Tentatively, this autumn’s writing project (which I am beginning research on now because I dislike being caught on the hop) revolves around an extremely unpleasant fictional virus known as KBV (short for Konebogetvirus, following the tradition of viruses being named after where they are found or thought to have first broken out).
Designing a virus from scratch has involved a certain amount of probing to find out just what level of viral design is actually feasible, and whether or not anyone would really go about making something more dangerous than it already was.
“No” was the general conclusion.
Then Dr Kawaoka’s team at Wisconsin-Madison built an Avian flu strain out of other avian flus and mutated it deliberately to make it airborne, in a move that was apparently designed to make my novel more plausible, as well as make most of the public health and virology communities close ranks to unanimously shout “why the fuck would you do that are you nuts?”.
Having confirmed that it is both possible and apparently that there are people in the world mental enough to both do this thing and fund other people doing this incredibly dangerous and stupid thing, I shrugged and moved on to reading some science faction, or non-fiction sensation, or whatever you want to call The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. It’s a very famous book, and in addition to getting my bearings with regards to what Ebola is really like, I thought it might be a good idea to see what other books in the genre of “epidemic thriller” are like*.
It’s a fascinating and speedy read, with about the right level of dumbed-down for my poor arts grad brain to handle, and the right amount of extraneous character detail to make you even more tense that whoever is about to die at any minute. Ebola: gross and terrifying. An unusual and unpleasant family of viruses, but a distant worry given that there haven’t really been any serious outbreaks that I can remember in a whi–
Okay, I’ll just… hope that these parallels don’t continue, then, given that I’m currently reading The Demon In The Freezer (also by Richard Preston), which is in the process of making me as shit-scared of Variola (smallpox) as I am now of Ebola. If anyone hears about some instances of that getting out, don’t tell me, or I’m going to start feeling guilty…
* Which probably means I’m going to have to read The Andromedia Strain and I really don’t want to. I had my Michael Crichton phase for a few years after I saw Jurassic Park at the right age for it, and the thought of returning to it does not appeal.