Communion Of Dreams

Welcome our old friend, the Plague.
May 22, 2007, 12:10 pm
Filed under: Flu, General Musings, Pandemic, Plague, Predictions, Science Fiction, Society

We, as a species, have already experienced pandemics countless times. And we have seen pandemics alter or almost wipe out entire advanced civilizations many times in recorded history. There’s the impact of the Black Death in Europe during the 14th century, which killed off about one-third of the population and arguably lead to the destruction of the feudal system. And the collapse of native American culture due to smallpox being introduced to a vulnerable population. And to a greatly lesser extent, but closer to our own society, is the Spanish Flu of 1918, which I used as a starting point for considering the potential of the fire-flu in Communion of Dreams.

Via today’s Rude Pundit, comes word of the advent of our old friend, the plague – this time occuring in squirrels and monkeys in Denver:

The point here is not that the plague is “back” or any such shit. We know that it never goes away in America, especially out on the flea-ridden varmints of the West. But there’s a reason that Spanky’s story is getting more play than the fact that New Mexico had its first plague case this year, a man who got it from, of course, a flea bite. It’s because as long as the plague stays rural, it’s distant, it’s not a cause of concern to the majority of us who stay esconced in our cities. But if Denver’s puss-squirting squirrels are dropping like flies and killing the zoo monkeys, well, shit, all of a sudden the plague is very fuckin’ real. And Colorado’s gotta do something about it before some white child gets it.

I mention this for several reasons. One, I just like the Rude Pundit’s blog. Two, he’s right about the plague never really going away – it is endemic among several animal populations, which function as a disease reservior (and a great place for mutations to occur). Three, he highlights the fundamental problem: we ignore the threat until it suddenly shows up on our doorstep.

And then it is potentially too late. Yeah, modern antibiotics can treat most forms of the plague known. But all it takes is one nasty mutation, and we may well be left defenseless against this old enemy. In fact, I considered using the Bubonic Plague just that way, rather than going with the “fire-flu”. But even in a worst case scenario, plague would still likely respond to broad-spectrum antibiotics. I decided for my book to go with something viral, since modern medicine has many fewer tools to cope with such a threat.

Besides, in the event of a pandemic such as I stipulate for Communion‘s history, we will undoubtably see the re-emergence of many different secondary epidemics, as the infrastructure of our highly interdependent society grinds to a halt. Charming thought, eh?

Jim Downey

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[…] 31st, 2007 In this post from last week, I talked about the relevant issues confronting us with pandemic threats such as the […]

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