Tuesday, February 28, 2012

31 - Drawing Lines

Marty, Olga and KMO assemble in the Z-Realm to discuss The Walking Dead season 02 episode 10: 18 Miles Out in which Shane and Rick drive a miraculously recovered Randall away from the Farm only to discover that they can’t afford to let him go and possibly can’t even afford to let him live. KMO nitpicks continuity errors and network penny-pinching. Marty praises the inter-character dynamics and subtle subtextual story elements. Olga appreciated the examination of zombie apocalypse gender roles, and everybody was happy to see a healthy does of the living dead, action and gore.
Let us know what you think by emailing us at mail@z-realm.com or by leaving a message on our Facebook page.

Monday, February 20, 2012

30 - Transformations

We are back to AMC's The Walking Dead again for this episode of the Z-Realm podcast. We look at one of the strongest episodes so far from season 2 of this very popular show. The characters were each shown to be at different steps along the path of The Hero's Journey. Rick continues to become more and more of a take-charge guy, Shane slips deeper into the darkness, Glenn questions himself almost existentially, Lori finds her power in the manipulation of others and Daryl and Carol continue to battle with the demons of their pasts. This was a strong, character-driven episode but it also had some spectacularly violent gore scenes. This episode was a total winner. Come listen to us ramble about the show's strengths and let us know what you thought of it by writing to us at mail@z-realm.com or by leaving a message over on the Facebook page.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Episode 29 - The Voice of Reason

Now that the zeitgeist whale of the NFL has left the scene, there is room for the smaller creatures in the sea of culture, like the second half of the second season of AMC’s The Walking Dead, to come out and play. In this episode, most of the characters are floundering in the aftermath of shattered delusions, and some of them finally tune in to the voice of reason. All of Rick’s band confront the fact that their weeks-long search for the missing Sophia was a deluded folly, and Hershel turns to the bottle in the face of the realization that the “walkers” really are dead and that his wife and son will not be getting better. The episode returns us to some exhausted conversations that stand in for the rare and elusive zombies in this zombie apocalypse, and just when it seems like AMC is putting back on the same, way-too-familiar treadmill, new characters show up and give us hope for the series. Did I say, “hope?” We don’t need hope. We need frakking ZOMBIES! ZOMBIES, AMC! We need zombies in our zombie TV show.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Max Brooks Fresh from WWZ Filming Location

Normally I would link to an article like this rather than cut and paste the whole thing to this blog, but I didn't see a way to link to a particular item on the source website:




Q: You just returned from the set of Paramount’s World War Z adaptation starring Brad Pitt. What can you tell us about the movie?

I didn’t get a chance to see much. The scene I witnessed was immense and complicated and there was a lot of prep time between shots. I can say that this movie is truly massive. I witnessed hundreds of extras, civilians, police, and soldiers. As epic as it looked, I was told that similar scenes were already shot in different locations like Cornwall and Malta. I hear they will be shooting more outside of London and somewhere in Eastern Europe. So far it seems to be as large and global as my book. 

Q: World War Z is one of the biggest selling original zombie novels of all time. Talk about its genesis, including your discussions with the publisher over the title. 

I wanted to call it Zombie War. It was a simple title that I thought described the story quite well. I’d written a book on how to survive zombies that I called The Zombie Survival Guide, so when writing a book about a worldwide war against zombies, why not call it Zombie War. The publisher was against the title because, at the time, zombies were seen as too niche and they thought some people might be turned off by that word. My agent, Ed Victor, had once jokingly called it “World War Z” so I thought that might be a good compromise. 

Q: This October a $7.99 mass-market edition of World War Z is being released. To date, there are almost 1 million copies in print of it. How has the reaction differed since the novel first came out in September 2006?

I never, EVER expected this book to do remotely as well as it has. I mean, c’mon! A book about zombies told as a Studs Terkelesque oral history? I’m still convinced that most of the sold copies were bought by my dad. 

Q: There is also a new chapter to your #1 New York Times bestselling graphic novel, The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks. The new chapter is called “Downtown L.A.” Describe what fans can expect here.

