(TMU) — Headline news has been nothing short of terrifying in recent weeks—unthinkable just a few months ago.
From reports of rotting corpses being abandoned in major city streets to the transformation of once-bustling locales like Disneyland and New York’s Times Square into ghost towns and animals taking over major metropolitan zones, the coronavirus pandemic has transformed our familiar spaces into eerie and unsettling environments—not unlike a Stephen King novel.
Indeed, the disturbing news reports that have flooded social media feeds over the past month almost seem like they were lifted directly from his popular 1978 novel The Stand, which details a major pandemic that wipes out 99 percent of the world’s population. The tale begins with the creeping spread of the virus—beginning with mild cold-like symptoms such as a cough and fever—before rapidly transforming into a post-apocalyptic nightmare.
The STAND (far away from me)
— JESUS SUCKS (@JPTHANOSSNAP) April 7, 2020
The survivors, in the meantime, are saddled with lucid, upsetting dreams—a phenomenon that has actually unfolded amid the CoViD-19 pandemic.
The resemblance of current events to his own strangely prophetic work isn’t lost on the author who recently sat down for an interview with NPR to acknowledge this.
The author explained:
“I keep having people say, ‘Gee, it’s like we’re living in a Stephen King story,’ … And my only response to that is, ‘I’m sorry.’ “
For King, who has authored 61 novels and roughly 200 short stories—many of which continue to be turned into popular films and TV shows—a pandemic on this scale was only a matter of time in our globalized, interconnected, and interdependent world.
Acknowledging that the novel virus outbreak was “bound to happen,” King said:
“There was never any question that in our society, where travel is a staple of daily life, that sooner or later, there was going to be a virus that was going to communicate to the public at large.”
Like many other people from the baby boomer generation, King also acknowledges that the pandemic is sure to leave a permanent imprint on the psyche of current generations—not unlike the way in which the Great Depression left a deep impression on his late mother.
“It made a scar. It left trauma behind. And I think that … my granddaughter—who can’t see her friends, can only Skype them once in a while. She’s stuck in the house … when [she’s grown and] her children say, ‘Oh my God, I’m so bored, I can’t go out!’ … [my granddaughter] is 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!’”
People writing novels (including me) set in the present are going to re-think a great deal of their works in progress. To quote Bob Dylan, "Things have changed."
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) March 20, 2020
And while the unequaled Master of Horror’s job is creating stories that shock and fascinate us in ways we’ve never felt, King’s own feelings about the ongoing pandemic are exactly like our own.
When asked how he’s managing the fear and anxiety of the current crisis, the prolific author explained:
“The short answer to that is I’m not. What I’m living with and what I suspect a lot of people are living with right now is cabin fever.
… It’s not terror that I feel, that I think most people feel, it’s a kind of gnawing anxiety where you say to yourself, I shouldn’t go out. If I do go out, I might catch this thing or I might give it to somebody else.”
However, King has made the most of his time continuing to write his latest novel. After all, he acknowledged, “it’s a good way to get away from the fear.”
King concluded by acknowledging that while the world may be a frightening place right now, horror fiction like his own can still provide an immersive escape valve for those who are willing to embrace it.
“Well, 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.”
… or so we hope!
Keep your distance.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) March 22, 2020