Pandemics, Fictional and Otherwise

I just finished reading a novel about a pandemic written about twenty years before the onset of The Bob. It reminded me of the original prognostication about the death toll when the virus first showed up, and how over 80% of the world’s population was supposed to succumb. With so many people getting sick and with the death tolls still rising, I’m sure it feels that terrible to a lot of people (especially those who are sick themselves or have to deal with the death of a loved one), but that original estimate is upside down. 80% of the world’s population did not get infected. In fact, WHO says 90% did not get infected.

About 98% percent of the people who get infected recover, which means that a huge percentage of the world’s population didn’t die. (Less than two percent.)

Again, for those who got ill or know someone who did, these statistics seem a slap in the face because for them the percent was 100%, but the point I’m trying to make is that we are a far cry from an 80% fatality rate.

It’s almost impossible to imagine such a scenario (and it is understandable why leaders and health leaders freaked out about it), but I don’t have to imagine it because I just lived through such a pandemic in the book I mentioned. In fact, most books I have read with a pandemic theme were of that variety, where huge swaths of populations disappeared, and life would never be the same.

It will be interesting to see if there is any sociological residual to The Bob. There is what is called “the great resignation,” which seems to have come about because the momentum all the corporate drones and service workers and everyone else who did what they were supposed to do was broken, giving people time to think about what they really wanted. Or more probably, what they didn’t want. But for the most part, life seems to go on as before.

In novels about vast pandemics, life is unalterably changed. Oh, don’t get me wrong — I’m fine with the status quo (mine anyway) right now. I certainly wouldn’t want to put anyone through the horror of a broken civilization and bodies piled everywhere. (Or thrown in a pit, as I had my characters do in A Spark of Heavenly Fire.)

Still, it was interesting reading the book during this particular time. One thing I found interesting was the “blood passports.” There was no vaccine for this fictional plague, but people had to carry a small book that recorded their blood test results. Sound familiar? It was spooky in the book, and spooky in real life, where people need to show vaccine cards and test results before they can do group activities.

Luckily for me, I’m fine without concerts and major shopping expeditions and traveling. Quite frankly, you couldn’t pay me to get on an airplane right now, or ever again, actually.

So that’s my residual to The Bob — doing what comes naturally without any guilt.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.