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On the Same Page with Robin Becker

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Robin Becker, author of Brains: A Zombie Memoir talks to host Tommy Sanders about her debut book. Becker, a New Jersey native and world traveller, received her MFA from LSU in Baton Rouge in 2000 and currently teaches writing at UCA in Conway.

In Brains, Becker writes about a kinder, gentler zombie named Jack Barnes, a former college professor who has retained his consciousness and wants to co-exist peacefully with humans. Convinced he can make a difference in the lives of zombies, Barnes and a band of rag-tag flesh-eaters set out to find the man responsible for unleashing the zombie-virus on the planet.

In addition to writing, Becker plays punk-rock guitar, enjoys fishing in her pajamas, and baking bread. She and her husband Mark Spitzer currently live in Toad Suck.

TRANSCRIPT

WELL, TODAY ON THE SHOW, THIS IS FOR ALL OF US WHO HAVE EVER WALKED INTO THE BOOKSTORE, ESPECIALLY IN THE LAST TWO OR THREE YEARS, LOOKED AROUND AND SAID, HEY, WHAT'S WITH ALL THE VAMPIRE, WEREWOLF, AND ZHM BOOKS IS THIS WE ARE GOING TO -- ZOMBIE BOOKS. WE ARE GOING TO MEET AN ARKANSAS AUTHOR HERE IN ARKANSAS WHO HAS PRODUCED A WORK ON THAT SUBJECT. IN FACT, THE LATEST WORK IS CALLED BRAINS:  A ZOMBIE MEMOI MEMOIR. WE WILL TALK ABOUT HER BOOK AND TRY TO GET INSIGHTS ON WHY SEEMINGLY MORE AND MORE OF US IN THIS DAY AND AGE WOULD LOVE NOTHING MORE THAN TO CURL UP WITH SOMETHING THAT ABSOLUTELY HORRIFIES US. WITH SOMETHING THAT ABSOLUTELY HORRIFIES US. THAT'S TODAY ON THE SAME PAGE. SO HERE'S ROBIN BECKER. SHE'S MADE THE SHORT WALK OVER FROM HER HQ OVER AT UCA. WELCOME TO THE SHOW.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

THANKS FOR DOING THIS FOR US TODAY. LET'S START WITH THE TITLE OF THE BOOK. IT'S A ZOMBIE BOOK, SO WHY IS THE TITLE PRIMARILY BRAINS? WHAT'S SIGNIFICANT ABOUT BRAIN BRAINS?

WELL, ZOMBIES LOVE BRAINS. THEY WILL EAT THEM ANYTIME AN ANYWHERE, BUT THEY'LL EAT OTHER BODY PARTS AS WELL. BRAINS ARE REALLY THE CHOICE.

WHY ARE THE BRAINS -- THEY JUST TASTE -- WELL, ZOMBIES CAN'T EVEN TASTE, THOUGH, CAN THEY?

YES, THEY TASTE THE DELICIOUSNESS, THE FECUNDITY, THE AROMA, THE FRAGRANT. THEY CAN TASTE -- THEY CAN SMELL BRAINS FROM A DISTANCE, AT LEAST IN MY BOOK THEY CAN.

OKAY. SURE.

THERE'S A LOT OF DIFFERENT ZOMBIE MYTHOLOGIES. THEN THEY ZERO IN ON THE BRAIN BRAINS. IT'S LIKE THE FOIE GRAS OF THE BODY.

BON APPETIT. YOU SAY THERE'S A LOT OF DIFFERENT ZOMBIE MYTHOLOGIES. SO LET'S LOOK OVER YOUR ZOMBIE RULES OF THE ROAD OR RULES OF ORDER, IF YOU WILL. LET'S TALK ABOUT WHAT -- WHO ARE ZOMBIES, FIRST, IN YOUR BOOK?

WELL, MY MAIN CHARACTER IS JACK BARNES, AND HE WAS A PROFESSOR IN LIFE, AND HE IS ZOMBIFIED, BUT HE IS ONE OF THE LUCKY FEW WHO RETAINS SENTIENT. HE CAN'T TALK, CAN'T OPERATE A CAR. HE HAS A LOT OF ZHM LIMITATIONS -- ZOMBIE LIMITATIONS, BUT HE IS STILL NOT BRAIN DEAD. HE IS A BRAIN EATER.

AND HE IS THE VOICE, THE VOICE IN HIS HEAD IS THE FIRST-PERSON NARRATOR OF THE STORY IN THE BOOK. HOW CONVENIENT FOR YOU? YOU ARE A COLLEGE PROFESSOR.

I KNOW. WHAT A COINCIDENT.

IT WORKED OUT.

IT REALLY DID.

AND YOU SORT OF GET TO -- I MEAN, THAT'S THE BEAUTY OF THIS BOOK. YOU SORT OF -- SINCE THERE IS NO UNIVERSAL WORLDWIDE ACCEPTED CODE OF ZOMBIES, YOU SORT OF GET TO WRITE THE RULES OF LIFE AND DEATH AS FAR AS YOUR MAIN CHARACTERS GO AS THE STORY MOVES ON; RIGHT?

RIGHT. A LOT OF PEOPLE -- I'VE HAD SOME REACTIONS FROM THE ZOMBIE COMMUNITY. DISTRESSED THAT MY ZOMBIES CAN ACTUALLY THINK. SAYING OH, THAT'S BREAKING THE RULES.

