You don't often hear "Harvard psychiatrist" and "zombie expert" in the same sentence. Yet, that's exactly what Dr. Steven C. Schlozman is.
It makes sense. Just let him explain.
"We (psychiatrists) like stories, and whenever there's a cultural phenomenon that takes on more steam than you might expect, well, if you're a shrink, you're thinking about why it piques people's interest," Schlozman said in a phone interview.
See? Logical. That, plus the engaging fast-talker has been a zombie fan since he was a kid, even lying to his parents and sneaking into "Night of the Living Dead" when he was 12. The flick freaked him out so much he ended up calling for a ride home.
For a few years now, the father of two daughters has been traveling and participating in Science on Screen, a sneaky little program that injects learning into entertainment by showing a film with a science theme and engaging viewers in a scientist-led discussion. The program started at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, Mass., in 2005.
On Saturday, Schlozman will speak at the Loft Cinema as part of its Science on Screen presentation of "Night of the Living Dead."
A fake medical paper Schlozman wrote that addresses what goes wrong with the brain to turn humans into slow, voracious zombies morphed into his just-released novel, "The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse" (Grand Central Publishing, $19.99). Schlozman and "Night of the Living Dead" director George A. Romero are adapting it into a screenplay.
Presented as a handwritten journal kept by a neuroscientist investigating the medical causes of "zombiism," the novel also features stomach-turning clinical illustrations by Andrea Sparacio. Sincerely, you don't want to be eating corned beef hash for breakfast when you crack this thing open.
So, what is it exactly that causes people to find vampires, who can be quite hunky (sparkly, even) and zombies, who look like hobos, equally appealing?
"They're two sides of the same coin," explained Schlozman, who, incidentally, has also written academically about the fanged undead. "Vampires are extremely personal; it's all about you. They make you think that you're special. … The flip side is the zombie, they're so impersonal. They have the brains of crocodiles. If a zombie is coming, there's nothing special about my guts to that zombie. If I step aside, it's just going to chomp the next person's guts. If something is going to eviscerate you, you'd like to think there's something special about you. I think that mirrors the experience of modern life, sitting on hold forever being told your call is being monitored for quality assurance. But, they're monitoring every call, so you're not special."
In tough times, zombies are particularly relevant, Schlozman said, pointing to the liberal use of terms like "zombie banks" and "zombie mortgages" during the subprime mortgage crisis. Zombies just speak to us.
"Werewolves are the ones who get left behind," Schlozman said. "They're just kind of the angry dogs in the park."
Huh. So much for a "Teen Wolf" Science on Screen event.
On StarNet: Join Dr. Steven C. Schlozman for an online chat at 4 p.m. Friday at live.azstarnet.com
If You Go
• What: "Science on Screen" presentation featuring Dr. Steven C. Schlozman and screening of "Night of the Living Dead." Schlozman will discuss the theoretical neuroscience of zombies and the psychological effects they have on others. Also, copies of Schlozman's new novel, "The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse," will be available for sale and signing. It's part of the Loft's "Science on Screen" series, which pairs movies with experts in science, medicine and technology.
• When: 7 p.m. Saturday
• Where: the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway.
• Ticket: $9.
• More: www.loftcinema.com