Let’s talk about survival. Individuals, groups, nations. Let’s talk about how fictional threats can teach us real survival skills. Let’s talk about why my fictional zombie book, “World War Z” was banned by the very real government of China and how that government has let another very real plague get out of control. No matter what I write about, zombies, World War 1, Minecraft, and even my new threat, Bigfoot, the theme is always the same: adapting to survive. Let’s talk about what it means to adapt to this new Coronavirus danger and what it will mean for all of us.

Proof: https://twitter.com/maxbrooksauthor/status/1237174231642734593

Comments: 4113 • Responses: 32  • Date: 

Sad_Dad_Academy2771 karma

I hate to be that guy and go off subject, but do you have any more books like World War Z in pipeline? It’s one of my favorites and I would love for more of those amazing short stories. Thanks!

PizDoff1666 karma

Also we are requesting a TV series for the books. We don't talk about the movie.

Warm_Tax1403 karma

The audio book is better than anything else you will get from it. It's truly superb.

MaxBrooksAuthor2385 karma

Thank you. Audiobooks mean a lot to me. I worked really hard casting "WWZ" and I'm right now working to cast "Devolution". I'll be posting in the near future about our cast as they come in.

Slashbond0072308 karma

Why do you think they banned your book?

MaxBrooksAuthor3608 karma

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) banned, or rather, tried to censor parts of my book because I criticized them. That's forbidden in China. The government has all the power so they have to appear perfect. That's what happens in dictatorships. If the people at the top aren't perfect, then they have no right to rule. In our system, we assume that people aren't perfect, that's why we have elections to clean house. The Chinese Communist Party doesn't their people reading a book that exposes the leadership as imperfect.

Holy_Grapes2159 karma

Hi Max, greetings from Madrid, Spain! Have you received any other complaints (official or unofficial) from any of the other governments described negatively in the book? For example, North Korea and what in the book citizens are forced to do.

MaxBrooksAuthor3847 karma

I haven't received any other criticism from any other government. No complaints from North Korea (yet!) On the contrary, the reason I'm now a non-resident senior fellow at the Modern War Institute at West Point and the Atlantic Council's Brent Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security is because World War Z got on the reading list at the U.S. Naval War College.

Clemm-Fandango1657 karma

I'm two thirds of the way through World War Z at the moment and I'm loving every bit of it so seeing this AMA was a very pleasant surprise!

My question: what are your thoughts on how little action many of the world's nations have been taking in dealing with this epidemic even though, unlike the plague in the book, coronavirus has been very widely reported on. Should we not have understood this would have gone global when it infected an entire province of china with a metropolitan area of 60+ million people?

MaxBrooksAuthor3064 karma

I think human beings are slow to realize a threat. We instinctually want to deny danger. It's an ego-defense mechanism. The problem is, if you deny too much, and are caught unprepared, panic sets in. I think we've been gutting our global health institutions for too long. In rich countries like the USA, we now take public health for granted. We don't have that gut-churning fear our grandparents used to have when Polio and other disease raged through the population. This, hopefully, could be a wakeup call for us to spend the necessary money to reinforce our public-global health networks. I'm just so sorry that this wakeup call is coming too late for people who are already sick.

LivingTri1155 karma

What are the top takeaways from your books that we can use during the current pandemic? More importantly, how's your dad doing? How often do you visit him?

MaxBrooksAuthor2098 karma

My dad is fine. But he's 93 so I have to be very careful about infecting him. That's why I've cancelled some appearances and might possibly have to pivot my whole book tour to a virtual tour. Right now I'm preparing for my son's school to be closed. I think about my dad and my mother inlaw (who's had lung cancer twice) and all the vulnerable people in my life I could infect if I'm not careful.

TheMJP01976 karma

What do you really think is happening in North Korea right now?

MaxBrooksAuthor1904 karma

Good question. This is the problem with dictatorships. You can never know the truth. Right now, they could be completely safe, or the infection could be ripping through the population. We don't know, and we may never know.

kingdonut23380 karma

With the number of rising cases around the world. Do you think the full quarantine shut downs (don't leave your house) are the extreme or the right call at this point in time?

Edit: as a side note. Thank you so much for Minecraft: The Island. I am a divorced father and bonding with my son long distance was hard. Reading that book with my son really helped close that gap. So thank you.

MaxBrooksAuthor687 karma

Thank you. "Minecraft: The Island" was an important book for me because it's such an important game. If seen through the right lens, I think Minecraft has the potential to teach kids the kind of mental survival skills they're going to need for the world we live in.

