Monday, March 16, 2020

I didn't expect it to be toilet paper #Coronavirus


I write post-apocalyptic and dystopian thrillers that stick pretty close to realism.  There's a touch of the fantastic in all of them, a superhero-esque quality to the survival of protagonists and villains.  But for the most part I tend to hit the mark.

My book LIT hit the market the same week wildfires raged in California.  The follow-up TORRENT, about a deadly storm-induced flood in New Orleans, dropped the same week a hurricane was bearing down on the central Gulf coast.  And my forthcoming series about a global pandemic (that attacks the lungs) is due out in April amidst this global crisis in which we find ourselves living (and self-quarantining).

The parallels in the new book are startling.  The slow government response.  The lack of airport closures in a timely manner.  The lack of mortality among the infected young.  All of this, I wrote last summer based on a disease I made up for another  tangential series of novels in 2015 and 2016.

So much of the book, despite it taking the outbreak to its darkest possible conclusions, is on point because of the research I do.  It's not prognostication as much as it's preparation.

The one thing I didn't see coming was the toilet paper.

Runs on water, food, masks, first aid, even gasoline?  Sure.  Not the toilet paper.

As you read my new series, a trilogy called The Scourge, you'll find a lot of frightening parallels to what we now face with Covid-19, the novel coronavirus.  There are characters who work in government labs, those who hunker down, who prey on the weak, and who are mostly unprepared.  You'll even read about the way the media reports on the growing concern about an epidemic as it spreads across Europe and into the United States.

You won't read about toilet paper.

And what that tells me is that human nature is unpredictable and that people panic.  The Chicago Tribune wrote an article about it and reported it's what happens when people "catastrophize".  The New York Times also wrote about it.  People are hoarding far more than they need because of the fear of extended quarantine.

Of all things.  Toilet paper.

Not non-perishable food.  Not hand-sanitizer or household cleaners (at first).  Toilet paper.

It reveals two things, I think.  And I say these things with the seriousness of someone who is prepared to quarantine if need be.  We stocked up weeks ago (without hoarding) in anticipation of what's happening now.

One.  People pay attention to the media.  They see what others are doing and they copy it.  They panic.  This is bad in the case of toilet paper.  It might be good in that they see the repeated warning to social distance and stop the spread of the disease.  We can hope so.  Too many have died and fallen critically ill already.

Two.  Truth is stranger than fiction.

Stay safe out there.  Pay attention to what your local and health authorities are telling you to do.  And most of all, be kind to one another.  If you can...spare a square...


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