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Will you be ready when the Apocalypse comes?

For one Park Sloper, an appreciation of "useless information" has bred a first book brimming with tips to help save humanity.

While some might assume that the author of "Field Guide to the Apocalypse: Movie Survival Skills for the End of the World" was a bit of a glass-half-empty sort, the scribe disagrees.

"It’s a survival guide, not a death guide," Meghann Marco, 25, told GO Brooklyn this week. "I wrote the handbook because I want people to LIVE." But she did admit that she got the idea for her book while reading a military training manual - for fun - on Christmas Eve.

Marco will share the knowledge she’s gleaned while researching her field guide at a reading at Manhattan’s Half King on Dec. 5.

"Field Guide" is a clever, creative spoof of several literary genres - travel guides, self-help books, survival manuals, textbooks - that feeds off the cliches in science-fiction, horror and blockbuster movies.

"I’m not really a science-fiction nerd," said the author, whose family cat was named Gizmo, after a character in Joe Dante’s 1984 film "Gremlins."

"But I did see where there were patterns in the films and stuff that was dumb, and I felt that I knew enough about them that I could knowledgeably poke fun at them."

When considering the end of the world as we know it, the author imagines everything a would-be doomsday survivor might need: from trendy-yet-utilitarian fashion must-haves to a "cityspeak" phrasebook to help navigate the advanced technological dystopia.

All of this is packaged with cyber-punk illustrations by Dominic Bugatto.

"I chose him, because I really liked the comic book quality of his work," said Marco, who graduated with a degree in art history from Chicago’s DePaul University. "The only thing I cared about was that we had the correct architecture in all of the different types of apocalypses."

The sheer number of disasters in the book - from the likely, such as nuclear war, a viral pandemic, or climate change, to the unlikely, such as supervolcanos, meteor strikes, gamma ray bursts, a Biblical Apocalypse, massive coordinated animal attacks, or a robot revolution - can’t help but be depressing, but Marco lightens the mood with her lighthearted tone.

In her "Post-apocalyptic Guide to Self-defense," she encourages the reader to think outside the box: "This [signature weapon] list is just to get you started. Be yourself! Be creative! If you want to beat people up with a horseshoe on a rope, go right ahead."

On surviving a massive, coordinated animal attack - a much-mined topic for movies - she writes, "If our pets decide to overthrow us, we’re pretty much doomed. Dogs and cats have access to the White House, and they are trusted implicitly. They’re leading blind people around, for Pete’s sake."

Marco admitted that she does have her critics.

"I’ve been accused of being too ’Bladerunner’-heavy at the end of the book," she said, referring to her many references to Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult-classic starring Harrison Ford as Deckard, whose job it is to hunt down human replicants.

Yet when she makes movie references, Marco doesn’t always make them explicit, in the hopes that readers will keep her soft-cover handbook on the shelf, revisiting it over and over again and enjoying jokes they didn’t get the first time - like an episode of "Mystery Science Theater."

"I put in footnotes to cram in as much stuff to laugh at as possible," said Marco. "I wanted it to have substance and be worth reading more than once."

Among the fun-facts and how-tos she included are instructions for determining if your food is made from people, how to make antiserum from a human, warnings against eating a polar bear’s liver and the importance of venting your snow house.


Saving Brooklynites

But the field guide’s not all about the comedy for Marco, who’s an advocate for energy conservation. She hopes her book’s levity will provide a bit of the sugar to help the medicine go down - the medicine being the truly likely scenarios. Marco even feels guilty about the scenarios she didn’t include.

"I knew about potential for trouble in New Orleans, and I chose to leave that out of the book and then of course when trouble happened there, it was very awkward for me ... Should I have mentioned it in the book - would it have helped?"

However, the author did share tips with GO Brooklyn to help our readers survive an apocalyptic event.

"There’s not a lot of fresh water around here that’s potable," observed Marco. "I would consider stocking up on fresh water but also learning about purifying water.

"Also I would think about [how to] evacuate Brooklyn. There’s a chapter in the book where I calculate how much rotting flesh would be in an urban area: ’Let’s say there are three million people in your city. If the average person weighs 150 pounds, that’s 450 million pounds of rotting flesh just within the city limits alone. Not counting the suburbs. That will be one hell of a stench.

"[So Brooklynites] will need a gas mask and need to get out of town. But everyone else will be wanting to get out of Brooklyn, too. A boat would be good."

Marco also recommended the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building as a handy fortress for a neo-medieval warlord, thanks to its easily defensible height and vaults to hide valuable items like penicillin, batteries and tampons. Of course, Marco re-capped, setting up your warlord fortress is only recommended after the stench of rotting flesh has passed.


Weird science

"If I had a higher moral goal [in writing the book], what I wanted to do was cut through the spin that I was seeing on CNN," explained Marco. "They say, let’s have both sides of the story, and a lot of times, there aren’t both sides of a story. I’m trying to portray what we know - the science behind our impending doom - and try to explain it in a way people would find entertaining to read and maybe learn something. Really, I just don’t think we’re learning anything on the news."

As an example, Marco pointed out her chapter on mine shaft social dynamics, which was based in part on a recently published research paper on the topic of how architectural depth helps people live in smaller, confined spaces for longer periods of time.

"I used that paper as a basis for a chapter that’s funny and makes jokes about ’The Shining,’" she said.

But for the most part, Marco’s "Field Guide to the Apocalypse" is about explaining the science behind the science fiction.

"[I show the reader] here’s what we know and here are the theories, so you can read about it and learn and evaluate and make your own opinion," she said.

Although "Field Guide to the Apocalypse" did deviate from the norm of first books by being anything other than an agonized, coming-of-age story, Marco admitted that it’s likely that her sophomore effort will in fact be about her childhood in Elgin, Illinois, named the "most typical town" by Money magazine in 1997, when the author was in high school.

"George Bush came and talked about how typical we were. That pissed me off," she said. "The only famous people from Elgin are a guy from ’Babylon 5’ and a [Playboy] Playmate. [The new book] is less of a coming-of-age story and more about me being horrified at my circumstances in high school. It’s me saying, ’Can’t you see being typical isn’t good?’ "

 

Author Meghann Marco, will read from her new book, "Field Guide to the Apocalypse: Movie Survival Skills for the End of the World" (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, $12.95), at The Half King (505 West 23rd St. at 10th Avenue in Manhattan) on Dec. 5 at 7 pm. This event is free. For more information, visit the Web site at www.thehalfking.com or call (212) 462-4300.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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