At the Comic-Con panel, “Not with a Bang, with a Bite”, eight authors of zombie novels discussed various aspects of a potential zombie apocalypse. To me, the most recognizable name on the panel was Max Brooks, author of World War Z. His comments, along with those of Mira Grant (Blackout), made for a humorous and interesting hour on Thursday afternoon in Room 6A.

First, the panel reflected on why zombies are so popular. Reasons ranged from sex (vampires have become sexy; everyone wants to kiss them) to the simple fact that they’re fun (Michael Spradlin, Blood Riders). Max Brooks, though, gave it the most thoughtful answer when he said that zombies are a way to explore apocalyptic anxieties in a psychologically safe way. Like during the 70s, there is a collective anxiety that everything we’ve built is starting to fall apart. In 2012, that anxiety is “on steroids”.

Several times, the authors exchanged light-hearted comments regarding the difference between “slow zombies” and “fast zombies”. If the popularity of zombies reflects our fear of cancer, then it is represented by the slow zombies. Brooks elaborated that fast zombies reflect immediate fear and imminent danger, like seeing a huge tarantula. On the other hand, slow zombies reflect lingering anxiety and only possible danger, such as cancer. Later in the panel, though, Brooks reminded everyone, “Fast zombies aren’t real.”

This stimulated the question, “Is there a zombie archetype.” The panel concurred that there’s not, although Jeyn Roberts (Dark Inside) added, “As long as they don’t sparkle.” At one point of this topic, Brooks found a reason to make fun of Canadians, calling them cold-blooded killers or “snow Klingons”.

Perhaps my favorite answer to the popularity question was given by Mira Grant, “We’re a guilt-driven society. Zombies are the only guilt-free monsters left.”

Diana Fredsti (Plague Town), suggested that we actually sympathize with zombies, like we would someone with a disease. Grant added that it’s not their fault they’re zombies. It was even suggested that some stories are adding the twist that zombies maintain memories from when they were living. That may be because humanizing zombies de-humanizes us. And if zombie fiction is really about looking at ourselves, this is a storytelling device. It’s one that Brooks claims George R. Romero has used in his movies.

Eventually discussing an actual zombie apocalypse, answering the question of what we can expect to happen, Brooks said, “If you want to see it, it’s already happened. To see how people act, look at Katrina.” The comparison was mentioned at least a couple of times, particularly when it was suggested that since we know all about zombies now, we’ll be ready and know what to do when the apocalypse arrives. To that, Brooks commented, “Yeah, people in New Orleans knew about water.”

Other topics discussed:

• What’s happening with the World War Z movie? Brooks explained, “I don’t know what they’re doing. I trust their intentions, but the truth is, it’s not my movie.”

• What would happen to animals in the zombie apocalypse? Brooks immediately spoke, “I get that question a lot. Pets won’t get zombified, they’ll just die.” However, he seemed amused to hear that in the SyFy channel Saturday night movie classic, Zombie Apocalpse, there was indeed a zombie tiger.

• What are the panelists’ favorite zombie movies? Brooks (again) said Shaun of the Dead, calling it the “Clerks of Great Britain”.

Concluding the panel, the panelists were asked if they would ever collaborate on a zombie story. Like most of the other topics discussed, Brooks had the last word. “No,” he said, “We’re all jealous and hate each other.”