As far as the right course of action for a quarantine: I think we need to act on what the actionable intel teaches us. Right now, in the USA, we are getting sucker-punched because we didn't have enough test-kits ready to go. We can't counter the virus if we don't know where it is. Proper testing, like they are doing in South Korea would not only help us get a handle on how to effectively respond, it would also do so much to reduce the anxiety we are all feeling right now. The best way to stop mass panic is to get a clear picture of the situation.

e1emen0pe220 karma

I loved your book Max! Any plans to take that to a smaller format like a Netflix series and get into the stories of the individuals? I really loved the blind swordsman story myself.

MaxBrooksAuthor275 karma

Maybe someday. You never know.

ShroomerOfCatan212 karma

How big of a threat do you think the coronavirus is to humanity and what exactly do you think we need to adapt to survive?

MaxBrooksAuthor682 karma

I think the Coronavirus is as dangerous as we allow it to be. This is not the end of the world, but we need to take it seriously, implement measures to curb the spread, marshal the resources of government and industry behind a vaccine and treatment. As regular citizens, we need to think about what we can do: social distancing - washing hands, avoiding crowds, and for God's sake, stay home if you're sick! We can't just think about "can I get it", we need to think about "who can I infect". We have the power to turn this around, but we need to make the right choices.

McJock207 karma

How do you feel about the fact that there are millions of people here in the UK who pronounce the title of your book "World War Zed"?

MaxBrooksAuthor428 karma

If it's good enough for Simon Pegg in "Shaun of the Dead", it's good enough for me!

type_your_name_here197 karma

What type of research did you do for your fictional landscapes that you feel is important to share?

MaxBrooksAuthor613 karma

Fact-based research is my prime directive. Tom Clancy was my hero so I've always tried to root my fiction in reality. I usually spend about 10 to 100 hour researching for every hour I write. That includes books, film clips, in-person interviews, and hands-on demonstrations. For example, in "Devolution", I had to physically make the weapons my characters make with the materials and tools available just to make sure that it's possible.

adognamedpenguin165 karma

Mr brooks, thank you, your book changed my life. I’ve read it a few times, and after I lost my mom, I was living alone, in a cabin, like a bug out place, going nuts, dealing with some heavy PTSD. The idea of zombie apocalypses kept me focused on something, as absurd as it was, it gave me a framework. Now the place is stocked and everyone is turning to me for advice with corona. The audio book was insanely well done, and the best voice acting —-changing narrator by chapter—-amazing.

Used to travel by car for 3 hour trips to practice with 3 linemen. Best way to pass time was designing our “achievable” dream houses (250k) for zombie defense.

Do you have a dream house design?

Thanks again.

MaxBrooksAuthor254 karma

Thank you so much. I do have a zombie dream house I designed. I talked about it on Colbert and I think it's somewhere down in my twitter feet. Keyword: round.

Honestly, the truth about zombie prep is that it should really be common sense disaster prep. I don't think anyone should hole up in a bunker somewhere. The best way to get through any crisis, personal or societal, is with the help of other people. We're social animals. We need each other.

_MattsNeetWorld_138 karma

Regular people who talk about the coronavirus on youtube gets their videos demonetized and their views suppressed by youtubes algorithm (unless they are part of corporate sponsored media).

Do you believe that Google is right to censor its content creators who talk about the c virus? Or is it a step too far towards state run censorship and digital totalitarianism?

Love your books by the way big fan.

MaxBrooksAuthor242 karma

I honestly haven't seen the youtube videos so I can't speak about it with any authority. But I can say that anyone, including me, has to be very careful when discussing public health. I make sure to run every fact past my friends who work in public health or biodefense.

GypsyDanger666116 karma

Do you think a Redeker plan would be effective in a non-zombie pandemic scenario? (By that I mean the isolation tactics, the selective protection zones and the withdrawal of services from over-taxed areas to save strategically important ones?)

MaxBrooksAuthor246 karma

In WWZ, the Redeker plan was a last ditch triage of the human race. I pray that we never, for any reason, get anywhere close to that situation.

RedPandaParty114 karma

World War Z is my absolute favorite book! Can you write some more books? Thanks!

MaxBrooksAuthor247 karma

I did! I've got one coming out in May. It's called "Devolution" and it's a Bigfoot book. https://www.amazon.com/Devolution-Firsthand-Account-Sasquatch-Massacre/dp/1984826786/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2CTTFMVQXGVPW&dchild=1&keywords=devolution+max+brooks&qid=1584034039&sprefix=devolution%2Caps%2C214&sr=8-2

And, yes, like WWZ, it's steeped in research and has some very real-world lessons about being caught unprepared for disaster.

National_Bumblebee103 karma

What actions would you take, if you were the leader of a small country with few infections so far?