CROSSING THE LINE.

I TOLD THEM -- I HAVE TOLD THEM ONLINE --

WHEN YOU SAY ZOMBIE COMMUNITY, YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT PEOPLE WHO ARE FANS OF SDMROM BEES, NOT THE ZOMBIE THAT IS WALK AMONG US?

MAINLY THE ONLINE COMMUNITY. ANY DISEASE WILL DISPLAY OR PRESENT MUTATIONS, AND CLEARLY, IF EVERY SINGLE ZOMBIE IS BRAIN DEAD, THERE'S GOING TO BE SOME KIND OF MUTATION WHERE ANYTIME SOMEBODY MIGHT BE RESISTANT TO A VIRUS, MIGHT BE A CARRIER, THERE MIGHT BE SOME KIND OF MUTATION ARE THE ZOMBIE MIGHT BE ABLE TO THINK. ALSO, A VIRUS WANTS TO SURVIVE, AND IF EVERY SINGLE ZOMBIE IS BRAIN DEAD AND EATS EVERY SINGLE HUMAN, WHEN THE ZOMBIES DIE OUT, THE VIRUS WOULD DIE OUT. SO IT MAKES SENSE THERE WOULD BE THAT MUTATION IN ORDER FOR THE VIRUS TO SURVIVE.

ALL RIGHT. HERETOFORE THEY HAVE NOT BEEN CONSIDERED SENTIENT CHARACTERS. BUT YOUR BOOK BREAKS THAT. COULD THEY ALWAYS TALK OR COULD THEY NOT EVER TALK?

OH, THEY JUST SAY UHHH. UHHH, MOST OF THE TIME. BUT DO I HAVE ONE CHARACTER WHO COMES ON LATER IN THE BOOK NAMED ROSS, AND HE IS AFTER ROSENCRANTZ FROM ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDEN STERN. AND HE CAN TALK. HE DOESN'T SAY MUCH, BUT HE CAN TALK ENOUGH. JACK ALONG THE WAY MEETS A BUNCH OF DIFFERENT ZOMBIES, AND THEY ALL HAVE A POWER, LIKE A SUPERPOWER. JACK CAN THINK AND RIGHT. ROS CAN TALK. THERE'S A LITTLE GUY GUS WHO CAN MOVE AT SUPER SPEED. AND THERE'S A NURSE, AND SHE HAS THE ABILITY TO SEW EVERYBODY UP AND MAKE THEM WEL WELL.

WHAT THEY USED TO CALL A BOMBER CREW. THEY EACH HAD DIFFERENT POWERS THAT THEY BROUGHT TO THE TABLE.

EXACTLY. THEY ARE LIKE SUPER FRIENDS.

SURE, THEY ARE SUPER FRIENDS ON A ROAD TRIP ACROSS MIDDLE AMERICA. WE WILL GET TO THAT. I STILL WANT TO GET ALL OUR ZOMBIE RULES ESTABLISHED. HOW DO ZOMBIES GET AROUND? OBVIOUSLY, THEIR PHYSICAL BODIES ARE DECAYING, WHICH IS ALL THEY HAVE. SO HOW THEY GET AROUND?

THEY SHAMBLE.

SHAMBLE IS THE WORD?

YES. THEY KIND OF SHUFFLE, LIMP TO THEIR DESTINATIONS.

IF YOU THINK OF THE OLD NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, GEORGE REMERO MOVIE, THAT'S THE WAY MOST OF THE ZOMBIE COMMUNITY, AS YOU CALL THEM, WOULD SAY THEY GET AROUND.

THERE ARE SOME EXCEPTIONS IN FILM NOW, THE REMAKE OF DAWN OF THE DEAD, WHICH CAME OUT IN 2004, WHICH WAS A REMAKE OF THE ORIGINAL REMERO, HAD A LOT OF ZOMBIES MOVING FASTER. THERE WERE PEOPLE UPSET THAT ZOMBIE KOSS MOVE FASTER THAN HUMANS. THERE'S A WHOLE GROUP OF MOVIES NOT QUITE ZOMBIES, BUT LIKE 28 DAYS LATER, THOSE ZOMBIES MOVE QUICKLY BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT EXACTLY ZOMBIES. THEY ARE HUMANS THAT HAVE BEEN INFECTED WITH THE RAGE VIRUS WHICH MAKES THEM ACT ZOMBIE LIKE. SO IT'S A COMPLICATED HIERARC HIERARCHY.

IT IS. IT'S A DIVERSE WORLD, A DIVERSE COMMUNITY.

IT IS.

ARE ZOMBIES SUPERNATURAL CHARACTERS? ARE THEY JUST SORT OF THE RESULT OF A BIOLOGICAL BREAKDOWN?

IT'S A REALLY INTERESTING QUESTION, AND IT'S SOMETHING THAT MY MAIN CHARACTER GRAPPLES WITH.

OKAY.

HE WONDERS AT TIMES IF HE IS SUPERNATURAL BECAUSE HE IS IMMORTAL. IF HE CAN KEEP HIS DECAYING BO BODY MOVING, IF HE CAN STOP THE DECAY, HE WILL LIVE FOREVER, SO THE ONLY WAY -- UNLESS SOMEBODY SHOOTS HIM IN THE BRAIN, CHOPS OFF HIS HEAD OR BURNS HIM, BUT HE WON'T DIE FOR ANYTHING ELSE EXCEPT THAT, BUT HE WILL DECAY.

