Corporate America meets the undead in Dave Flomberg's Management for Zombies
Zombie lit has exploded in the past decade, with the undead menace making its way into everything from award-winning graphic novels (The Walking Dead) to mash-ups with the classics (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). It's only natural, then, that the zombie is making its way into the corporate world through local author Dave Flomberg's Management for Zombies. Described in press materials as "Who Moved My Cheese if it was written by George Romero and Bill Simmons," the book is a humorous skewering of the corporate world, set in a post-apocalyptic world where the workforce has graduated from metaphorical zombies to the literal kind. Before the book officially releases at a free launch party -- 7 p.m. Thursday, November 29, at the Thin Man/St. Mark's Coffeehouse -- we talked to Flomberg about his zombie influences, his background and what experiences drove him to cast corporate leadership as masters of the undead.
Westword: Do you want to start by telling us what the book's about? Dave Flomberg: The book's first and foremost about my problems with corporate America and the way the C-class suite looks at its workforce as little more than a means to an end. I've been in the workforce more than twenty years now and I've seen a lot of the same kind of thing at different companies. The way that this thing started to come together was me seeing a lot of managers who kind of used the "it's just business" mantra rationalizing away how they treat people. That started me down the path of thinking about how I could get out my frustrations with that world in a way that might be fun and funny.
Zombies kind of jumped out at me a while back. The book's been simmering for a couple of years, which is sad because it's only about a hundred pages. It's been building over time as I was watching a lot of the same things occur, regardless of the company or the product. The C-suite kind of looking at its employees as just fleshbags. That's not universal and there's a lot of great managers out there; I've had the pleasure of working with a lot of great managers. But I realized that for me to tell that story, it had to be funny. It was therapeutic for me to be funny throughout and do it in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
But ultimately, at the bottom, underneath all of it is a reminder that we're humans first and what we do for a living is what we do so we can live. I think that the people in the corner offices forget that the higher they go. That started it and zombies were a perfect vehicle: That's what we are. When you look at your human workforce and you don't see humanity anymore, what you're left with is a zombie.
That's kind of the same territory that Shaun of the Dead dealt with -- people stumbling through life glassy-eyed and essentially undead, to the point they barely even notice when the actual zombie apocalypse happens.
Yeah, it's not a new concept. The twist here is I don't think anyone's ever applied it to corporate America before -- at least, I haven't seen it done. George Romero did it with consumerism, and his take on malls and the way we all go about it. For me, the twist was, we're forced into that box, as opposed to Shaun of the Dead or George Romero's takes, where we choose to be there. For me it was the other side -- we're kind of stuffed into that box, of being glassy-eyed, stumbling, shuffling around our lives because the people who control the flow of information and the money, they won't let us do anything else.
Is this your first ... novel? I guess it's a novel, even if it's not written in a typical novel form. Parodic non-nonfiction? What would you call it?
[Laughs] Yeah, it's kind of hard to classify. Ultimately it's fiction, fiction that's a kind of humor, kind of satiric humor essays, a compilation of thoughts I've had over the years, collecting in one place. Is it a novel? I don't know. That's probably far more gracious than it really is. [But] yeah, it's my first published book.
Flomberg and a few undead "friends."
Did you watch a lot of zombie movies for inspiration? Read other zombie books? I assume you must be a fan of zombies to some degree or another to embrace the topic.
Yeah. I'm a huge fan of Shaun of the Dead. I've loved George Romero since I first stumbled on Night of the Living Dead. I'm a big fan of The Walking Dead graphic novels; I've enjoyed the TV show. Zombies have been, other than a fun distraction, they've definitely seeped into my subconscious over the past several years on some level. Fido, I don't know if everyone's seen that one since it's kind of an underground one, is the closest similar mindset [to my book]. Fido kind of started me down this process. They had the concept where zombies were domesticated in that movie. There was much more humanity in those zombies than any other take on zombies. That's one of the things, when I talked to my illustrator, I was like, "You gotta make sure these aren't scary. They need to be Joe vs. the Volcano kind of zombies." That scene always played in the back of my head -- I don't know if you've ever seen Joe vs. the Volcano? The opening scene, where everyone is just kind of plying into the business and you hear "Sixteen Tons" playing in the background ... that kind of started things down the path for me.
People in Denver may remember you from your time at the Rocky Mountain News, where you used to write about nightlife and the restaurant scene, right?
Yeah, the column was called "The Buzz" and I started out at the Rocky back in '02 or so. It was kind of cutting-edge, when they were thinking on the Internet, embracing it a little bit. They had a great nightlife section and the editor there of the nightlife section brought me on to do a first-person narrative approach to covering nightlife. I wrote in a very anecdotal style, as opposed to just doing reviews, and it caught on, so I was able to do it for seven great years, doing mostly nightlife, bars and clubs. I trended toward more the dive. That's where I found my niche, and the place where I like to hang out more so than others. Not a whole lot of LoDo, but more the personality and flavor of the watering hole at the end of the block.
Does the way the Rocky was shuttered play a part in the genesis of this book?
You know, I think it's probably in there somewhere. The Rocky is a good example, actually. From my limited understanding, and I wasn't exposed to the financials at any level, but just from what I could see and the chatter I heard from other folks, was that Scripps could have made a choice to sell the Rocky to other investors. Rumors were there were other local millionaires out there -- I'll let you guess who that might have been -- who expressed interest. Scripps decided they'd make more money taking the tax loss on the write-off on the shuttering of the paper. That's a real shame. That's 150 years of Denver's history. It was the record of our city and state.
The choice to basically make a decision purely based on the financials, you know... could Scripps have gone on and taken a smaller loss and sold it off for less than they pocketed to get out of the write off? Sure. They could have covered that and done something great. They could have gotten a hell of a lot of mileage out of that, from saying, "We chose to make a better decision for the community that we're leaving" -- and doing something right for the people who live there. And they chose not to do that. It's a shame. The Rocky, like a lot of people, got themselves into the situation they did. Scripps isn't to blame 100 percent but at the end of the day there were other options they chose to avoid simply for the final dollar -- corporate interest. And that happens everywhere.
What do you have planned for the launch party?
I don't know if we're going to do a reading or not, but if it works out we'll definitely be doing that. My illustrator [Nate Nichols] will be on hand and he'll be doing zombie caricatures if people want them. We'll do signings of the book. There will be some zombies present, and I think we'll have a zombie accordionist. We're going to have some fun and throw a few back and hopefully sell a few copies of the book.
Sounds great. What's next? A second Management for Zombies book maybe?
Actually, I've got two going. Right now, I'm kind of trying to decide which is going to be next, either HR for Zombies or IT for Zombies. I've already started collecting a bunch of material for both of those. There's also some interest in publishing a wrap-up of a lot of the columns I did at the Rocky. I think it's probably not timely enough, but some people have asked for it. I might poke around at that and see if that's something there might be a market for.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I just want everyone to read the book who wants a good laugh. It's a quick read; like I said, it's only about a hundred pages. You can read it while you're doing something else. Hopefully, at the end of the day, every major corporation will hand it out to their managers and tell them, "This is how not to manage" -- and sweeping, widespread corporate reform will take place and the world will be a better place. None of which will actually happen, but I can dream.
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