MaxBrooksAuthor379 karma

I would quarantine anyone coming from abroad for 14 days. I would funnel every ounce of resources to my public health sector. I would institute a nationwide, public education campaign similar to what the USA did with AIDS. I would institute massive, nationwide testing. I would punish, severely, any hate-crimes against any ethnic group that might be stigmatized. And lastly, I would make sure my small nation was part of a massive, global, synchronized effort to combat the pandemic. We're all in this together. The virus doesn't pick favorites.

jackvill96 karma

How many times do go comb over your work when editing? Like, before it feels polished?


MaxBrooksAuthor306 karma

I polish like crazy. Sometimes too much. First draft is all ego: "yea, suck on that Mark Twain". The next 99 drafts are: "damn this sucks". The hard part is knowing when, as my dad says "It's finished enough".

Welcm2goodburger67 karma

How do you think the response to the corona virus has been compared to the outbreak in your book? The initial cover ups and then media frenzy and misinformation seem like I’m rereading sections of of the book. By the way World War Z is my all time favorite book!

MaxBrooksAuthor158 karma

Unfortunately, too much of my book is coming true. I based the initial Chinese response to the zombie plague on their real response to SARS. Hopefully, the USA doesn't respond to this crisis the way they did in WWZ.

vydija202065 karma

Hi Max,

Huge fan of your books and looking forward to your new novel coming up.

Do you think that the world right now is in any way equipped to handle something more deadly and contagious than the coronavirus? It seems like some countries right now are doing better than others, and people have gone into panic mode, not paying attention to the facts. Should something more deadly spread, or if this gets worse, do you think we'll be able to handle it on an international level or will we fail to properly combat the virus?

I'm also curious as to how your writing process differed on devolution compared to world war z. It seems like world war z may have required a lot more research, I imagine, and so how did you find writing a book which is even more fictitious and not really based on a real life threat such as a virus?

Thanks Max!

MaxBrooksAuthor164 karma

I do think the world has the ability to adapt. I'm not a pessimist. I can't afford to be. I think about all the diseases that were around when my parents were my age. Back then (in the 1920s-30s), having pandemics regularly kill or cripple millions of people was just part of life. We've come such a long way. Even now, we've got armies, literally, of dedicated public health professionals fighting this world war. We can do our part to help them. That's why, in WWZ, there's no one hero. Everyone has a role to play. Just like now. No matter what country you're in, check in with your local public health department. Check in with WHO. Follow the guidelines. Do what you can, from social distancing to hygiene, to help slow the spread. This is so solvable, as long as we all do our part.

CollegeContemplative42 karma

Hi Max, I love how the book takes a geopolitical perspective of the virus and panic.

What real-life events and works of fiction did you take inspiration from while writing World War Z?

MaxBrooksAuthor169 karma

Everything in WWZ is taken from history. I pulled nothing form my nether region. Some day, if I get the time, I'd love to write a WWZ history companion book that talk about all the real-life events that inspire each chapter.

TheGreenJedi13 karma

I enjoyed your article I have a two part question

Firstly, I'm curious without testing ramping up can we really slow down growth via social distancing alone?

And Secondly has Italy turned the corner in your mind or are they still "doomed" so to speak

MaxBrooksAuthor34 karma

Right now social distancing is the best tool we have of slowing infection. You can't pass on a disease from person to person if those persons aren't next to each other. Social distancing is something we can all do. And we need to do. We can help buy time for medical science to come up with treatments and a vaccine. That's what it means to do our part. As far as Italy is concerned, no, they are not "doomed". It will be interesting to see how a democracy like Italy deals with infection. As an Italian-American, my heart goes out to the people of my mother's tribe.

alxthegrti7 karma

What is the deal with the "Great Panic" right now? It is only deadly for those who are aged 60 years old or older.

MaxBrooksAuthor54 karma

Panic never solves ANYTHING! Panic implies that you lose your mind, surrender to fear, and act on the basic animal instinct to survive. We cannot do that, ever! In times of crisis, the best weapon you have is rational thought. Yes, the Coronavirus is serious, but it is completely solvable. We can deal with it. We can protect ourselves, but we need to stay calm, think clearly and listen to the qualified experts (the CDC, WHO, local public health authorities). Never panic!

TheLonelyScientist6 karma

How have you personally prepared for the virus? Do you have any longterm plans?

Lastly, this will all be over at some point in time. What are your perspectives on rebuilding from it and what should we all take away from this when we return to our normal lives? What changes and lessons would a protagonist of yours have tell us in the epilogue?