HIS BODY WILL DECAY. NO WAY TO STOP OF DECAYING?

WELL, THERE'S -- I'VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT IF I WERE TO DO A SEQUEL, WHICH I'M NOT SURE IF I'M GOING TO YET, THAT HE WOULD BECOME A ZOMBORG, A ZOMBIE CYBORG, SORT OF A PUNK ZOMBIE. THAT WOULD BE THE ONLY WAY TO SURVIVE. TO GET BACK TO THE QUESTION OF WHETHER OR NOT THEY ARE SUPERNATURAL, I THINK THEY DO STORT OFF WITH A BIOLOGICAL BASIS IN THAT IT IS A VIRUS AND IT IS JUST A DISEASE. BUT AT LEAST MY CHARACTERS DO MOVE TOWARDS THE SUPERNATURAL BECAUSE THEY START TO ACCEPT THE IDEA OF IMMORTALITY, AND THAT MAKES THEM, AT LEAST MY MAIN CHARACTER, FEEL GOD-LIKE. HE HAS A BIT OF A MESSIANIC, JESUS COMPLEX.

WHO DO THEY REPRESENT WHEN YOU LOOK AT WHY WE'RE FASCINATED -- NOT ALL OF US, BUT A LOT OF US ARE FASCINATED WITH ZOMBIES. WHAT DO THEY REPRESENT? WHAT AMONG US? WHAT FEAR OR WHAT, WHAT OTHER IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND DO YOU THINK ZOMBIES STAND FOR?

TWO THINGS. I THINK THEY REPRESENT THE PRIMAL FEAR OF DEATH THAT EVERYBODY HAS, WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN AFTER WE DIE. NOBODY REALLY KNOWS. PEOPLE HAVE THEIR IDEAS, BUT NOBODY'S COME BACK TO SAY FOR SURE. SO WE WOULD ALL LIKE TO LIVE ON, IN A GRAIN OF SAND, CONNEC CONNECTED TO THE -- ZOMBIE IS SOMETHING THAT PEOPLE ARE SCARED OF AFTER DEATH. I THINK I THINK IT'S A WEIRD FEAR OF STRANGERS. OCCASIONALLY YOU CAN BE AFRAID OF PEOPLE AND PEOPLE SNAP. PEOPLE MURDER OTHER PEOPLE, EVEN THOUGH WE THINK OH, THAT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN, MY COWORKER WOULD NEVER DO THAT, BUT IT HAPPENS. AND I THINK THAT THERE'S A LITTLE BIT OF THAT FEAR OF THE VIOLENCE IN SOMEBODY ELSE, WHAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE CAPABLE OF. BECAUSE THE ZOMBIES ARE YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY.

GEORGE ROW MERA ALWAYS CALLED THEM YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS.

THEY'RE US. THE FEAR OF DEATH AND THE SLEEPING BEAST OF EVIL OR THE DEVIL THAT LIVES INSIDE ALL OF US. WE ARE ALL CAPABLE --

THAT WOULD BE A SUPERNATURAL DIMENSION.

WE ARE ALL CAPABLE OF VIOLENCE, EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING, EVEN MOTHER THERESA AND GANDHI, IN THE RIGHT CONTEXT, WOULD COMMIT VIOLENCE, I THINK.

YOU SAY WE ARE ALL FASCINATED WITH DEATH, WE THINK ABOUT IT, AND WE CAN'T GET IT OUT OF OUR MINDS BECAUSE IT'S THERE FOR ALL OF US, BUT WE'RE ALSO REPULSED AND FASCINATED WITH THE ACTUAL PHYSICAL DECAY OF THE BODY. SO THE CULT OF, YOU KNOW, FOLLOWING ZOMBIES AND ZOMBIE LITERATURE AND MOVIES, IS THAT JUST SORT OF -- SOMEHOW MAKE US -- I DON'T KNOW HOW TO PUT IT -- TO ENGROSS OURSELVES IN IT SO IT DOESN'T REPULSE US OR DOESN'T SCARE US SO BADLY? THE MORE WE CAN TAKE IN, THE MORE WE CAN FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH IT OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT?

MAYBE. BUT I ALSO THINK THAT PEOPLE LIKE TO BE SCARED AND GROSSED OUT ABOUT IT. I MEAN, THINK ABOUT WHEN YOU ARE A KID OR YOU'RE ON A CAMPING TRIP. ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS KIDS DO IS TRY TO TELL EACH OTHER SCARY STORIES OR SAY BLOODY MARY TEN TIMES IN FRONT OF THE MIRROR TO SEE A BLOODY BABY. KIDS LIKE TO SCARE EACH OTHER. I THINK WE NEVER REALLY GROW OUT OF THAT.

IT'S ESCAPISM; RIGHT? IT'S A TRIP. IT'S CHANGING YOUR REALITY.

