With a killer flu sweeping the globe and forcing radical changes in everyday life, many people are thinking of Stephen King‘s The Stand. His story has some eerie parallels with our own, with King himself even saying he can’t help but be reminded of it.
In a new interview with Vanity Fair, he stated:
“When you hear reports that 100,000 or 240,000 people are going to die, you’ve got to take notice, and it is going to be bad. It’s bad right now. It’s brought the economy to a complete stop. In a lot of ways, I mean, you see the pictures of Times Square or London, and you say, ‘It really is like The Stand.’”
But King also says that the current situation is reminding him of another of his novels, specifically in how the Coronavirus lockdown is affecting him.
“I’m working on a book, so in the mornings I forget everything and I just do that. I wanted time to work on a book, I got plenty of time. I feel like Jack Torrance, for God’s sakes.”
Well, if all work and no play makes Stephen a dull boy, then whoever’s in lockdown with him had better watch their backs. But it isn’t all smooth-sailing for King. He recently explained in an interview with NPR that he’s had to rewrite parts of his next novel. Originally, it was set in 2020, but the Coronavirus has meant the plot simply wouldn’t make sense.
“I set [the novel I’m currently writing] in the year 2020 because I thought, ‘Okay, when I publish it, if it’s in 2021, it will be like in the past, safely in the past. And then this thing came along, and I immediately looked back through the copy that I’d written and I saw that one of the things that was going on was that two of my characters had gone on a cruise … and I thought, ‘Well, no, I don’t think anybody’s going on cruise ships this year.’ And so I looked at everything and I immediately set the book in 2019, where people could congregate and be together and the story would work because of that.”
I think King is limiting himself here. I’m sure there are many, many horror stories you could tell about passengers on a cruise holiday in 2020. But I will grant that it’d be difficult to crowbar the Coronavirus into an existing tale. It’s weird to think of now, but given the massive global impact of Coronavirus, any future project with scenes set around 2020 will have to incorporate it into its narrative. So, while all this will go away in time, expect it to be a part of our lives for decades to come.
In the meantime, the upcoming big-budget adaptation of The Stand has become incredibly topical. But after living through a pandemic, will audiences really want to entertain themselves by watching a fictional one? I guess we’re going to have to wait and see.