Friday, October 5, 2012

Learning from zombies


Steven Schlozman, MD, distinctly recalls sneaking into the movie Dawn of the Dead when he was 11 years old. At the time, it seemed the decision simply caused him to have to call his parents for a ride home because he was too scared to walk alone in the dark. But today the MGH psychiatrist knows it was also a defining moment that not only solidified his lifelong love for the zombie genre but paved the way for him to become an author.

At a Sept. 18 book talk at the Maxwell & Eleanor Blum Patient and Family Learning Center, Schlozman explained the second defining moment would come decades later, after his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I just thought, ‘This couldn’t be real.’ And there were times when I was up late at night thinking my world had ended,” he said.

During one particularly restless evening, Schlozman turned on the television to find one of his favorite horror movies, Night of the Living Dead. Schlozman realized that the zombies he’d read about for years were now a glaring metaphor for his perceived inability to save his wife. As a result, he began to draft a fictitious medical journal paper outlining “Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome,” an in-depth look at the neurological dysfunction that occurs within a zombie’s brain.

In his free time, Schlozman took the paper one step further, turning it into his first novel, The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse, published earlier this month by Grand Central Publishing. “From there, I was thrust into this bizarre Hollywood world,” he said. That included meeting his childhood idol George Romero, the writer and director of both Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead – who has become a personal friend and is in the process of adapting Schlozman’s book for the silver screen. The final script is expected to be completed in about a year.

During the event, which marked the first time the Blum Center has hosted a discussion on a work of fiction, Schlozman told those in attendance that, with his wife in remission and his book gaining momentum, he is taking time to enjoy being a part of the zombie genre’s long history.

“That’s what’s awesome about the horror genre,” he said. “I’ve loved it since I was a kid and it’s just so lasting.”

Read more articles from the 10/5/12 Hotline issue.


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