IT IS. IT'S AN ADRENALINE PUMP TOO WHEN YOU ARE REALLY FRIGHTENED. ALTHOUGH IT'S A SUBLIMATION, I HOPE, BECAUSE MOST OF US DON'T WANT TO BE A VICTIM OF A VIOLENT CRIME OR TO BECOME A MEMBER OF THE WALKING DEAD OR TO COMMIT A VIOLENT CRIME. TO SORT OF TRACK IT IN SOME WAY THAT'S SAFE.

OKAY. ALL RIGHT. HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT FROM OTHER MONSTERS? WHAT -- WHAT WOULD BE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A ZOMBIE ATTACK ON MY COMMUNITY AND AN ATTACK OF GIANT CROCODILES OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT?

GIANT CROCODILES?

OR YOU KNOW, WHAT MAKES A ZOMBIE DIFFERENT? WHY DO PEOPLE -- I MEAN, ZOMBIES AND VAMPIRES IS WHO WE WANT TO READ ABOUT AND EMBRACE NOW. NOT ALL OF IT.

RIGHT, RIGHT. A ZOMBIE -- ZOMBIE ATTACKS, FIRST OF ALL, ARE ONLY REALLY SCARY WHEN THERE'S A HORDE OF ZOMBIES. I DON'T KNOW IF THIS EXACTLY ANSWERS YOUR QUESTION, BUT ONE ZOMBIE IS LAUGHABLE BECAUSE THEY'RE SO SLOW, YOU CAN OUTRUN THEM, YOU CAN OUTSMART THEM. BUT IT'S REALLY SCARY WHEN THERE'S AN ENTIRE -- YOU KNOW, HUNDREDS OF ZOMBIES JUST DESCENDING ON YOU. THEN THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN D DO. THEY'RE EVERYWHERE.

THAT'S THE BASIS FOR MOST OF THE MOVIE AND MOST OF THE LITERATURE IN THE PAST. YOUR BOOK IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT.

RIGHT.

I WANT TO ASK YOU, IS IT THE FIRST BOOK THAT IS NOT -- WE'RE PULLING FOR THE COMMUNITY TO SURVIVE THE ZOMBIE ATTACK. YOUR BOOK IS LIKE WE'RE PULLING FOR THE ZOMBIES TO SUCCESSFULLY CREATE THIS VOYAGE OR SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETE THIS VOYAGE, GET WHERE THEY'RE GOING, AND ACHIEVE THEIR GOAL, LIKE THE ODYSSEY OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

WELL, I DID THINK OF A LITTLE BIT OF THE ANCIENT EPIC EPICS, A LITTLE BIT OF THE HERO CYCLE. BUT THERE WAS ALSO A BOOK THAT CAME OUT WHEN THIS BOOK WAS BEING SOLD RIGHT AROUND THAT CYME TAME BY SG BROWNE CALLED BREATHERS, AND IT'S ALSO ABOUT A GROUP OF ZOMBIES THAT ARE TRYING TO INTEGRATE OR -- AND FIGURE OUT HOW TO LIVE IN SOCIETY. BUT IT'S DIFFERENT. THIS IS SET RIGHT AFTER THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, AND HIS IS SET AFTER HUMANS AND ZOMBIES, ZOMBIES ALREADY EXIST, THEY HAVE TO TRY AND COEXIST, THEY ARE NOT GETTING RID OF THEM. HIS BOOK IS GREAT, STARTS OFF WITH A THEME WHERE THE MAIN CHARACTER EATS HIS PARENTS, AND HE FEELS GUILTY ABOUT IT, BUT THEY ARE NOT ZOMBIES, HE COULDN'T HELP IT, AND HE STORES THEM IN THE FREEZER. IT'S ALSO A COMEDY.

IT'S NOT LIKE YOUR BOOK IS DEVOID OF SCENES LIKE THAT. IT STARTS PRETTY MUCH -- NOT STARTS, BUT WITH THE PROTAGONIST CONSUMING HIS WIFE.

RIGHT, THAT'S TRUE. WELL, YOU HAVE TO PLAY TO --

I DON'T WANT -- SPOILER ALERT HERE FOR YOU.

YOU HAVE TO PLAY TO YOUR BASE. THIS IS A -- EVEN THOUGH I LIKE TO THINK OF THIS AS A LITERARY NOVEL WITH ZOMBIES, IT'S STILL A GENRE NOVEL, AND YOU HAVE TO HAVE SOME OF THE CONVENTIONS, AND ONE OF THE CONVENTIONS IS GORE, IS THE GRAPHIC DEPICTION OF EATING PEOPLE.

YOU DON'T DISAPPOINT IN THAT CATEGORY.

THANKS.

THERE ARE TRUCKLOADS OF GORE IN THIS BOOK.

I'M GLAD TO HEAR IT.

THAT'S -- MISSION ACCOMPLISHED; RIGHT? THAT'S WHAT YOU WERE GOING FOR. TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE GENRE. WHEN DID WE FIRST SEE ZOMBIES IN LITERATURE?

WELL, IN LITERATURE, VERY RECENTLY. IT'S REALLY STARTED OUT AS A FILM PHENOMENON WITH THE 1969 -- '68, '69, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE GEORGE ROMERO, WHICH STARTED THE FLESH-EATING CANNIBAL ZOMBIES. PRIOR TO THAT, THERE WAS WHITE ZOMBIE, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, A COUPLE OF OTHER MOVIES, BUT THEY WERE VOODOO ZOMBIES, A PERSON PUT UNDER A CURSE BY A VOODOO BOKOR.

