Look, we’re all a little tense right now—torn between an overwhelming urge to panic and a Marie Kondo-like desire to transform our cells apartments into individualized oases of calm. It’s only natural that in our dread-sodden solitude we become susceptible to extreme mood swings.
Spare a thought then, for horror master Stephen King, whose 1978 post-apocalyptic fantasy/horror opus The Stand has become the contemporary novel most frequently invoked in this, the Age of Coronavirus. The Stand centers on a pandemic of a weaponized strain of influenza that kills 99.4% the world’s population. The scattering of survivors are left to form factions, establish a new social order, and ultimately wage war against one another amid the wreckage of a fallen United States.
It seems, however, as if King is in two minds about the appropriateness and/or efficacy of comparing our current predicament to that of Mother Abigail, Randall Flagg, and the other survivors of the deadly Blue Virus (aka “Captain Trips”).
On March 8, 2020 (approximately one hundred years ago), King tweeted the following:
No, coronavirus is NOT like THE STAND. It’s not anywhere near as serious. It’s eminently survivable. Keep calm and take all reasonable precautions.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) March 8, 2020
Then, on Monday, came this chilling, and somewhat contradictory, follow-up:
Chapter 8 of THE STAND. This is how it works. Heed. (But remember COID-19 is not as lethal as the superflu.)https://t.co/yqvwbjoVMs
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) March 22, 2020
So which is it, Stephen? Should we keep calm and carry on amid these daily portents of doom, or is it time to heed the the warning of The Stand and, in the words of Kent Brockman, crack each other’s heads open and feast on the goo inside?