The story comes right out of the back of The Zombie Survival Guide. It was supposed to be in the original recorded attacks, but wasn’t finished in time for the release of the comic. It essentially covers a zombie outbreak right in the heart of downtown L.A. in the early 1990s. Two rival street gangs have to unite against the living dead. In one sense, it’s a microcosm of World War Z. 

Q: Why have zombies become so mainstream? They used to have a slightly strange cult following. Now they’re everywhere in all aspects of pop culture.

I think they reflect our very real anxieties of these crazy scary times. A zombie story gives people a fictional lens to see the real problems of the world. You can deal with societal breakdown, famine, disease, chaos in the streets, but as long as the catalyst for all of them is zombies, you can still sleep.

Friday, February 3, 2012


A Z-Realm listener set me up with an audio book version of Stephen King's 2006 novel, Cell. I'm not a huge Stephen King fan. I have nothing against his work, but I don't seek it out either. I read Firestarter in high school, and I listened to the audio book versions of the first two novels in the Dark Tower series.

Of course, I was interested in Cell because it is a sort of zombie apocalypse story. Here the zombies are not walking corpses. Rather, they are the sort of "zombies" that we see in movies like 28 Days Later, which is to say that they are living human beings who have been driven into a homicidal berserker rage. In 28 Days Later, it was a virus that turned people into rage monsters. In Cell, there is an event that people call the Pulse which has the same effect on anybody who makes or receives a cell phone call. I haven't read much about the book, as I'm looking to avoid spoilers, but what little I have read describes it as deeply technophobic. Certainly Stephen King uses the setup as a tool to skewer the obnoxious behavior which cell phones seem to prompt people to engage in, but I don't get the impression that this is Stephen King's only, or even primary, objective.

What the cell-phone-as-madness-vector does for the story is set up an inventive but plausibly frightening positive feedback loop. At first, when the Pulse turns people who are on their phones into rabid monsters, the effects are obvious and immediate but not all-encompassing. Once the chaos of the zombie apocalypse begins to unfold, however, it picks up speed as people respond to the crisis by pulling out their phones and either calling for help or using their phones to try to find out what's going on. By the time enough people identify their cell phones as the means of infection the chaos has progressed beyond anyone's ability to bring the situation back under control. I don't know if there is any other way by which the infection spreads in the novel. So far, I've seen no indication that zombies can infect their victims with a bite, as is the norm in Romero-style zombie tales.

The novel really delivers in the area in which many zombie apocalypse tales fall short; namely in depicting the actual moment of apocalypse. In 28 Days Later, as well as in The Walking Dead, the main character wakes up to the aftermath of the apocalypse. For me the most fascinating aspect of the zombie apocalypse narrative is the one that, for filmmakers, is the most expensive and difficult to portray. I'm talking about the chaos that ensues in densely populated areas after the spreading panic passes a critical threshold. Regardless of how far it deviates from its source material, I hope that the big-budget Brad Pitt version of World War Z is able to deliver in this respect. From what I've seen of leaked footage on the Internet, I think I have reasons for hope. In the meantime however, it is mainly on the page that this moment of spreading panic and breakdown finds its fullest expression.

I don't know what Stephen King's attitude is toward cell phones (the novel is not such a screed that the author's actual opinions leap off the page), but I do wonder if he realized just how quickly his novel would become a period piece. The novel was published in 2006, and so there are no smart phones. Early in the novel a teenage girl takes her phone off of a belt clip, which struck me as pretty unlikely even for 2006. I remember at that time I was using a Nokia bar phone which I kept in a holster on my belt. I remember a checkout clerk at a nearby grocery store commenting to a coworker about how only middle-aged men wore such things. Wired magazine advised would-be techno-hipsters to ditch the Batman-style utility belt and keep their phones in their pockets. One of Cell's trio of protagonists, a 15-year-old girl, explained that her father was a successful businessman and gadget head, and that he had a super deluxe cell phone that included a camera and Internet access. How quaint this seems in 2012.