THEY ARE SLAVES, BASICALLY.

YEAH, THEY DO THE BIDDING OF THE VOODOO BEE CORE, AND THAT CAN BE -- BOKOR, IF THE BOKOR DECIDES THAT.

THOSE GO BACK IN TIME.

NO, AND THOSE ARE NOT FLES FLESH-EATING ZOMBIES. THEY HAVE HUMANS THAT HAVE FALLEN UNDER THE POWER OF A MYSTIC. IN LITERATURE IT'S REALLY ONLY BEEN IN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS THAT ZOMBIES HAVE MOVED FROM THE VISUAL TO THE WRITTEN WORD. FOR A LONG TIME, PEOPLE DIDN'T THINK THAT ZOMBIES COULD BE WRITTEN BECAUSE THEY ARE SO VISCERAL, BECAUSE IT IS ABOUT THE GLISTENING INTESTINES AND THE BLOOD DRIPPING DOWN THE MOUTH AND THE EYEBALLS POPPING OUT.

YOU ARE MAKING A STAND TO PROVE THAT WRONG. YOU GET PLENTY OF THAT IN THERE, BUT THIS INNER VOICE OF THE MAIN CHARACTER IS -- IS -- HE'S ALL OVER THE MAP. I MEAN, HERE'S A GUY WITH AN ACTIVE MIND.

YES.

ZOMBIE THOUGH HE MAY BE.

OH, HE IS ONE SMART ZOMBIE INDEED.

ABSOLUTELY. ANYONE IN PARTICULAR HE IS PATTERNED AFTER?

ANY PERSON? NO, NOT REALLY.

YOU PERHAPS?

NO, WELL, I'M NOT A ZOMBIE AND I'M NOT A MAN, SO THOSE ARE TWO MAIN THINGS, BUT ALSO, I'VE BEEN IN ACADEMIA FOR A WHILE AND I'VE KNOWN A LOT OF ACADEMICS WHO ARE IN JACK IN THAT IT'S VERY DIFFICULT TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH THEM. THEY ALWAYS WANT TO HAVE THE UPPER HAND. AND I FIND IT AMUSING. THEY ALWAYS WANT TO PROVE THEIR INTELLIGENCE. SOMETIMES IT'S TEDIOUS. MOST OF THE TIME IT'S AMUSING. SO IT'S SORT OF AN AMALGAM OF A LOT OF DIFFERENT ACADEMICS THAT I'VE KNOWN.

AND WITHIN HIM HE KNOWS HE HAS THE SEEDS OF SAVING HIS ENTIRE -- HIS WHOLE ZOMBIE NATION.

HE IS AN EGO MANIAC.

WHICH DRIVES HIM, KEEPS THE PLOT GOING FORWARD AND SO FORTH LIKE THAT.   THE OTHER CHARACTERS IN THER THERE, WE HAD A NURSE ZOMBIE. I DON'T THINK I'D EVER HEARD OF A NURSE ZOMBIE BEFORE THIS BOOK. HAD YOU?

NO, I HADN'T, AND I HADN'T HEARD MUCH OF PEOPLE PATCHING THEMSELVES UP TO CONTINUE TO SURVIVE. THEY USUALLY DON'T CARE. THEY'LL DROP A LIMB, JUST WALK OVER IT AND KEEP GOING.

THAT WAS ONE OF THE WAYS OF SOLVING THE PROBLEM OF SUSTAINABLE A CHARACTER.

IT KIND OF CAME OUT OF NECESSITY. WHEN I FIRST STARTED WRITING THE BOOK, I WAS, IN FACT, INTENDING IT TO BE ENTIRELY JACK'S VOICE AND HE WOULD BE THE ONLY ONE. ABOUT 40 PAGES THROUGH, I REALIZED IT WAS GOING TO BE REALLY BORING IF IT WAS JUST JACK. HE NEEDED PEOPLE TO INTERACT WITH, AND HE NEEDED SOMEBODY TO KEEP HIM MOVING.

THE ONLY NON-ZOMBIE CHARACTERS -- AND THEY DON'T STAY NON-ZOMBIES THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE BOOK -- WHO HAVE ANY IMPORTANCE IN THE NOVEL ARE THE CHARACTERS THAT JACK NAMES ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDEN STERN, A COUPLE OF -- GILL DEN STERN, WHO ARE A COUPLE OF SOLDIERS, WHO CAPTURE THEM AND ARE THEIR GUARDIANS FOR A WHILE -- OR THEIR PRISON -- THEIR JAILERS FOR A WHILE. THIS ROSENCRANTZ AND G UILDENSTERN OF HAM LET OR THE PLAY?

IT'S MORE THE STOPPARD.

THEY ARE BUMBLING, SORT OF INEPT, YET ALWAYS CURIOUS TYPE CHARACTERS?

RIGHT. AS A MATTER OF FACT, THE DEATH SCENE WHEN G YOU ARE ILDENSTERN IS DYING OR UNDYING, IT'S SORT OF LIFTED, BORROWED FROM SOME SCENES IN THE ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD.

THEATER.

