There's a new children's book illustrated by Portlander Aja Wells that will scare the pants off any kid. Following a Dr. Seuss rhyme, writer and Zombie Research Society founder Matt Mogk's verses follow one boy's fight for life when his mother and the other adults in the neighborhood turn into zombies: "When she's clawing at the kitchen door, that's not your Mommy anymore. When her face looks like an apple core, that's not your Mommy anymore."
Though the picture book, which debuts May 3, will certainly appeal to a number of gore-seeking 5- to 10-year-olds, it will also charm adults with a love for monsters, who seem to be materializing out of the woodwork en masse ever since Shaun of the Dead and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies opened the floodgates. (Portland's already obsessed with the undead—in 2009, local Zombie Research Society member James Gunn, who runs NW Tactical Adventures, launched Zombie Apocalypse, a combat simulation in which about 30 heavily armed grunts who paid $35 to $50 apiece to shoot at hordes of ghouls played by volunteers.)
Mogk's always had a soft spot for the modern zombie (as opposed to the walking corpse that appears in African and South American voodoo) and has a master's degree in horror films from New York University's film school. In 2007 Mogk and a few friends formed the Zombie Research Society, which has grown into a national organization with an advisory board of neuroscientists and chapters scattered throughout the states. The grown men and women that comprise the ZRC know that zombies aren't real, but nonetheless devote their time and intellect to addressing the monsters as an "unrealized threat."
What started as a funny examination of a hypothetical danger has turned into a full-time job for Mogk, who used to work in corporate America. As was the case in the late '70s and early '80s, we are experiencing a zombie renaissance that puts Mogk's zombie knowledge in high demand. Mogk now makes the college campus rounds speaking about Zombie preparedness.
When asked about the instigators for the ongoing zombie popularity surge, Mogk feels the economy is to credit. Zombies may be a relevant fantasy in a culture fixated on its forecasted financial doom, but they are also doubtlessly enjoying the limelight as part of a general monster mania unleashed by a certain teenage vampire heartthrob.