Throughout the course of history, pandemics have captured many a writer’s curiosity; this fascination with the devastation of illness has transpired with pandemic fiction. It’s not hard to understand why – there’s something so magical about a powerful force that can take down any person, wealthy or poor, black or white, male or female. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, you may wonder why reading about a fictional pandemic could help you. If we’re experiencing a real pandemic right now, why should we care about a fictional one? At the most fundamental level, fiction will always mirror our reality. When we can read about fictional pandemics, we can gain some essential knowledge that can be injected into our everyday dealings with COVID-19.
Early pandemic literature is often not about the actual disease or pandemic itself; rather, it is about the people caught in the pandemic. This is because, for years, humans had no real idea of what a virus was. Some thought a pandemic was based on sin, while others felt it was the dirty poor who had spread the illness. This lack of knowledge on the subject leads to early fictional pandemics literature, mostly about what people did during the pandemic.
There is a slow evolution from the earlier pandemic literature that can clearly be seen in the stories. As the science of pathology and epidemiology catches up, so too does the literature. Within these incredible discoveries, society quickly gains the understanding that people are needed to spread a virus and thus create a pandemic. From there, we get storylines regarding government and misinformation that further builds upon the virus.
Nowadays, in pandemic fiction, the story is rarely about the actual pandemic. Instead, the writer will go in-depth on the psychological reaction of the people to said pandemic. Now, what does this mean for a person who is currently experiencing a real-life pandemic? Pandemic fiction nearly always mirrors our natural fears of disease; illness is a part of our everyday life, but a pandemic is when that normalcy explodes into a disaster. In reality, reading about a fictional pandemic has the ability to teach the public some essential lessons on how to deal with such a stressful situation. Pandemic literature can show how, when faced with the stress of a real-life pandemic, building into something new is not only necessary but possible. Since lots of pandemics in literature now deal with the deceit of the government or other misinformation, it can remind a reader of just how important science is when trying to end a pandemic and emphasis the importance of the truth.
Pandemics make people question the idea of morality and self. When death is lurking at any corner, people will challenge themselves and how they have lived their life. This is true of both real and fictional pandemics, and one can easily see the many similarities between the two. In a time when we are overwhelmed with a pandemic ourselves, maybe you can pick up a fictional pandemic book. Who knows, you might just find some life lessons that could help you to better deal with COVID-19.
If you want to read some pandemic literature yourself, why not check out this list?