I DO THAT A LOT IN THIS BOOK, A LOT OF HIGH AND LOW CULTURE REFERENCES, EVEN SOME LINES THAT ARE APPROPRIATED. OR YOU KNOW, LET'S SAY STOLEN.

YEAH.

THEN YOU'VE GOT LYRICS FROM IRON MAIDEN, LED ZEPPELIN, BRITNEY SPEARS. YOU DRAW FROM A LOT OF POP CULTURE.

YEAH, FIRST OF ALL, JACK LIKES POP CULTURE. HE IS A POST MODERNIST, SO HE ENJOYS BEING KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT HIGH AND LOW CULTURE. BUT I ALSO THOUGHT A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE REPRESENTS THE END OF CULTURE, IT REPRESENTS THE END OF CIVILIZATION. BUT JACK IS DESPERATELY HOLDING ON TO THE POPULAR CULTURE. AND AS HE IS DEVOURING HIS FAMILY AND HIS FRIENDS AND EVERYBODY ELSE, HE'S ALSO SORT OF DEVOURING AND REGURGITATING POPULAR CULTURE.

OH, ABSOLUTELY. IN FACT, IN SOME CASES IT SEEMS TO ME LIKE HE HAS A THROWAWAY LINE OR A DISCOUNT LINE ANYTIME ANYTHING PARTICULARLY REPULSIVE HAPPENS, HE THROWS IN ONE OF THESE THINGS OF THE DAY SOMETHING LIKE THAT. THAT'S SORT OF THE -- THAT'S THE WAY YOU HANDLE THE GORE IN THE BOOK. YOU KEEP IT AT ARM'S LENGTH A LITTLE BIT. IT'S A JOKE THAT YOU SORT OF LET EVERYONE IN ON.

RIGHT, BECAUSE --

HOW DID YOU ARRIVE AT THAT TONE FOR THE BOOK?

ACTUALLY, THAT TOOK A WHILE TO GET THE RIGHT VOICE FOR JACK. I MEAN, AT FIRST HE WAS SERIOUS AND SOMBER AND REALLY CONFLIC CONFLICTED ABOUT EATING PEOPLE. HE HAD A REAL MORAL DILEMMA. BUT THEN AFTER A WHILE, I THOUGHT YOU KNOW WHAT? ONCE HE TURNS A ZOMBIE, THIS IS THE KIND OF GUY WHO IS GOING TO LOVE IT. SO THEN I HAD TO SORT OF GO BACK AND REWRITE SOME OF THAT VOICE AND MAKE HIM ACCEPT IT. THEN I JUST -- I JUST WENT WITH IT. I DIDN'T WORRY ABOUT MAKING ALLUSIONS THAT THE READER WOULDN'T NOTICE OR WOULDN'T GE GET. I KNEW SOME OF THEM WOULD GET ALL OF THEM, SOME OF THEM WOULD GET SOME, BUT I WANTED TO MAKE IT A BALANCE BETWEEN A GOOD STORY THAT EVERYBODY COULD FOLLOW AND THEN PEOPLE WHO WERE SORT OF IN THE KNOW WOULD ENJOY THE REFERENCES. LIKE SIMILAR TO A TELEVISION SHOW LIKE THE SIMPSONS OR FAMILY GUY. THEY ARE ALWAYS MAKING REFERENCES TO POP CULTURE.

FAMILY GUY CAME IMMEDIATELY TO MIND.

RIGHT. EXACTLY.

WHAT ELSE COMES TO MIND AS FAR AS JACK'S NARRATION GOES IS I DON'T KNOW IF ANYONE HAS MENTIONED JACK KEROUAC, THE WHOLE ON THE ROAD WRITING IT ON THE PIANO ROLL --

RIGHT, SCROLL.

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS. THERE IS SOME OF THIS IN YOUR CHARACTER AS WELL. WAS THAT IN YOUR MIND?

AS A MATTER OF FACT, THERE WAS AN ON THE ROAD REFERENCE THAT I WOUND UP TAKING BACK BECAUSE IT DIDN'T SEEM TO FIT AT THE TIME.

IT'S TOO OLD FOR THE CROWD HERE.

PROBABLY THAT'S TRUE.

THIS IS ALL VERY -- THE SHELF LIFE OF ALL THESE POP REFERENCES IS GOING TO SEEM VERY -- QUAINT WOULD BE A GOOD WORD -- IN ABOUT THREE -- TWO YEARS, RIGHT, 18 MONTHS?

I THOUGHT ABOUT THAT WHEN I WAS WRITING IT TOO. I SORT OF THOUGHT WHAT ABOUT THE AGES? DO I WANT THIS TO -- WILL THIS PLAY IN 30 YEARS? WILL THIS BE A BOOK THAT WILL -- I DON'T THINK SO EITHER, BUT THAT'S OKAY.

I ASSUMED THAT WAS YOUR DECISION.

