“Stephen King didn’t call his novel The Virus. He didn’t call it The Disease or The End of the World As We Know It or anything that nihilistic. He wanted his 1978 book about a global pandemic that takes all but a fraction of human life with it to be called The Stand. When there are no rules, his thinking went, survivors have to make a choice: Do you go full Darwin and indulge dark, selfish instincts or do what’s right for the sake of others? ‘I wanted to write about bravery,’ says King. ‘At some point, people do have to make a stand.'” —Anthony Breznican, Vanity Fair
We debated the topic of viruses because this year has been unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. There has been suffering, loss, and devastation to families and businesses and countries. We would never want to exploit that or be insensitive to the pain of others. However, the entire world has come together in new ways, and it seems a shame not to acknowledge that either.
Ultimately, because stories are some of the best ways to heal, connect with others, process our own emotions, and remember the nuances of unique times and places, we decided to move ahead.
So without further ado…
The Year of the Virus.*
This year we’ve seen unprecedented new ways of life: long-term school and business closures; social distancing, both with stay-at-home orders and standing six feet apart in public; wearing masks in stores; World leaders “joking” about drinking disinfectants. Theories about test-tube diseases. It’s been a time of economic collapse, heartbreaking losses, protests, racism, partisanism, and conspiracy theories galore. It’s the straight-up drama stories are made of.
And while this one is very personal and hits close to home for all of us, people cope through stories, and literature’s fixation on viruses and communicable disease has a long history.
From Poe’s plague in “The Masque of the Red Death” with allegories about life, death, and wealth, to The War of the Worlds’ epic ending in which the invasion fails because Earth’s germs attack alien systems, I am Legend dabbling in bad vampires and blood-borne bacteria, and Love in the Time of Cholera comparing literal disease to love and passion.
In literature and pop culture, we’re obsessed with pandemics. The fear of the unknown is almost palpable. With COVID, most of us have experienced loss in some form, whether it’s a loved one, a job, or our sense of stability. And like the interconnected transportation systems that allowed a spread at this scale, our digital age provides a network that easily transmits digital viruses as well.
The Matrix’s Agent Smith compares the spread of humans to an all-consuming virus while replicating himself to take over the Matix, much like the virus he accuses mankind of being. Independence Day’s hero uploads a virus to take out the mothership and save Earth. And our own lives are full of election tampering, malware, spyware, Trojan Horses, and any number of viruses specifically designed to damage systems.
From 28 Days Later’s chimps with the “Rage Virus,” World War Z’s lethal virus turning people into unthinking, biting, feral creatures, and Contagion’s heartbreaking look at a modern, worldwide pandemic, to The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, and The Stand by Stephen King, viruses are all around us, medically, digitally and otherwise.
Viruses are not new to life or literature. But the ways we experience them are always evolving.
Join us as we explore love and loss, passion and betrayal, fear and panic, togetherness and separation, community and isolation within viruses of all varieties—real and imagined.
*Working title. Final title to be determined.
- Submissions will be accepted June 10th – July 10th.
- We love all genres. We’re looking for anything with great storytelling and a tie to the theme. To see how the different genres come together in fun ways, check out any of our previous anthologies.
- Stories should be new and NOT published elsewhere.
- Stories should be less than 7,500 words.
- Simultaneous submissions are accepted.
- Entrants should be 18 years or older.
- Authors will be notified of acceptance or pass between July 11th and 25th. We’ll read everything first before any notifications are sent.
- The anthology will be published in October 2020.
- Authors selected for the anthology will be paid $50 & receive one print copy of the finished book.
- If we are interested in your story, we will send you a contract and additional details about edits, payment, and final due dates.
Send entries to firstname.lastname@example.org as a Word attachment with Year of the Virus in the subject line, and we will respond between July 11th and 25th. We look forward to hearing from you!
Past anthology themes: