Call for Papers Vol.4: The Day That Coronavirus Stopped the World!

Published 20/05/18

What Do We Learn About Pandemics in Science Fiction Stories?

The Day that Coronavirus Stopped the World: What Do We Learn About Pandemics in Science Fiction Stories?

 We can’t say we weren’t warned. For decades now science fiction authors have been playing around with an enormous variety of pandemic scenarios. While some stories focus on attempts to avert them, many explore their catastrophic consequences, or the plight of victims and survivors in-between, and the ways in which the most trivial daily routines and the simple facts of life we take for granted may be critically, perhaps permanently disrupted. There’s the odd case (as in Wells’ War of the Worlds) in which an endemic virus turns up to be a savior, and there’s also the eerily prophetic (Brooks’ World War Z places the beginning of its pandemic a mere 300 km from Wuhan, before quickly spreading around the world). Beyond their occasional ability to anticipate some of the factual elements of the present pandemic, though, this volume invites us to reflect on the deeper lessons of science fiction stories, and how they help us illuminate philosophically our present times.

 Possible prompts and topics for reflection:

  • Governmental and institutional preparedness in times of crisis: how is the preparedness/ unpreparedness of governmental institutions reflected and explained in SF stories?
  • Human resilience: how does humanity cope with deep, global-scale life-affecting crises?
  • Ethics on the brink: what is the appropriate response when the institutions of civilization collapse and individual survival is threatened?
  • Disease and exclusion: how do responses to pandemic scenarios exclude minorities and the disabled? What about the exclusion of the diseased themselves? How is disease used as a metaphor to justify other forms of exclusion? What do we learn in reverse scenarios, in which population-wide incidents have normalized disability?
  • Contagion and human relations: how does the possibility of contagion (literal or metaphorical) corrode human relationships? How does it affect friendship, loyalty, trust in others and in oneself?
  • “Social distancing” and physical presence: how is civilization envisioned, and what may be lost if (as in Asimov’s The Naked Sun, for non-medical reasons) social distancing and online relations become the norm, while physical presence becomes taboo? Are we heading in that direction already?

The deadline for the first round of reviews is August 15, 2020.

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