RIGHT, IT WAS A DECISION. I WANTED TO HAVE FUN WITH IT AT THE MOMENT. AND I WAS ALSO REALLY INTERESTED OR INFLUENCED BY THE WRITER CHUCK KLOSTERMAN. HE WROTE SEX, DRUGS, AND COCOA PUFFS, AND HIS NEW BOOK IS EATING THE DINOSAUR, AND HE WRITES ESSAYS, BUT THEY ARE VERY SIMILAR IN THAT HE IS REALLY IMMERSED IN THE NOW AND WHAT IS GOING IN THE POPULAR CULTURE WORLD RIGHT NOW, AND IT MIGHT NOT LAST IN 20 YEARS, BUT THEN AGAIN, WHO KNOWS, IT MIGHT. TS ELIOT'S THE WASTELAND, YOU CAN'T READ THAT WITHOUT A HUGE AMOUNT OF FOOTNOTES TO UNDERSTAND WHAT WAS GOING ON. PERHAPS THIS BOOK COULD BE FOOTNOTED FOR FUTURE STUDENTS OF THE EARLY PART OF THE 21ST CENTURY.

THAT MIGHT BE PART OF THE APPEAL, PART OF THE CHARM OF I IT.

ESPECIALLY ONCE A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE REALLY DOES HAPPEN. THEN IT WILL BE MORE --

MORE LIKE THE BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK.

IT WILL BE LIKE THE NECRONOMICON OR NOSTRADAMUS.

I DON'T WANT TO SPOIL ANY MORE OF THE BOOK HERE. THE WHOLE THING, PEOPLE MY AGE, WE WALK INTO THE BOOKSTORE, IMMEDIATELY WE SAY -- AS I SAID AT THE TOP OF THE SHOW -- WHAT'S WITH ALL THE VAMPIRES, WARE WOLVES, AND ZOMBIES. GIVE US YOUR WHOLE TAKE ON THE EMERGENCE OF THAT GENRE WITHIN THE PAST FOUR YEARS?

RIGHT. I THINK, LIKE I SAID EARLIER, IT IS THE FASCINATION WITH DEATH, BUT I THINK IT'S ALSO UNIQUE TO OUR TIME. THE MILLENNIUM, I MEAN, IT SEEMS A LONG TIME AGO, BUT IT WAS ONLY TEN YEARS AGO, AND I'M SURE YOU REMEMBER PEOPLE WERE AFRAID THAT THE WORLD WAS GOING TO END.

SURE, THE Y2K.

Y2K, AND ALSO NOT JUST BECAUSE OF THE COMPUTER BREAKDOWN, BUT ALSO THE WHOLE -- IT WAS THE -- THE -- JESUS WAS GOING TO COME BACK, I THIN THINK, SOME KIND OF APOCALYPSE, JUST --

GOT ANOTHER ONE COMING UP IN OUR DATE BOOK.

2012. RIGHT. 2012 IS ANOTHER ONE. I THINK THERE'S PART OF THAT. THEN I DO THINK THAT 9/11, WHICH HAPPENED JUST ONE YEAR AFTER THE MILLENNIUM, HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH OUR CURRENT OBSESSION WITH THE UNDEAD. I MEAN, WE HAVE NEW FEARS NOW IN OUR SOCIETY THAT WE WERE VERY LUCKY TO NEVER HAVE HAD BEFORE. I MEAN, WE'D NEVER REALLY BEEN ATTACKED ON OUR SOIL. I MEAN, PEARL HARBOR, OF COURS COURSE, BUT THAT WAS NOT NEARLY THE SCALE OF 9/11. AND WE SORT OF HAD TO REALIZE THAT WE'RE NOT INVINCIBLE. WE CAN BE ATTACKED. AND I THINK THAT KIND OF CHANGED OUR PERCEPTION. IT WAS ONLY A COUPLE YEARS AFTER THAT THAT ALL THESE UNDEAD STARTED ARISING.

YEAH, YEAH. THE OTHER VIEWPOINT ON THAT, PEOPLE WOULD COUNTER BY SAYING YOU KNOW WHAT? IT MAY BE A SIGN THAT WE'RE ACTUALLY IN PLACID TIME COMPARED TO -- YOU DON'T REMEMBER ANY -- I DON'T KNOW OF ANYTHING LIKE GOTH KIDS DURING WORLD WAR II OR WORLD WAR I OR THE CIVIL WAR.

RIGHT.

THE VAMPIRE NOVEL AND WRITING FLOURISHED DURING THE VICTORIAN ERA WHEN ENGLAND WAS AT ITS PEAK.

THAT'S TRUE.

IT'S LIKE WE WANT SOMETHING DARK TO BALANCE ALL THIS UNBEARABLE BRIGHTNESS IN OUR LIVES. IS THERE SOME OF THAT TOO? I DON'T KNOW. I GUESS YOU'VE GOT TO CHOOSE ONE; RIGHT?

I GUESS YOU DO. I WOULD SAY IT'S -- FOR ME, AT LEAST, MY PERCEPTION IS IT IS A LITTLE DARKER AND THE TERRORIST ATTACKS AND THE CURRENT -- WE HAVE BEEN IN WAR NOW FOR TEN YEARS OR NINE YEARS, AND THE RECESSION, AND IT SEEMS LIKE THERE'S A LOT OF NEGATIVITY. AND I DON'T KNOW WHY PEOPLE WOULD FIND SOLACE IN THE UNDEAD, BUT SOMEHOW THEY DO, ESPECIALLY THOSE SPARKLY VAMPIRES.

OH, BOY, AREN'T THEY SOMETHING?

YEAH.

I WANT TO ASK YOU WHAT YOU'RE WORKING ON NOW, BUT BEFORE WE GET OFF THE BOOK, WOULD YOU READ A PASSAGE? I THINK WE'VE GOT SOMETHING FROM THE PROLOGUE. MAYBE YOU CAN SET IT UP.

