View more photos in the "What Lies Beneath: Zombies, Serial Killers & Suicide Girls" slideshow.
Right after we went to press with our zombie cover story, Andrew Morisson, the 33-year-old creative genius behind the Zombie Research Blog emailed me back. It was too late to get these into print, but he answered some questions about zombies for me anyway for this blog, including: can a cremated human become a zombie, and why do zombies eat brains?
Why did you start your Zombie Research blog?
The Zombie Research Society was started in 2008 to raise the level of Zombie scholarship in the Arts and Sciences, because what you don't know can eat you. The Zombie Research Society's official blog was launched in early 2009 to get the word out about the work that ZRS is doing, and provide important information to the public.
I just saw the post on whether or not zombies will eat themselves. What do you think? Will they?
When it comes to Zombies, there isn't a research question that ZRS won't consider. Anybody who tells you that (s)he knows everything there is to know about how the undead function is probably first in line to end up as Zombie food. That said, it's highly unlikely that Zombies eat themselves, and there is no research to support such a theory.
What is your day job?
I'm a corporate Zombie, wouldn't you know.
Do you have a favorite type of zombie? (sexy zombies, fast moving, slow moving, comical, etc.)
I really don't have a favorite type of Zombie. They're all important, whether for use in serious research, or just as entertainment. The Zombie I'm most interested in - slow, fast, or whatever - is the Zombie that's going to someday be knocking at my front door trying to eat me. That's why I'm in ZRS.
Do you think zombies are real? Meaning, could an honest to god real life zombie ever be created?
Yes, absolutely I think Zombies are a real threat. ZRS firmly believes in three foundational principals:
1) A Zombie is a biologically definable, animated being occupying a human corpse.
2) The Zombie Pandemic is coming. It's not a matter of if, but a matter of when.
3) Enthusiastic debate about Zombies is essential to the survival of the human race.
That said, there has yet to be an actual, confirmed Zombie infestation in human history. As of today, all accounts of Zombies are fictional.
A friend asked me to ask you: Can a person who has been cremated come back as a zombie? If so, since that person would have been reduced by the cremation process to just ashes and bits of bone, would that result in a zombie "cloud"?
Wow. Great question. The short answer is: no. Because a Zombie is a biologically definable creature - unlike a ghost, witch or demon - and is made of flesh and blood, and functions under the same laws of science and reason that all worldly beings must. So a Zombie cloud seems out of the realm of possibility. But, that's not to say that it wouldn't be great to see in a work of fiction!
Why do zombies like to eat brains?
Zombies actually probably don't eat brains. The tongue-in-cheek Return of the Living Dead film series is the only current representation of Zombies eating brains, and outside of that there is no evidence that a Zombie would be interested in your brain more than any other part of your body. But it sure is fun to moan, "Braiiiiiins!" and scare your friends.
Are there many paths to zombification? Leading to many types of zombies? Or is there only ONE way?
There are potentially many paths to Zombification, but it's widely accepted that in all cases the infection is passed through bodily fluids. That's why a person bitten by a Zombie becomes a Zombie. But that could also leave the door open to the infection grabbing hold of you through your kitchen sink if/when a rotting Zombie corpse gets into the water supply.
Do you, personally, have a zombie escape plan? You know, if the world becomes overrun with the undead. If so, what would you do?
Of course I have a Zombie escape plan! Don't you? One thing that has really become clear through the Zombie Research Society's work is that any plan should be very flexible. Declaring that you're going to run to the nearest gun store and stock up when the Zombies come is all fine and good, but in reality there is no telling when the outbreak will happen, and where you'll be when it does. So my plan is general, and involves a path to accomplish very clear objectives: Clean Water, Safe Shelter, and Sustainable Food.
How many members do you have so far in the Zombie Research Society?
ZRS has thousands of supporters, and a core team of dedicated researchers. We accept dozens of applications every day, and are always looking for motivated people who want to be a part of the cause. I should also mention that our Advisory Board is made up of some of the leading scholars in the field.
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Are you really a "nonprofit" organization with legal 501(c)3 status and everything?
We are on our way to becoming a tax exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, having filed all necessary paperwork with the federal government. It's a long and involved process, but final approval should come in the next several months.
Interest in zombies seems to be cyclical. Meaning, they seem to come up every few years in popular consciousness. Why do you think that is? Or maybe you disagree?
It does seem to be somewhat cyclical, but I think only from an entertainment / pop culture perspective. There is also a surprisingly large group of people out there who have a dedicated interest in Zombies that doesn't change with the trends.