11 votes

How well did sci-fi predict the details of this pandemic?

One of the favorite subjects of horror sci-fi — right up there with aliens, deadly asteroids and the machines taking over — has always been the deadly pandemic.

One of the things I'm surprised at, is how close so many of those old sci-fi books and movies were. No, there are no zombies (...yet), no enraged psycho-killer chimps ... but on so many of the basics — how it spreads, the incredibly widespread piles of misinformation, all the ancillary political BS, right along with the courageous healthcare workers and medical researchers out there on the front lines, battling for a cure before it's too late ...

and etc.

How about a discussion thread to compare and contrast what the sci-fi got right, and wrong?


ETA: Alternatively, if we've already had this conversation and I just missed it, somebody please point me in the right direction, and then never mind about this thread?

5 comments

  1. arp242
    (edited )
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    A lot of pandemic stories are about horrible deadly diseases, wiping out vast swaths of humanity or having similar profound impacts. The interesting thing about this one is that it's only a...

    A lot of pandemic stories are about horrible deadly diseases, wiping out vast swaths of humanity or having similar profound impacts. The interesting thing about this one is that it's only a slightly deadly one. We could, if we wanted to, simply accept the human cost and more or less continue with out lives as before with a fairly small impact on most of society (there would be some impact, but nowhere near that of most science-fiction stories). Not that I'm saying this would be the right thing to do (it's clearly not), just that we could if we wanted to do.

    This is also what makes it more susceptible to conspiracies and other bullshit. It would be kinda hard to deny the black death, but something which has mild (or even no) symptoms in much of the population and a ~1/2% casualty rate? Easy-peasy. Combine this with already high levels of politicalisation and bullshit in politics: and we are where we are.

    So what did science fiction "get wrong"? They made the pandemic worse than it actually would be, and paradoxically the political situation is worse because the pandemic isn't that bad.

    11 votes
  2. viridian
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    I can't make a sci-fi comparison, but I can compare it to The Plague by Albert Camus. The differences are pretty stark, the biggest one being that covid is so comparatively mild versus a modified...

    I can't make a sci-fi comparison, but I can compare it to The Plague by Albert Camus. The differences are pretty stark, the biggest one being that covid is so comparatively mild versus a modified strain of bubonic plague, that the conditions they create are wildly different. That said, I do think the book does a great job of capturing a lot of the mentality that goes into living under lockdown, except we aren't in desperate need of recruiting volunteers to handle large scale transport of infected folks, and disposal of bodies. My guess is that a covid type pandemic isn't as popular a topic of authorship because it's not obviously catastrophic enough to explore in fiction versus something like the plague proper, where you have 30% of infectees dead within 48 hours, and another 40% dying in the following days or weeks.

    6 votes
  3. Autoxidation
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    Not sure it is what you meant by scifi, but Contagion (2011) seemed to hit pretty close, though definitely overestimated the competency of the US government in their response.

    Not sure it is what you meant by scifi, but Contagion (2011) seemed to hit pretty close, though definitely overestimated the competency of the US government in their response.

    5 votes
  4. [2]
    drannex
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    Most gave themselves a competent national leader, sadly it appears they were wrong on that avenue for atleast the US and UK (Except for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon is doing wonderfully as FM, with...

    Most gave themselves a competent national leader, sadly it appears they were wrong on that avenue for atleast the US and UK (Except for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon is doing wonderfully as FM, with no marks to be awarded to Boris).

    3 votes
    1. Eric_the_Cerise
      Link Parent
      But how does this compare/contrast to any sci-fi you've seen and/or read on the subject?

      But how does this compare/contrast to any sci-fi you've seen and/or read on the subject?

      1 vote