I DON'T NEED TO SET IT UP BECAUSE IT SETS UP THE BOOK. PROLOGUE. WHAT YOU HOLD IN YOUR HANDS IS A ZOMBIE MEMOIR, THE TOUCHING POST-LIFE STORY OF A WALKING CORPSE AND HIS JOURNEY TOWARDS SELF-ACCEPTANCE AND KNOWLEDGE, TOLD HONESTLY AND IN THE FIRST PERSON, STRAIGHT FROM HIS SKEL TAP HAND TO YOUR PLUMP ONE. WHAT YOU HOLD IN YOUR HANDS I WROTE AND LEFT ON TOP OF THE MY DESK IN THE HIDEOUT, A LOG CABIN IN THE NORTHERN WILDS OF CANADA. IT IS NOTHING SHORT OF REVOLUTIONARY. REVISIONIST HISTORIANS, PREPARE TO REVISE. IN LIFE I WAS AN ENGLISH PROFESSOR AT A SMALL COLLEGE TOWN IN RURAL MISSOURI. MY MIND RETAINED INFORMATION LIKE A STEEL TRAP. NO ONE PLAYED SIX DEGREES OF BACON BETTER THAN I. NO ONE NEW MORE ABOUT WALT WHITMAN, THE NEW TESTAMENT, OR B MOVIES FROM THE 1950s. IN CONVERSATION, I RELENTLESSLY SOUGHT THE UPPER HAND, WHETHER DISCUSSING THE BEST METHOD FOR MAKING FLAKY PIE CRUSTS -- USE CRISCO, NOT BUTTER -- OR THE CULTURAL IMPORTANCE OF FREUD, AS MASSIVE AS HIS CIGAR. IN DEATH, I AM A FLESH-EATING ZOMBIE WITH A MESSIANIC COMPLEX AND THESE SUPERPOWERS:  I CAN THINK AND I CAN WRITE. MY NAME IS JACK BARNES, AND I AM A SURVIVOR. THIS IS MY STORY. ALL RIGHT. THE WORDS OF JACK BARNES, THE UNDEAD PROTAGONIST OF BRAINS: A ZOMBIE MEMOIR. ROBIN BECKER IS HERE. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW, ROBIN? WHAT'S YOUR NEXT PROJECT? ARE YOU GOING TO STAY WITHIN THIS GENRE?

NO, NOT RIGHT NOW. MAYBE IN THE FUTURE. I MEAN, THE BOOK ENDS IN A WAY THAT MAKES IT OPEN FOR A SEQUEL, BUT I'M NOT -- I'M TAKING A BREAK FROM ZOMBIES FOR NOW. I THINK THE MARKET IS A LITTLE GLUTTED TOO, A LITTLE BLOATED.

THERE'S A LOT OF IT GOING AROUND.

THERE IS. IT'S GOT RIGOR MORTIS. BUT I'M WORKING ON A BOOK THAT'S CALLED MIND KILLER RIGHT NOW. THE TITLE COULD CHANGE. IT'S A SUPERNATURAL THRILLER. IT'S ABOUT A WOMAN WHO HAS THE PSYCHOKINETIC ABILITY TO KILL WITH HER MIND. SHE DISCOVERS THIS WHEN SHE'S A YOUNG GIRL. IT FREAKS HER OUT. BUT AS SHE GROWS UP, SHE ACCEPTS IT AND SHE BECOMES A HIT WOMAN. THEN SHE'S FACED WITH A MORAL DILEMMA AT SOME POINT. SHE DISCOVERS A PERSON THAT SHE CAN'T KILL PSYCHO -- TELEKINETICALLY, SO SHE HAS TO DECIDE TO KILL THEM THE OLD FASHIONED WAY OR TO NOT DO IT AND BE IN BIG TROUBLE WITH HER CLIENTS.

SOUNDS GOOD. SOUNDS GOOD.

IT'S GOOD.

ONE MORE NOTE. YOU ALSO SPENDS TIME IN YOUR ROCK AND ROLL BOND.

THAT'S RIGHT. I AM IN A BANDS CALLED THE CONWAY TWITTYS. IF ANYBODY IS OUT THERE IN THE CENTRAL ARKANSAS AREA, OUR DRUMMER IS MOVING TO CHICAGO, SO WE ARE LOOKING FOR A DRUMME DRUMMER. YOU CAN FIND INFORMATION ABOUT THE CONWAY TWITTIES AT MY WEBSITE, WHICH IS WWW.ROBINZBECKER.COM. AND WE PLAY SORT OF A POSTPUNK RIOT GRRRL POP.

SO DRUMMER WANTED FOR THE CONWAY TWITTIES, LIVE OR UNDEAD, I GUESS. EITHER WAY.

UNDEAD WOULD BE ROCKING!

PERFECT, ALL RIGHT, IF YOU ARE OUT THERE. THIS IS THE BOOK, BRAINS:  A ZOMBIE MEMOIR. ROBIN BECKER HAS BEEN OUR GUEST TODAY ON THE SAME PAGE. THANK YOU, ROBIN. TODAY ON THE SAME PAGE. THANK YOU, ROBIN.

YEAH, IT WAS FUN.

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