The Undead: Toby Barlow, Max Brooks, and Grace Lee (2008)

This event happened on November 7th 2008 at Aaron and Cecile Goldman Theater of the Washington DC JCC.

In film, literature, and music, the undead have resurfaced as characters populating our imagination. Beneath the gore, teeth, and fur, are the undead a timely metaphor for social unrest, a vehicle for political satire, or a wild revitalization of horror with a comic edge? Three artists - two writers and a documentary filmmaker - take these questions with moderator with Matthew Klam.

Toby Barlow is executive creative director at the advertising agency JWT in Detroit and a contributor to the literary magazine n+1 and the Huffington Post. He splits his time between Detroit, Michigan, and New York City, and is the author of Sharp Teeth and and, most recently, Babayaga.

Max Brooks is credited with helping propel zombie-lore from niche sub-culture fascination to mainstream pop-culture obsession. While Brooks has published three massively successful zombie-themed books—The Zombie Survival Guide, World War Z, and The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks (all of which are now considered the definitive tomes for the genre)—Brooks’ ultimate goal was to challenge old ways of thinking and encourage mental agility and flexibility for problem solvers and leaders.  Brooks’ unique, unconventional thinking depicted in his books has even inspired the U.S. military to examine how they may respond to potential crises in the future.  World War Z was read and discussed by the sitting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Brooks has been invited to speak at a variety of military engagements—from the Naval War College, to the FEMA hurricane drill at San Antonio, to the nuclear "Vibrant Response" wargame. Adapting to adversity has been the enduring theme in all of Brook’s works. From the true story “The Harlem Hellfighters” which chronicles the heroic African American unit in the trenches of World War 1, to the fiction “Minecraft: The Island” the first official novelization of the 100,000,000+ videogame franchise, Brooks continues to explore what drives us to succeed in a hostile world. His new comic book, “Germ Warfare: A Graphic History” tells the long, painful story of humanities’ battle with microbes, and how those microbes have been used to battle each other. Today, Brooks balances his work as a novelist and speaker with his duel fellowships at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and the Modern War Institute at West Point. As an analyst and columnist, Brooks has written about national security subjects such as automation, weapons procurement, and cyber-warfare just to name a few. Together with his colleagues from the MWI, Brooks has co-edited two books on teaching military science through science fiction: “Strategy Strikes Back: How Star Wars Explains Modern Military Conflict” and “Winning Westeros: How Game of Thrones Explains Modern Military Conflict”.

GRACE LEE is an independent producer & director and writer working in both narrative and non-fiction film. She directed the Peabody Award-winning documentary AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY: THE EVOLUTION OF GRACE LEE BOGGS, which The Hollywood Reporter called ”an entertainingly revealing portrait of the power of a single individual to effect change.” The film premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival where it won its first of six audience awards before its broadcast on the PBS documentary series POV. Her previous documentary THE GRACE LEE PROJECT won multiple awards, broadcast on the Sundance Channel and was called “ridiculously entertaining” by New York Magazine and “ a funny but complex meditation on identity and cultural expectation,” by Variety.