As a biological and microbial horror author, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t have something to say about the coronavirus.
Worrisome though it may be, COVID-19 is still less dangerous than a slew of other illnesses teeming around the world as we speak. Indeed, despite its seemingly higher mortality rate (which many experts think might actually be much lower due to many undiagnosed milder cases), it would take a lot for this virus to surpass even influenza’s yearly death toll—a disease we rarely fear—much less malaria’s.
While it’s possible things may change, even in the case of a global pandemic it’s probable that only a fraction of the population will catch the bug, the vast majority of whom will come out healthy on the other side. As with any disease, the greatest risk falls on seniors and those with compromised immune systems, and it’s for them we should be taking the necessary governmental and personal precautions to avoid spreading this—or any other—illness.
However, the point of this post isn’t to discuss the virus, it’s to shed light (shed dark?) on the behavior of certain folks in response to the news.
One would think horror writers such as myself—particularly ones who write about disease—would be gleeful over the latest outbreak, as it provides new source material and a vindication of our not-so-subtle warnings over the years to better prepare for these inevitable threats. Not so, however. Quite to the contrary, in fact.
While I obviously can’t speak for all horror authors, I know that the vast majority of us write horror not because we enjoy suffering and want to see more of it, but because we’re sensitive to life’s shadow and seek a way to sanely process it. Indeed, I haven’t seen a single horror writer online attempting to fan the flames of hysteria regarding the current outbreak.
But then there are the ghouls. These folks aren’t fiction writers, of course, as they have no useful insight on the human condition worth communicating. Instead, they seek attention by deliberately stoking fear through the spread of false information, apocalyptic opinion-making, and/or political gamesmanship. It’s one thing to crack jokes in an attempt to lighten the mood, but these disturbed folks only seek to darken it.
Personally, I loathe the behavior of these ghouls, and I have confronted several of them online in an attempt to get them to see how irresponsible—and downright harmful—their figurative shit-spewing truly is. More often than not, they are so unhappy with their lives their only solace comes from spreading their misery around. When they hear about a new outbreak, it’s almost as if a part of them actually WANTS it to turn into a deadly pandemic. These people exemplify the worst of human nature and I am nearly sickened (pun intended) every time I see their antics on display.
Nothing is more contagious than fear. The ghouls wield that powerful emotion recklessly with no intention other than to harm. But a skillful horror writer can harness it to get us to prepare—both psychologically and otherwise—for nature’s inevitable dark turns and show us how to make it safely back into the light.