By Gordon Anderson

Recent events had me thinking the other day back to a night in the spring of 1994.

I’d just finished watching the first episode of the television adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand. That episode ended — and this isn’t much of a spoiler alert for those of you who haven’t seen it — with most of the world’s population dead after a couple weeks from a 99.4 percent infectious superflu, and the few survivors navigating a world that was somehow made more dangerous and deadly by the fact that it was totally empty.

I was staying over at a friend’s house, and when he went to bed I crashed on the couch and promptly stayed wide awake until dawn thanks to the complete terror of finding myself in that situation. It was far scarier than any zombie or Freddy Krueger scenario because, well, viruses are real. Zombies and the reanimated spirits of dead serial killers who haunt the dream world aren’t (although the idea that Freddy could be real did do a number on me years before that).

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Plague movies, I’m sure, are on a lot of people’s playlists right now. I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the genre or anything — I’ve just loved Stephen King for a long time — so I can’t say I know any of the big ones people are talking about right now. But my wife and I did take the opportunity to do a rewatch over several nights in mid March because, well, what else was going on?

Why do people do stuff like this, at times like this?

I can’t speak for anybody else, but for me, the comparison of King’s vision to the real life Coronavirus pandemic was actually kind of comforting these 26 years after my initial exposure to the idea of a worldwide plague. In The Stand, the Captain Trips superflu got its world-ending work done in about two weeks, and by the time I’m typing this we’re already several weeks in, with several more to go.

I guess it’s sort of backwards to find comfort in the idea that we’re still probably closer to the beginning of this than the end, but at least this thing doesn’t seem likely to wipe society entirely off the map. At least we’ve got that, right?

I was texting with that friend from 1994 the other night and reminded him of that time I laid on his parents’ couch all night in total fear that I was gonna catch the bug (or worse, survive it) and we had a good laugh. That laugh felt good too.

Maybe all those other plague movies offer some level of comfort as well. I don’t know. Like I said, I haven’t seen them. And I don’t have anything particularly wise to say about how to deal with everything that’s going on right now. But I do know it’s important to escape every now and then — especially now that we’re all cooped up for the foreseeable future. So if you haven’t seen The Stand (or read the book, which I of course did shortly after the miniseries aired, and which of course ignited an even greater panic in my 14 year old brain) it’s a great way to kill a few hours that you’ll probably definitely have on your hands here shortly. If you’re into that sort of thing. Whatever floats your boat.


Gordon Anderson caught the swine flu in 2009 (for real!) and as such is an expert on global pandemics. Email any questions you might have to, and he will promptly forward them to someone who knows the answer.