It’s been almost a decade since author and former Saturday Night Live writer Max Brooks first wroteThe Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, a book that seems increasingly prescient as zombies continue their invasion into the media landscape through TV shows like The Walking Dead and films like the upcoming World War Z, which also happens to be based on a novel written by Brooks.
Luckily, the man himself hasn’t shied away from keeping the public informed on how to stay alive in the event of a zombie apocalypse, giving lectures on the topic across the country – the latest of which is being held Thursday at San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences as part of SF Sketchfest.
In the face of zombie threats both old and new, Wired asked Brooks about the ten essential items needed for an zombie survival kit, which Brooks says should look similar to most disaster preparedness kits: “You won’t have to pack any zombie-specific items, not like a werewolf kit where you’ll need silver bullets or a vampire kit where you’ll need lots and lots of glitter.” His packing list is smart and practical, and – surprisingly – full of what he calls “little boring details” that can keep people alive in almost any situation:
1. WATER!2. Some way to collect and PURIFY water!3. Broken-in hiking boots (blisters are not funny!)4. Dry socks (trench foot is definitely not funny!)5. A radio that doesn’t need batteries (and an earpiece so you’re not broadcasting to everything living and undead within earshot)6. Some means of making fire (matches are good, flint and steel and char cloth are better)7. Some means of self-defense (preferably something that doesn’t need reloading)8. A first aid kit9. A Swiss army knife or multi-tool10. The Zombie Survival Guide — ONLY if it’s in paperback! Hey, I love e-books too, but remember, in a crisis, paper doesn’t break or simply run out of juice!
“I feel if you’re prepared for a zombie plague, you’re prepared for most natural disasters,” Brooks said. “For me, zombie survival isn’t about guns and violence and nail-biting action. We live in a culture that thrives on hype and panic, and that’s a sure recipe for disaster. I always tell people, ‘In a crisis, think about what Congress or Fox News would do and then just do the opposite.’”
Brooks says that the one thing he wishes he could go back to his book on preparing for the undead apocalypse is a chapter on avoiding what he calls “overenthusiastic prep-ers.” “When I wrote The Zombie Survival Guide, there was hardly anyone thinking about how to survive an undead plague … Now, literally millions of people are thinking about what they would do, and of those millions, there’s gotta be some percentage that really, REALLY want it to happen. Those people scare me more than zombies. A zombie plague might or might not happen, but mentally unbalanced, well armed, fringe citizens with itchy trigger fingers are definitely a reality.”
And while more and more writers and filmmakers are creating new zombies to be afraid of every few months (Catch Warm Bodies this Friday!) he remains a traditionalist. “I’m just focused on the ones that have always scared me,” he said. “For all other inquiries, press 2 for Zack Snyder, press 3 for Danny Boyle, press 4 for the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies guy, or press 5 to stay on the line for another couple minutes while someone else thinks up another new kind of zombie.”
Oh, and if you’re wondering about World War Z, Brooks has seen the trailer, and not much else. “It’s kinda hard to form an opinion from just that… well, hard for me,” he said. “Most folks on the interweb seem to have no problem in that department. I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see.”