Good thing I read so much dystopian science fiction growing up

Granted, mostly what I read was post-nuclear war fiction, and not pandemic/epidemics. But still.

Alas, Babylon and Farnham’s Freehold were my two favorites. Babylon was set close to my area in Florida, so I always felt a connection of “holy shit, this is what I could do to survive” with that book. And Farnham’s Freehold, although much more fictional to me what with the time travel and all, still had a good few chapters on what the fallout shelter was stocked with and what they did to survive (both in the shelter, and later/earlier in the mountain).

And as utterly depressing as it was that there were no happy endings, The Day After (a movie, not a book) had a huge effect on me. Probably the biggest, long-term effect was that on some level, I never really thought I’d live to be 30 years old. I thought for sure the world was going to burn itself up in a war, and the majority of the survivors wouldn’t survive very long. Yet, here I am, twenty years past 30, and everyone is afraid of illness and not nuclear war. Don’t tell me that now would be a great time to have a nuclear war, everyone would be so distracted He Who Shot First Would Win From Surprise… I don’t want that kind of paranoia in my head please and thank you.

The Stand will forever be one of my favorite books based just on the characterization alone. I would be hard pressed to say any one particular character in that book is my favorite – how can I pick Stu over Glen over Nick over Tom Cullen?! M-O-O-N, that spells “can’t choose.” But like with Alas, Babylon, the arc I love most in the book is what people do after they get to Boulder and start rebuilding what they’ve lost. Plus, I’m just a sucker for a good “hey I’m not a doctor but this appendix needs to come out so you hold this anatomy book up for me while I go in there with a steak knife and a pair of knitting needles” scene.

War Day (or Warday, depending on which cover you’re looking at) was another great, “pick up the pieces” book. Two journalists travel over the US recording stories and trying to find out what happened to friends. It’s like… Studs Terkel’s Working, but with less electricity and more famine. It’s written as if it’s a non-fiction book, with the two authors portraying themselves, and they meet up with a few other writers here and there as they travel the country. That made it just a little more… real, to me.

The Andromeda Strain taught me that shit’s gonna change, and science is gonna try hard to keep up, but nature will fuck science up every time. And then suddenly everything will be fine. Which kind of sounds like what we’re going through now, so hopefully COV19 won’t learn to eat through plastic.

Anyway. My point. Did I have one? I actually started off today writing a post called “It’s OK to not be OK right now” but then my brain got sidetracked by books and movies, so this is what you get instead.

Do I think the world is ending? No. Do I think that things are going to change, globally? Yes, and hopefully for the better, but we’ll only know that in hindsight.

Am I scared? Yes and no. I’m not scared of the immediate, but I am worried about the future – from the view of supply chains and stores restocking or not and small businesses having to temporarily close and worrying they won’t be able to reopen causing massive unemployment pretty much world-wide. These books I mention above talked about purifying water and how to grow the best crops and how to make clothes… a worldwide shortage of toilet paper was not in even my peripheral vision.

Am I afraid of getting sick? I don’t know that ‘afraid’ is the word I would use. I’m worried for my friends and family who have worse immunocompromises (man, SpellCheck does NOT like that word) than just me and my asthma. I worry that you can have it for a week or so before knowing, so who knows who’s infected who, and what if one of my friends has it and doesn’t know yet. I don’t mean to sound like “hey, if it’s my time, it’s my time” because that makes it sounds like I’m going out to Spring Break Party Beach and getting my funk on with a bunch of uncaring twenty-year-olds and that is SO not the case (I quit partying like it was 1999 in about 1986). I guess what I’m saying is that only one thing is going to kill me, and I don’t know what that one thing is, so do I want to waste energy worrying that EVERYTHING is that one thing? I’d rather fuss over people I care about, and get groceries and run errands for those who more need to be guarded.

Honestly, I kind of thought that if there was a world-wide panic about something in my lifetime, it would involve more radiation, fallout, and nuclear winter, than sore throats and fever. I guess I was just reading the wrong books.

One Comment

  1. Lloyd

    Lore it was 1959-60 when the Volusia County Sheriff’s Deputies showed up at my elementary school with a box of dogtags, you know dogtags to ID the burnt bodies with???
    T’was ever thus.

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