Job Title: Zombie Law Research Assistant

There are some people in this world who have had some bad ass jobs. I mean, there are people who do things like wrangle alligators, genetically engineer glowing cats, study volcanoes, and design video games for a living. There are even some pretty mundane jobs that at least sound awesome. Mac stores have Geniuses. Playstation has Combat Designers. Microsoft has a ‘Director of Storytelling.’ Google even has a guy whose job title is simply ‘Jolly Good Fellow.’

Now, me, I’ve done some pretty cool things in the past.

But last semester I had to have had one of the coolest jobs ever. What was it? Well, look at the title of this post. I was a zombie law research assistant. I was actually doing research that some how combines my love of zombies and science fiction with my law school courses.

Of course I put this on my Facebook. How could I not?

Of course I put this on my Facebook. How could I not?


I’m not kidding.

This is a real thing I did. I got paid for it. Well, I was authorized to get paid for it. I never actually did turn in any hours because I didn’t see the point. It wouldn’t have been much and, anyway, I had a lot fun working on the powerpoint. The authorized salary was just the usual research assistant $9 an hour. But let’s be real. I never needed to get paid to help with this project. Are you kidding? I had volunteered to help out the second I heard about it because this is pretty much one of the only times I’ll ever be able to justify using zombies for an academic purpose.

So what’s the article about?

Zombies obviously.

It’s about zombies obviously.

It’s about the tax implications of a zombie apocalypse, basically. Prof. Chodorow asks how to – and if we could or should – tax people who are turned into zombies. (Also: vampires, ghosts, and to a much lesser extent werewolves.)  A lot of this focuses on estate taxes and things like that. The paper also questions what it means to be legally dead. Is someone really dead if they are a zombie? They are up and walking around still and obviously have some brain function if destroying the brain is the only way to stop them. Kind of makes it difficult to determine, right? It’s even harder when you look at vampires who are generally considered to be ‘dead’ but at the same time can be off running around living quite fulfilling, active lives. The paper basically looks at all of these scenarios and tries to determine what to do in the various different hypotheticals. It tries to figure out who is dead and when and how that effects the United States tax scheme.

Okay, so, maybe these zombies are dead in Walking Dead? But then they get up and start walking... I don't even know.

Okay, so, maybe these zombies are dead in Walking Dead? But then they get up and start walking… I don’t even know.

It’s actually a really great read because it’s full of great references to books, video games, movies, and shows. I mean, he threw in references to everything from 28 Days Later to Sesame Street‘s Count. It’s not written just for legal scholars but for the every day layman. Anyone can pick it up and read through it and get a pretty decent explanation of what Prof. Chodorow is getting at and the questions he’s asking.

If you want to read the paper, you can download it for free here.

On the first page you’ll even see my name in the footnotes along with a bunch of other people who helped read over the paper and who offered up ideas. Some of them are also professors at ASU while others are students of Prof. Chodorow’s from the past couple of years. It’s funny because I never actually was one of his students. A friend of mine who was in one of his courses was just like, “Hey, Sam. So this professor of mine is looking for help on this paper he’s writing about zombies-”

That was it. That was all I needed to hear. I was totally there.

Zombies? Duh. I'm totally there.

Zombies? Duh. I’m totally there.

But  what did I do exactly?

Well, the first thing I did was read through the paper and try to come up with examples that Prof. Chodorow may have missed for types of zombies and the like. Then I did a bit of research into vampire, werewolf, and ghost lore. Most people these days are on top of the different ways someone can become a zombie. It’s not really all that complicated. But a lot of people are a bit sketchier on the other supernatural beings because, well, their lore gets mixed around a whole lot more than it does with zombies. There are a few things in there that come directly from me – like references to American Horror Story and My Boyfriend’s Back. I think there might have been something in there about Warm Bodies, too. I don’t remember. I know I’d been to a pre-screening of the movie about the time Prof. Chodorow was finishing up the paper. (And I way prefer the movie to the book – yes, I said it.)

The other thing I did – and the part that I was actually authorized to get paid for – was making a slide show for Prof. Chodorow when he gives presentations on the paper at conferences and the like. Yup. He actually does presentations on the paper. It’s fantastic. I went to the first presentation and though it was hilarious. I spent a couple weeks basically just putting together a montage of pictures, screen caps, and .gifs of zombies (and to a lesser extent vampires, werewolves, and ghosts) with various slide headings and bullet points. It was a lot of fun and it gave me an excuse to spend copious amounts of time on Tumblr.

You got paid to be on Tumblr!?

You got paid to be on Tumblr!? Well, if I had turned in my hours, yes.

I know, it sounds pretty crazy, right?

You might think that this is just some ridiculous little paper that was written for fun by a professor and no one really cared about it. But you’re totally wrong. It’s been published in the Iowa Law Review and was covered by a lot of news outlets online. We’re not talking about just your little half-assed blogs (like ours), either. We’re talking big name news outlets like Forbes, Times, and the NY Times. Blogs like io9, Law and the Multiverse, and tons of others picked it up, too. The Law and the Multiverse guys even referenced the paper in a presentation they did at Wondercon (and will be doing again at San Diego Comic Con) regarding zombification and criminal liability.

It was totally cool to be in that crowd and see something that I’d helped work on being scene by so many people. It’s even cooler to know it’ll reach a larger audience at SDCC.

Honestly, this is probably the highlight of my law school career thus far. It just goes to show that nerds and geeks can actually find ways to work out obsessions into our fields of practice and have something awesome to show for it. I mean, Prof. Chodorow’s paper got picked up by Forbes and the New York Times. A paper with my name on it was seen by all those people. Granted it was only in the “thanks to…” section but who cares?

This is probably as close as I’ll ever get to having anything published in a law review journal.


The paper has been available for a while but if you haven’t read it and you’re looking for a fun read, give it a look. And if you come up with anything that wasn’t addressed or some better example of a hypothetical let me know in the comments and I’ll pass it on to Prof. Chodorow. He’s always willing to change up the presentation and respond to questions.

4 responses to “Job Title: Zombie Law Research Assistant

  1. Pingback: Wildman research assistant @nerdophiles @ASUCollegeOfLaw | zombielaw·

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