We’ve interviewed members of the Zombie Research Society in the past, letting our readers know about the medical side of a zombie outbreak. Today, I have a recent interview I conducted with the Zombie Research Society’s founder Matt Mogk.
Aside from ZRS, you might also recognize him from his appearance on Talking Dead or his recently published book, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies. Continue reading to learn about helping the Zombie Research Society, the story behind Night of the Living Dead‘s title change, and more:
For those who are unfamiliar with the Zombie Research Society, can you tell me more about the website, your goals, and why you decide to start ZRS?
Matt Mogk: The stated goal of Zombie Research Society is to advance zombie knowledge and respect in the arts and sciences. On the science side, we don’t make anything up. We look at everything scientifically from a theoretical point of view. Zombies aren’t around right now, but if one actually showed up on the front door, what would it look like? How would it function? How would it’s brain work? How would it hunt you? From there, we extrapolate survival strategies.
On the arts side, we try to promote and encourage better understanding of zombies, better examples of zombies in fiction, movies, and other areas of fine art.
Zombie Research Society got started because I was always obsessed with zombies and it really did start with the basic questions. I began researching them as if the threat could be real. I don’t call it a fictional threat, but an unrealized threat. It hasn’t happened yet, but it could happen at any moment.
Almost everything you’d need to prepare for a zombie outbreak would be helpful when preparing for other types of disasters and emergency situations.
Matt Mogk: Exactly. I live in Los Angeles, and someone may say that a zombie outbreak may never happen, but scientists say we’re overdue for a major earthquake. That never inspired me to get an earthquake preparedness kit, but I have a zombie survival kit and it would work great for earthquakes.
For someone who is looking to join Zombie Research Society there is a social and lifetime membership. What’s the benefit of signing up for a lifetime membership?
Matt Mogk: We try to make it as free as possible. The goal is not to have any barrier to entry. If you want to be a social member, it’s totally free and you can contribute to the research and the blog. If you want to be a lifetime member, it’s just the next level, which allows you to take on a leadership role in the group. For instance, you can be an officer in a local chapter. We have dozens of local chapters across the country and around the world.
We’re an all-volunteer organization. For instance, we have a Facebook page with over 100,000 members. It is run by one of our lifetime members that wanted to volunteer and she’s been running it for a couple of years now.
If someone is interested in started or joining a local chapter, how can they get in touch with you?
Matt Mogk: If you sign up for the social membership, you get access to the Zombie Safehouse. There is contact information and a list of local chapters.
What is the goal of your zombie awareness month? Why did you choose a grey ribbon instead of green?
Matt Mogk: That’s a good question. We started zombie awareness month several years ago and the goal was to help people spread the word and get excited about zombies. In my opinion and from an entertainment view, they are the most important monster in the past 50 years and I don’t think they get enough respect.
From the entertainment side, we wanted to celebrate how important zombies are in movies and books. We also wanted to promote the science side of it and prepare people for zombies or other threats.
About the ribbon, we say the ribbon color symbolizes the threat of zombies that is lurking just below the surface. People may seem that a zombie outbreak is unlikely, but when you start doing research, you realize there are all kinds of diseases which are mutating in strange ways and disasters that mirror a zombie outbreak.
The funny thing about the ribbon is that every awareness ribbon has at least 5 different organizations that it represents. Red ribbons literally have 30 different organizations, so we tried to fit a color that fit zombies and that wasn’t taken up by dozens of other events. We think of it as rotting flesh, which is much more grey than green anyway.
I agree with you that the zombie has become the most important movie monster in recent decades. While it is unfortunate for George Romero, I feel like a big part of it has to do with Romero losing the copyright on Night of the Living Dead. This allowed anyone to take the idea of flesh eating zombies and run with it.
Matt Mogk: I agree with you about that. Do you know the specifics behind how they lost the copyright?
Yeah, but I think our readers who are unfamiliar with the story will find it interesting.
Matt Mogk: When Romero originally created the movie, he didn’t call them zombies. They were referred to as flesh eaters and the original title was Night of the Flesh Eaters. The distribution company changed the title card at the last moment to Night of the Living Dead. At the time “living dead” was a very generic term that referred to all kinds of undead-type monsters including mummies and vampires. There were three movies that came out around the time of Night of the Living Dead that were called Cave of the Living Dead, Fangs of the Living Dead, and Crypt of the Living Dead. They were all vampire movies.
The distribution company didn’t think anyone would know what a “flesh eater” was, so they changed the title, but they forgot to put the copyright on the title card and that’s how it ended up in the public domain.
On top of Zombie Research Society and your public appearances, you’re also an author. Can you tell our readers about Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies?
Matt Mogk: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies isn’t the catchiest title, but it sums up what the book is all about. It covers all of the zombie research I’ve done over the past decade and the research we’ve done at Zombie Research Society for the last five years. It is broken down to four sections: zombie basics, zombie survival, and zombie pop culture. Max Brooks also wrote the foreword for it, which was nice. He endorsed the book and gave it a big thumbs up, which was cool.
I want to thank Matt Mogk for taking the time to talk with me. You can sign up for the Zombie Research Society or learn more at: http://zombieresearchsociety.com
For more information on his book, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Zombies, visit: http://www.amazon.com/Everything-Ever-Wanted-About-Zombies/dp/1451641575
Lastly, Matt Mogk will be appearing at Infect Scranton this September. For more details on that event, visit: http://www.infectscranton.com/