What are you going to do when — not if, but when — the zombies attack? Luckily, Roger Ma has figured it all out. As the author of “The Zombie Combat Manual” (Penguin), the native Brooklynite teaches you how to fight the living dead mano-a-mano, if, like most civilians, you lack a handy firearm. From hand-to-hand combat to non-ballistic weapons like customized crowbars, the Windsor Terrace resident spoke to us about where his fascination with zombies comes from, and what’s the best way to fight the terror from below.
Meredith Deliso: So why the interest in zombies?
Roger Ma: In the 1970s, my dad took me — at my request — to see George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” on Coney Island Avenue. At 8, I was way too young to see that movie. Ever since, it’s been something that I’ve been afraid of … and fascinated by.
MD: Why do you think this movie still resonates?
RM: When something touches you that young, it inevitably sticks with you. Every year, I have four to five dreams where I’m being attacked by zombies. Those are the most-horrible, but most-enjoyable, dreams that I have. The psychological aspect is what really intrigues me: when push comes to shove, what do people do in those crazy situations?
MD: How do you see a zombie attack happening today?
RM: There’s the difference between the 20th-century zombie and the 21st-century zombie. In the 20th century, there’s a radiological disaster — a nuclear fallout, or a meteor comes to the Earth and the dead start to rise. In the 21st century, we do this to ourselves. It’s getting back to what happened in reality — avian flu, swine flu, some flu variant. A biological weaponized virus breaks out that feels very close to home. It’s maybe not the dead rising, but us dealing with some sort of pandemic.
MD: How did you get started on a manual?
RM: Three years ago, I was looking to get a handgun in New York and realized, wow, this is really difficult. You have to jump through a lot of hoops to do so. I thought, if the zombies do come, I’m not going to be in such great shape. If I don’t have a gun, what am I going to do? It took off from there — using a leg of chair, crowbar, handbar.
MD: What’s the best defense against zombies?
RM: There are two decisions that form that answer. One depends on what kind of person you are. If you have this huge battleax, but you’re a slight person, it’s not going to be such a great defense. The other question is whether you have the weapon handy. Say you have a sword, but it’s behind the winter clothing at the back of a closet when the zombie attack occurs. What good is that? In the book, I go through all kinds of weapons, one called improvised weapons. I go through the different parts of the home — garage, toolbox, farm — where you might encounter everyday found objects and discuss how they could they be transformed to use in an attack.
MD: What’s the best defense for people in Brooklyn?
RM: Brooklynites don’t have garages, so that’s out. They don’t have big lawns, they don’t have farming equipment. You need to go to a toolbox — most people have that, and most have a screwdriver or a claw hammer. Those are good options. We also like to play our sports — there’s sporting equipment that might help out. A really popular one is a baseball bat. It’s a short-term item — they tend to fail after a lot of zombie attacks, but most know how to use one.
MD: What kind of audience do you see for the manual?
RM: There are fans of the genre who are going to like and appreciate the book. Also people who like martial arts and self-defense. What I tried to do is be very authentic. I had a lot of martial arts consultants work with me on the book. Even though we’re talking about zombies, it’s not going too far off in terms of technique. The third front is people who like satire. It’s a parody at its core. I’m a fan at heart of the zombie genre and wanted to write a book that I as a fan would enjoy and contributes to the genre.
MD: Wait, are you saying that there aren’t really zombies?
Roger Ma reads from “The Zombie Combat Manual” at the Park Slope Barnes and Noble [267 Seventh Ave. at Sixth Street, (718) 832-9066], April 9, 7:30 pm.