‘The sword is outside, and the plague and the famine are within. He who is in the field will die by the sword; famine and the plague will also consume those in the city.” Ezekiel 7.15
It has been a great year for Dean Koontz. His book, The Eyes of Darkness has bounced back up the bestseller list almost 40 years after it was first published.
Fan are saying that the book predicted the corona virus. The book does have seemed to eerily describe what we are now experiencing globally. “In around 2020 a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe…….”.
But is this the gift of foresight? Is prediction the right word? Or is it that writers do have an annoying habit of putting thoughts down on paper?
About two weeks before the outbreak of the Corona virus, I mentioned to a friend of mine that what the world needed was another outbreak of the Spanish flu. The world was far too over populated and nature needed to fight back.
By now most readers have been heard of this outbreak in 1918. It infected 500 million people globally and killed between an estimated 17 to 50 million people.
I really don’t know whether this means I am confirmation that writers have the gift of foresight or that just am a little bit more open to less popular ideas to where mankind is heading.
To be fair neither Dean Koontz or myself are the first to write in words the prophecy of plague and famine on society. The bible did that way before us.
And there is along list of writers after Ezekiel, Matthew, Revelations and others in the bible. (Depending on your philosophy writers interpreting the word of God.)
Albert Camus French Algerian writer and philosopher wrote The Plague. set in 1947 a book that relates the tale of a plague as the title clearly says in a French Algerian City of Oran. “Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”
It does seem inevitable that even when this virus has run its natural course. That it will not be the last outbreak of a virus. It can’t be. History show these things to tend to mutate and reappear when least expected.
In my life time there have been many such strange virus Ebola, SARS, Avian flu to name just three. And the thing that seems glaringly obvious is that its nature fighting back every time.
It is total madness to think that a world population of 7.8 billion could happily sustain itself without an outbreak of some form of virus or disease. We can’t continue like this thinking man can prolong life and continue breeding without ultimately destroying itself.
A writer who also tries to address this issue is Inferno by Dan Brown. To cut a long story short it involves bio terrorism in the form of DNA modification to cause infertility in one out of three humans. The virus has no cure, and even with future technology, changing the human genome back would be hazardous.
Again, I must confess I thought this would not be such a bad thing to happen.
And in Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone (1994) a non-fiction book which was made into a series in 2019 with the collaboration of National geographic, the writer investigates fatal or near fatal incidents with deadly viruses such as AIDS and Ebola.
This was a series I watched avidly, again because I wasn’t surprised at how easily it could jump from animals to humans. And I am not a scientist.
I am Legend, written in 1954 by Richard Matheson is a post-apocalyptic book that deals with the idea of a virus which is a mutation of what was developed to cure cancer. It goes on to virtually wipe mankind out.
So, although Dean Koontz fans seem to think he prophesised the Corona virus in his work. He has never been alone in putting the idea of mutating virus’s in to a book. I think the most pertinent part of his words are the lines. “Almost more baffling then the illness itself will be the fact that it will vanish as quickly as it arrived.”
It remains to be seen if this become true.
From my brief foray in to the world of plague stories I can only conclude that no, writers do not have the gift of prophecy merely the ability to write and to write about things that scare, enthral and reflect the world around us.
Some are so clever that they can apparently write about a disaster before it happens. But ultimately, we are dreamers and visionaries. And as Shakespeare so eloquently says in Hamlet – “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”