.' I don't recall ever laughing so hard or being so impressed with someone's speaking ability. It was glorious.

After the show I waited in line for an hour to get him to sign my two books. Luckily I was near the date of a good friend of mine, Nathan Shelton, and he showed up half an hour into our wait. He too is a zombie enthusiast and he brought his copy of WWZ that I had bought him as a birthday gift (along with a short handle crowbar) when it first came out. I had inscribed it with 'Its only funny until its true. Happy Bday." He was somewhat concerned that Mr. Brooks would be annoyed someone else had already signed it.

When I worked my way up in line Mr. Brooks saw me and with arms held wide said, 'Kevin! Its good to see you again!' He signed one book 'Thanks for being a good sport' and the other one 'Survival writing is easy, actual survival is hard' (I had thanked him for writing these survival books for our reference). We spoke breifly about how the WWZ film was coming along. It wasnt coming along at all at the time and he was rightly annoyed at the studio for dragging their feet. Brad Pitt (another Springfield Mo boy) had bought the rights to the books some time back, but the studio had stalled on putting them into production. However, this past week at comic-con it was officially announced production would start in the fall, so hopefully it will be in theaters before you know it.

After I got my books signed Nathan stepped up to give his book to Mr. Brooks to autograph. Once he had seen it, Nathan was quick to point at me to tell Mr. Brooks who had inked the inner page first. However, Mr. Brooks just nodded, smiled and wrote in 'I couldn't agree more' followed by his signature underneath what I had wrote years ago.

Afterwards we got the blurry pic below with Mr Brooks and another of Nathan's friends. I am in focus, as is Mr. Brooks, so I am satisfied with the resulting image.

All in all a terrific night that I will remember forever. I would do everything I could to catch his show if you can, you wont regret it. Unless, of course, you hate zombies in which case you shouldn't be reading this blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment