Roger Ma

I’m excited to bring you today’s guest on my countdown to the release of my upcoming zombie novel, The Savage Dead, because Roger Ma is a total badass.  I mean a real life badass.  As in he could tie you into a pretzel before you knew how truly screwed you really were.  What’s more, he’s turned his rather considerable real life fighting skills into one of the most valuable zombie books ever published, The Zombie Combat Manual.  Roger Ma specializes in hand-to-hand combat against the undead. He is the author of The Zombie Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Living Dead. His new book, The Vampire Combat Manual: A Guide to Fighting the Bloodthirsty Undead, focuses on surviving an attack from a hunting succubus. He is the founder of the Zombie Combat Club and the Vampire Combat Club, organizations that focus on battling the undead without the aid of a firearm. He was recently featured as a zombie expert on the History Channel documentary “Zombies: A Living History.” He currently trains in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

I first met Roger in Long Island back in 2011.  We were on a zombie panel together (along with Jonathan Maberry, Scott Kenemore, and S.G. Browne) and it was probably the best zombie panel on which I’ve ever served.  Just look at us!

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(The panel, left to right:  Joe McKinney, Jonathan Maberry, S.G. Browne, Roger Ma, Scott Kenemore.)

Check out what Roger has to say about zombies, and then go check out the Zombie Combat Club online.  It’s a great site.

But first, meet Roger Ma, zombie ass kicker extraordinaire!

 

Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream.  I’m glad you could swing by.  You’re no stranger to zombie fiction.  Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing?  How do you approach the genre? 

Roger Ma:  Thanks for having me, Joe!  When it comes to the genre, I’m very much a traditionalist, in the sense that I adhere very closely to the Romero canon – shambling, formerly human creatures that want to devour your flesh, not just your “brains.”  When it came to writing about the living dead, I wanted to combine my love of the martial arts and hand-to-hand combat with zombies.  Living in New York City, I was never much of a “gun guy.”  And what do they tell you to do when you encounter a zombie?  “Shoot them in the head.”  So I thought, “Well, what if I don’t have a firearm?  What if you run out of ammunition?  What if I need to keep silent?”  That’s how The Zombie Combat Manual was born.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now.  Are you prepared?  Would humanity win?

RM:  It depends.  As far as humanity winning, it depends on how quickly everyone, state, federal, and local governments, recognize the situation and address it immediately.  If we do that, we’ve got a good chance.  If we don’t, we don’t.  As far as myself, it also depends.  I’m in fairly good cardiovascular shape, specifically out of my fear of needing to trek miles on foot in order to escape a threat, undead or otherwise.  However, I also live in one of the largest metropolitans in the world, so if this start here, it will be hell on earth trying to get out, literally.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever?  (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here.  I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

RM:  My favorite zombie media are the ones that introduced me into the genre.  For movies, it was Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead.”  My father took me to see it in the theaters when it was released.  I was 8 years old.  I haven’t been the same since.   Ever since then, at least several times a year, I’ll dream that I’m in a mall that’s teeming with zombies.  It’s a dream that I both love and loathe.  For zombie books, again, the book that introduced me to the literary zombie genre was John Skipp’s short story anthology “Book of the Dead.”  I remember seeing it in Forbidden Planet in Greenwich Village as a kid, and thought “people actually write stories about zombies, too?”  In fact, chatting about it with you makes me want to pick it up and read it again.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

RM:  Wow, just one?  That’s really tough.  If I were to pick just one, I would probably have to revert back to “Dawn.”  The scene where the zombie is climbing over the crates to get at Stephen as he fills the helicopter with fuel, and the rotor blades slice off the top of the zombie’s head.  I remember seeing that in the theater and going mental.  What’s great about it also is that Stephen doesn’t have to do a thing – the undead leads itself to its own demise.  Smart and energy efficient.   That’s one of the points I try to stress in my book and when I talk to people about the best “zombie weapons.”  The best weapons are those that require you to exert zero energy while still accomplishing the task at hand.  Sure, you can crush a bunch of zombie skulls with a crowbar or impale their brains with a katana, but how long before your energy levels give out, and then what do you do?  Wouldn’t it be better to have them walk off a building’s ledge trying to get at you?  People sometimes forget about practicality and want to go in beast mode.   That works until you gas out, which we all will do against an opponent that doesn’t tire.

JM:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us.  Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period.  Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past.  Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life.  What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

RM:  The zombie genre is one of the most malleable when it comes to subtext, we all know that.  It can represent consumerism and hive mentality, like in Romero’s work, and it can also represent one of many different fears.   Fear of death, disease, aging, plague, anarchy, that’s pretty obvious.   What’s not so obvious is what we represent in the undead scenario.  It’s my belief that if there’s one thing that we as a society are feeling now more than ever, it’s a lack of control.  I know that there are times when I myself feel like I’m barely able to process everything that’s going on around me, and that I’m holding things together by bare threads.  There’s also this feeling that whatever we do, however well we study, plan, and prepare, we are at the mercy of powerful forces that have a grip over society, be it financial, governmental or cultural, and that its sheer luck that we continue to plod along unscathed.  “There but the grace of God…” and all that. 

The zombie enables us, to a certain extent, to take that control back.  To be the hero.  Very few other genres, particular in horror, enable you to do that.  You’re not going to go toe-to-toe with an Ancient One, alien, or a spectre.  You can with the zombie, and that is incredibly empowering.  It’s like that old joke about the two guys who encounter a bear in the woods.  You don’t need to be faster than the bear; you just need to be faster than the other guy. 

Check out Roger Ma’s books here, and while you’re there, don’t forget to pre-order your copy of The Savage Dead.

Scott Kenemore

Scott Kenemore can deliver a joke that keeps chuckling to yourself all day.  I like that about his writing.  I have been a fan of his “Zen of Zombie” Series for a few years now, and his dry, smooth wit has yet to disappoint.  More than that, in fact, it’s kept me coming back to his books again and again.

But the high water mark, for me, came with his companion volumes, Zombie, Ohio, and Zombie, Illinois.  Scott Kenemore knows the Midwest, from its rural farm belt to its big city corruption.  He puts on an effortless display of social commentary and personal empathy with every line he writes, and I for one have found it hard to keep away from what he writes.  And when people ask for my favorite zombie writers, I give them a short list that invariably has Scott Kenemore’s name on it.

But what really interests me about Scott is the depth and warmth of his personal correspondence.  I wish I could share the emails Scott and I have traded over the years, for he really is a genuinely wonderful man.  Perhaps those of you who have known someone almost entirely through their letters can appreciate how special an email or Facebook message can seem from that person.  If you are one such lucky person, I bet you get how I have developed a friendship with Scott Kenemore, though we live thousands of miles apart and have met face to face only twice. He’s a unique talent in the zombie genre, and one who truly deserves the title of zombie master.

Please welcome Mr. Scott Kenemore, writer and all around great guy.

 

Joe McKinney:  Thanks for joining me here on Old Major’s Dream. I’m glad you could swing by. You’re no stranger to zombie fiction. Would you mind telling the folks out there a little about your zombie-related writing? How do you approach the genre?

Scott Kenemore:  I expect I’m mostly known for a zombie humor book called The Zen of Zombie, and a horror novel called Zombie, Ohio.  I started writing satirical books about zombies, and moved into horror fiction from there.  As perhaps this tells you, I really enjoy the silly, comic aspects of zombies, and I enjoy using them in social satire.

JM:  The zombie apocalypse is happening right now. Are you prepared? Would humanity win?

SK:  My money is on the zombies.  If the zomb-pocalypse were occurring this moment, I would retreat to the roof of my building with some Molotov cocktails.  I think it would be fun to catch a bunch of zombies on fire down below me.  (Although I’d be well aware that any resultant amusement would be fleeting.)

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie book, movie, short story, whatever? (Please feel free to ramble as much or as little as you like here. I’d love to know why that story or movie or whatever grabs you.)

SK:  This is a great question.  I’ll forever have a strong connection to the Romero films like Day of the Dead and Dawn of the Dead that first got me into zombies.  That said, Dan O’Bannon’s Return of the Living Dead remains my favorite zombie film of all time.  It’s a rollicking mix of horror and humor, effectively scary, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I can’t say enough good things about it.  I think my favorite zombie short stories are “What Maisie Knew” by David Liss, and “Pigeons From Hell” by Robert E. Howard.

JM:  What’s your favorite zombie kill scene of all time?

SK:  My favorite zombie-killing-a-person scene would probably be when Allan Trautman’s Tarman Zombie kills Suicide in Return of the Living Dead with a gruesome bite to the brain.

My favorite person-killing-a-zombie scene would probably be any of the action sequences from Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive involving Father McGruder.  (Although, does he actually “kill” zombies, or only beat them up a bunch?  That may be debatable…)

JM:  I’ve always felt the best and most effective horror is trying to investigate what we think of ourselves and what it means to be us. Washington Irving’s tales, for instance, generally grapple with the question of what it means to be an American in the post-Revolutionary War period. Nathaniel Hawthorne battled with the intellectual promise of a nation rising to international credibility while simultaneously choking under the yolk of a Puritan past. Stephen King made a name for himself chronicling the slow collapse of the American small town way of life. What do you think the zombie and its current popularity is telling us about ourselves?

SK:  I feel like every time I think I know the answer to this question, something changes my mind again.  However, answers that—at one time or another—have seemed to work for me include zombies as a statement about mindless consumerism, zombies as a comment on mob culture and mass hysteria, zombies as an inquiry into the mysterious nature of life after death, and zombies as a reminder of the tenuous and easily-overturned systems that hold modern society together.  Zombies, simply by being what they are, posit that the world could be a very, very different place.  They are agents of change, and harbingers of delightfully bad news.

Scott Kenemore, ladies and gentlemen.  One of my favorites in the genre.  Check out his books here, and if you want more, and I think you will, go here to check out his website.

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