Essays · Reviews

Scatological Eschatologies: The End is Nigh

“Survivalism isn’t about staying alive. It’s about choosing how you die,” writes Neil Strauss in Emergency (It Books, 2009). Strauss, who’s formerly written books with rock stars, porn stars, and pick-up artists, stepped up his game with this one. In the wake of 9/11 and hurricane Katrina, Strauss had a bit of an epiphany. Acknowledging that if he was involved in a major catastrophe, he wouldn’t be much help — unless helping involved a working knowledge of rock and roll and its many trappings — Strauss set out to get himself prepared. From securing dual citizenship and caching supplies to living without electrical power and knowing the quickest escape route from harm’s way, Strauss trained and drilled until he was/is ready for just about anything. Strauss and Emergency go further than you or I probably will, but surviving the extreme means going to extremes.

Speaking of, having seen Zombieland (2009) a few times now, I keep meaning to finish The Zombie Survival Guide (Three Rivers Press, 2003). If the latter didn’t inform the former, something is wrong with the world of zombie-world end-time speculation. Barry Brummett (1991) writes that apocalyptic rhetors “claim special knowledge of a hidden order, to advise others to make great sacrifices on the basis of that knowledge, even to predict specific times and place for the end of the world.” Well, Max Brooks, son of Mel Brooks, has the zombie-pocalypse covered in this easy to read guide to hiding from, running from, and straight-up killing zombies. There are rules (as there are in Zombieland), and you must follow them if you are to survive. The most telling? #5: “Ideal protection = tight clothes, short hair,” and #4: “Blades don’t need reloading.” This book is your one-stop guide to all things zombie-survival.

Oh, and say what you want about Zombieland. That movie is an all-out riot (If the titles alone don’t make you squirm, cringe, and laugh out loud, you should probably check your pulse). It succeeds where Inglorious Basterds fails. It takes unrelenting violence against a group vilified by all (zombies in one case, Nazis in the other) and makes it feverishly fun and funny.

Anyway, I’ve never really considered myself that concerned with the end of the world, but it’s clearly hanging heavy in the mass-mind. Brummett (1991) also writes that the strategy of apocalyptic rhetoric is “to respond to a sense of chaos and anomie, whether acute or potential, with reassurances of a plan that is ordering history” (p. 87). Between the looming zombie-pocalypse, the impending whatever of December 21, 2012, and the global Dutch oven in which we’re cooking, there are certainly those who would have us believe that our doom is imminent. It’s best we be prepared.

P. S. Whatever you think of the movie, check out the soundtrack to Zombieland. It was scored by David Sardy (who also did the score to 21, produced a bunch of your favorite records, and was the main man behind the band Barkmarket).

[Illustration by royc.]


Brooks, M. (2003). The zombie survival guide. New York: Three Rivers Press.

Brummett, B. (1991). Contemporary apocalyptic rhetoric. New York: Praeger.

Polone, G. (Producer), & Fleischer, R. (Writer/Director). (2009). Zombieland [Motion picture]. United States: Columbia Pictures.

Strauss, N. (2009). Emergency: This book will save your life. New York: It Books.