MaxBrooksAuthor6 karma

Yes, I am prepared in certain ways. Living in L.A., I have an earthquake kit for emergency supplies, so I am ready for a physical quarantine. But as far as my career and daily life goes: that's all in the works now. Everything is being turned upside down and I have to adapt on the fly. Literally, as I write this, my wife is developing a plan for what do about her play (which was supposed to open this weekend!) They are discussing options like live-streaming the way I'm putting together a plan for a virtual book tour and my son's school is preparing a lesson plan for staying home from school.

Silentboom874 karma

With the developments happening now how do you think this will affect future fiction about plague zombies and post apocalyptic genres?

MaxBrooksAuthor3 karma

Good question. I'm the last guy to ask about pop-culture trends. I'll be curious to see how the fiction world adapts to what we're living through now. I think it will send shockwaves through our collective thoughts for decades.

purpl3rain3 karma

How would you compare government responses now to your book? Are they following the same patterns? Ideally, what would you like to see happen?

MaxBrooksAuthor7 karma

I would like to see a coordinated, global response. I would like to see the world's leaders come together and: 1. Give their health experts all the resources they need. 2. Get the facts from those experts. 3. Calmly communicate those facts to the public.

I want to see the USA deal with this crisis the way we dealt with AIDS in the late 1980s. We beat AIDS back with public education. We made sure a pamphlet was sent out to every American household. We made sure every kid (including me) understood what we were really up against.

Bolognabill3 karma


Do you feel the USA or other first world countries are socially prepared for a pandemic worse than what were are experiencing right now? I see examples of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and basic household necessities being stripped from shelves. How much worse do you imagine a situation could get if either a virus, pathogen, nuclear disaster hit as quickly as the zombie pandemic did. Would all humanity start stripping away?

TL;DR: How bad would hoarding becoming during an actual "Great Panic"

Thank you.

MaxBrooksAuthor8 karma

I think democracies only do as well as their citizens. In countries like China, they government has all the power. In America, we are the government. We need to do our part. We need to take responsibility for ourselves and our community. That means vetting the information we receive, and not passing on rumors to others. We need to act speak, act and vote responsibly. In China, they get to blame their government for everything. Here, we can only blame ourselves.

Horrorfreak78_2 karma

What was your initial reaction to the Chinese Government banning your book?

MaxBrooksAuthor7 karma

I was disappointed. I mean, c'mon, a billion plus reader market? But what am I gonna do? I can't censor my own book, especially a book I wrote about censorship. I have to be true to what I wrote.

GuitarWontGetYouLaid2 karma

When you wrote the book, did you research a lot of the geopolitical world(?) when it comes to pandemics. Reading through WWZ it seemed like you planned on also adding some stories about a local politician or a CDC-employee in another case.

MaxBrooksAuthor4 karma

Yes, I studied the history of pandemics, from the Black Death to AIDS. I based the Chinese response to WWZ on SARS and a lot of the Zombie Survival Guide on AIDS. I've found that societies tend to ping-pong between denial and panic. There's a small window in between for preparation.

Sybergenic2 karma

What advice could/will you give to U.S. Army Leadership?

MaxBrooksAuthor4 karma

As I non-resident fellow at the Modern War Institute, I'm required to lecture to the Cadets at West Point. As a civilian, I teach what I know. I teach creativity and innovation under pressure. I've also spoken extensively on the massive gap between the American people and those who protect them. This has been going on since the 1950s and now we're at a point where our military is an entirely separate culture insulated from the rest of us. That needs to stop. NO, it doesn't mean bringing back the draft, but it does mean putting back a lot of financial, political and cultural bridges we've taken away over the years. We need to come together, as a whole nation, to 'provide for the common defense'.

Lowerredfox2 karma

How do you think this is going to affect society, and do you think something like this could come back?

MaxBrooksAuthor5 karma

Of course this disease could come back. If we're not careful. If we don't do everything in our power to eradicate it. Look at all the other diseases. Measles is back. Really?! And Polio! One of the worst disease we've ever faced. We were so close to wiping it out, but it's still hanging on in parts of the world. If we're not vigilant, Polio, like many other disease could make a huge comeback.

Nonions2 karma

What do you think explains the popularity of the zombie genre, and post-apocalypse fiction in general?

MaxBrooksAuthor8 karma

I can't speak for anyone else. But for me, fictional threats like zombies are a great way to talk about real-world issues without it getting too boring or scary. That's why, in most of my books, the threats are fake but the solutions are real!

UnderdogTherapy2 karma

Do you actually think the Chinese government was capable of preventing a worldwide spread? Do you think any country could have without hindsight?

MaxBrooksAuthor6 karma

Of course they could. When it was a small, contained outbreak, all they had to do was listen to Dr. Li instead of threatening him into silence. This could have been stamped out in weeks and ended up as a footnote in a medical book. Diseases, like zombie outbreaks, start slow and small, and need our mistakes to grow.