Not too long ago, as the severity of the COVID-19 crisis finally started to sink in with people all around the globe, fans of literary legend (and national treasure) Stephen King began to draw parallels between the current pandemic and the deadly “Captain Trips” flu virus that touched off the apocalyptic events of his epic novel The Stand.
King felt compelled to jump on Twitter and remind his fans that our current crisis is nowhere near as severe as the fictional flu depicted in the book and subsequent TV miniseries adaptation (co-produced by King himself and directed by long-time collaborator Mick Garris). A new 10-episode TV adaptation is currently in the works, and is scheduled to premiere on CBS All Access later this year.
While our present situation has become more troubling since King tweeted that (hopefully) reassuring comment, the author himself recently revealed how much the Coronavirus outbreak has altered his outlook on life — and changed some aspects of his writing going forward.
In an interview with NPR earlier this week, he compared the crisis to the Great Depression of the 1930s, which left his mother emotionally traumatized – and he believes his granddaughter will one day have similar stories to tell:
She can’t see her friends, can only Skype them once in a while. When her children say, “Oh my God, I’m so bored, I can’t go out!” she’s going to say, “You should have been around in 2020, because we were stuck in the house for months at a time! We couldn’t go out. We were scared of germs!”
While King takes the same kind of refuge in his daily writing that most of us do when reading his stories, he did admit that a catastrophe of this magnitide is definitely going to change the context of future stories — as well as the book he’s working on right now:
I set it in the year 2020 because I thought, “Okay, when I publish it, if it’s in 2021, it will be like in the past, safely in the past.” And then this thing came along, and I immediately looked back through the copy that I’d written, and I saw that one of the things that was going on was that two of my characters had gone on a cruise… and I thought, “Well, no, I don’t think anybody’s going on cruise ships this year.” So I looked at everything and I immediately set the book in 2019.
While he says he feels more anxious than afraid, King acknowledges how important it is to take refuge in fictional horror:
They’re like dreams, aren’t they? You’re able to go into a world that you know is not real. But if the artist is good — the filmmaker or the novelist or maybe even the painter — for a little while, you’re able to believe that world, because the picture of it and the depiction of it is so real that you can go in there.. and yet there’s always a part of your mind that understands that it’s not real, that it’s make-believe.
King’s latest novel If It Bleeds is a collection of short stories involving quirky private eye Holly Gibney — whom most of us know from Cynthia Erivo’s tour-de-force performance in HBO’s miniseries adaptation of King’s novel The Outsider.
If it Bleeds is available April 21, and you can pre-order your copy on Amazon.