Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, August 2015, I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #2306 (page 50). The link is provided below…
Anatomy of a Pandemic: Pandemics make frequent appearances in SF. But do what we read in books or see on the screen anything like real pandemics? The world just experienced the Ebola pandemic. The panel will discuss how real pandemics are likely to play out, and how that compares with their depiction in fiction.
SF writers have used past pandemics as story background – as in Connie Willis’ DOOMSDAY BOOK and Michael Flynn’s EIFELHEIM – as well as future pandemics like Matheson’s I AM LEGEND (which, paradoxically reversed in the movie, is all about the “zombies” fearing the uninfected) and the pre-story for the wildly popular YA MAZE RUNNER series called THE KILL ORDER.
With the Ebola epidemic in West Africa “safely” out of the news (NOT out of reality, unfortunately, as the disease continues to kill people, though at a substantially reduced rate...I am sure that’s a comfort to the families[http://apps.who.int/ebola/ebola-situation-reports]) and with the influenza season rapidly approaching in North America, there seems to be no real concern (http://www.who.int/influenza/surveillance_monitoring/updates/latest_update_GIP_surveillance/en/)So why do we keep worrying at this whole pandemic story? It’s not like Modern Medicine can’t handle a little virus, right – kicked Ebola’s skriggly butt, didn’t we? Africa’s not only got a cure, they’ve got a vaccine, right? So writers like John Scalzi, in his book LOCK IN (book 1) are just whiling away the hours, trying to scare us like Stephen King did in THE STAND. There’s no real fear or nothing, right?
The staid ATLANTIC magazine brooks no hysteria, only calm, clear concern (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/06/preventing-the-next-pandemic-ebola-spotlight-health-aspen-ideas-festival/397040/); while others like The Guardian hover on the verge of tabloid hysteria, making sure their quotes are framed in the most frightening way possible, “‘The virus is smarter than we are at this point. I don’t know of any disease that plagues us more. It’s very, very frustrating and a very inexact science,’ Robert Daum a Chicago doctor who heads the Food and Drug Administration advisory committee that makes the US recommendations, told The Post earlier this year, as the committee was about to meet to discuss strains to include in the coming season’s vaccines. ‘We do it with varying luck, and I think the luck is mostly the virus’ whim.’” (http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/aug/08/computer-model-predict-flu-outbreaks)
My opinion is that it will sneak up on us from nowhere, blindsiding society because of an extended incubation period, and sweep across the planet until a significant part of Humanity has died off...
I’d have loved to be in on this discussion – anyone out there hear what was said?