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Interview: David P. Murphy

David P. Murphy is the author of Zombies for Zombies: Advice and Etiquette for the Living Dead.

Zombies for Zombies is the first motivational guide for the newly infected. This guide leads readers by their cootie-covered hands and encourages each one to take the steps necessary to preserve his or her quality of life (and thereby be eligible for any number of government stamp programs). Best of all, the book offers exclusive tips for the active zombie, such as bonus brain recipes and dance steps designed to accommodate the zombies’ total lack of flexibility.

This hilarious guide sends up both zombie lore and self-help books, with illustrations as funny as the advice.”

John Ottinger: How would you define zombie fiction?

David Murphy: Well, John, I guess I better start this by saying, in my book (which is NOT fiction), we (myself and QualiCorps, the benevolent conglomerate featured prominently in the book) discourage the use of the term “zombie” except when referring to the Horde (those folks who were infected with the Provo Virus in the first several years of the Disaster). We find the term “post-lifer” to be far friendlier and less icky. Now, back to your question, I suppose “zombie fiction” would be stories where the living dead are out on the town for one reason or another. As I said, that’s not my book.

JO: What is it that makes zombie fiction appealing to readers?

DM: I think there’s something very fascinating about the dead coming back to life and shambling around. It’s incredibly creepy and, assuming the writing is good, there are great opportunities for storytelling, metaphors and social commentary. Again, that’s not really what I did – as you probably know, my book has been labeled “The World’s Bestselling Program for the Recently Bitten.” Mine is a warmer, fuzzier sort of self-help guide to assist those in the Transition (the approximately 72-hour time span from infected human to post-lifer). It’s more of a humanitarian thing – using the term “humanitarian” loosely, that is.

JO: Has zombie fiction seen its apex? Or is there more that can be done with the archetype?

DM: I think it’s all in the execution, John. As long as writers can come up with new ways to put their own mark on the genre, then it’s still relevant and worthwhile. By the way, I didn’t mean to be a poor host – might I offer you some free Romerin, THE prescription drug of choice for post-lifers?

JO: Why would you say zombies are scarier en masse than as individuals?

DM: Well, any mob is usually scarier than just one person, living or dead. I mean, look at those “tea party” folks from a few weeks ago. Wow – terrifying! But there is something particularly unnerving about a pack of decomps (as I lovingly refer to them in Z4Z) because they have a bit of a “Borg” vibe to them – they’ll just keep coming after you unless you can figure out a way to disable them. That’s how our Horde members are – relentless and rude; always with the howling and gnashing. How uncouth.

JO: Most current zombie fiction seems to posit a scientific basis for the creation of zombies, rather than the mystical origins of the original tales. Why do you think there has been a shift from the fantastic to the scientific?

DM: I think this goes back to the 1950s and the huge number of “atomic-based” sci-fi films that were made. You know the ones – giant ants, giant spiders, a giant mantis (no, really), the blob, etc., etc. Between the dawning of the nuclear age and the post-Roswell UFO craze, I think the entire world became more scientific as a result. Let’s face it – we don’t exactly live in a mystical society. The ipod is not based on magic (at least, I don’t’ think it is) and we’re not exactly bowing down to our everyday tech devices. I think it’s all just a reflection of a more scientific age. Now, if Arthur C. Clarke’s monolith showed up tomorrow, you might see a quick change of the landscape regarding the fantastic/scientific front. But I would like to add this: really, the Disaster in Z4Z (what’s come to be known as the Provo Virus), while being scientific in nature was actually more “consumer-based,” for lack of a better term. If was, after all, started by a pizza delivery guy and spread from there. Lesson learned – never order “extra death” on your pizza.

JO: A lot of zombie fiction is closely tied in with a doomsday or apocalyptic scenario. Why are the two so closely linked and is it possible to write zombie fiction that is not apocalyptic in theme? Examples?

DM: It would be cool to see more stories regressed to the Haitian level but, for all I know, they may already be out there. Everyone loves a good doomsday (hence all the giant disaster films of the last 20 years) so I think that explains why that approach is pursued more frequently because it’s a known quantity. It sure is a shame, though, that Shelley Winters isn’t still around for a good zombie uprising!

JO: How is it that zombies can also be as humorous as they are scary?

DM: I really think almost any subject can be equal parts humor and scary if it’s done right. Having said that, there is some special synergy between humor and horror. In the case of zombies, I think it’s especially true because it involves death and the dead and there is something naturally wrong and wacky about dead folks strolling the back roads looking for a hand-out or just a hand. Really, there’s built-in humor there, albeit a tad dark. And, in the case of the post-lifers, go to Gristle’s After-Dark for their amateur dance contest night and you’ll definitely get a good dose of humor and horror there. Trust me.

JO: What makes Z4Z different from Max Brooks’ A Zombie Survival Guide?

DM: I knew I was going to get this question eventually. Honestly, I never read any of it until the last month or so — consequently, my answer will be a bit sketchy because of that. Mr. Brooks is looking to kill the buggers, me – I’m into trying to keep ’em as a part of society and the economy. His book is directed at humans who are trying to survive while my book is directed at humans who have just been bitten and who are looking to keep more of their humanity. More thriving than surviving! And mine is more social satire with horror mixed in (plus mine has better dancers)!

JO: Who or what were your greatest influences in writing Z4Z?

DM: First of all, the good folks at QualiCorps were a tremendous influence by telling me what to write. Besides them, I love me some Mystery Science Theater 3000, George Romero in a major way, cheap black and white sci-fi films, The National Lampoon (particularly the early years), Stewart, Colbert, and The Onion.

JO: In addition to being an author, you also write songs. Have any of those featured your love of zombies?

DM: At the book’s site,, you can hear two I’ve done specifically for the book – “Do the Shuffle,” a dance track for the motor-impaired (and also based on one of the dances in the book) and “The Officially Sanctioned Government Endorsed Scarlet Shores Jingle,” a brief ditty glamorizing the luxurious internment camps in our Z4Z world. And then I did the terrifically vapid background music for the Stiff Competition vids. (see below)

JO: Where did the idea to do a riff of eHarmony TV ads as promotion for your book come from?

DM: “Stiff Competition” is the number one dating site for post-lifers and that gag is in the book. Daniel Heard, the amazing illustrator of the book, and his partner, Jenn Dorn, were very much a part of “going long” with that concept. And Jenn did a great job of the directing the videos.

JO: You have written a musical called anotherwhere. Tell us a little bit about the project.

DM: I’ve co-written a musical, really. My great friend and co-writer, Laurie Fox (who is a far better writer than I), heard my tune “anotherwhere” a few years ago and decided to start writing a musical based on it. The show is a contemporary fairy tale for adults – a fantasy in the tradition of The Fantasticks wherein a smitten couple is given 3 chances to rediscover each other after losing each other. It’s a time/space love story with string theory and dada elements galore. The tag line for the show: “A big bang built for two.” Thanks for asking about it..

JO: Thank you for your time. Any parting comments?

DM: Thanks for your interest in Z4Z, John. Lastly, I have to say this to the readers out there: if you have a friend or loved one that’s been bitten and that person is just heading into the Transition, you’ll need this book and you’ll need it NOW. There’s no time to delay. Put down that enormous can of Red Bull Cola and order Z4Z. Your family and friends will thank you later, that is, of course, if they’re still capable of speech.