Writing The Pandemic Through SciFi: Plague Tales (Online seminar)
March 6 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
One event on March 7, 2021 at 1:00 pm
Instructor: Warren Rochelle
$60 Members | $65 Nonmembers
Session One: Saturday, March 6, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Session Two: Sunday, March 7, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Imaginative responses to the pandemic are beginning to appear. But plague literature, plague fiction, has been around for a long time. Boccacio writes about the Black Death in The Decameron in 1349-1353. In 1722, Daniel Defoe published A Journal of the Plague Year, “the account of one man’s experience of the year 1665, when the bubonic plague struck the city of London …” Plague stories have become a subgenre of science fiction that takes us to the apocalypse and the wreckage thereafter. Zombie tales, such as the TV show (originally a comic) The Walking Dead, are prime examples of plague to apocalypse.
In this seminar, I want us to reflect on some of the contemporary plague fiction and consider what makes such stories popular, and how they do or do not help us make sense of the pandemic. What do they say about being human? For example, what does it say about us that we have intentionally spread disease in the past. If we made one …We will discuss some of the conventions of this subgenre and students will have the opportunity to write their own and share and discuss it with the class.
My goal for students is that they will come away from the seminar with one or more of the following:
• a working outline;
• some understanding of how plague/pandemic fiction can best function and be successful;
• a beginning to a story.
Students are encouraged, but not required, to read one of the following before class starts. Please note this list is but the tip of the iceberg of what’s out there. My first novel (out of print, alas), The Wild Boy,is set in a post-apocalyptic world after aliens bring AIDS and make it airborne and more virulent. Please feel free to read/see a story or novel or movie or program not listed here. All books listed should be available via Amazon. You could also try Barnes & Noble (online or the store, or Kobo or support our local bookstore New Dominion Bookshop.
YA = Young Adult audience
Bradbury, Ray. “The City,” short story in his collection, The Illustrated Man. 1951
Christopher, John. Empty World. 1977, YA.
Ehrenhaft, Daniel, The Last Dog on Earth, 2003. YA
King, Stephen. The Stand, 1978. Pretty long. Also a TV mini-series.
Miller, Thomas. The Last Town on Earth, 2006, about 1918 Spanish flu.
Poe, Edgar Allan, “The Mask of the Red Death,” in The Mask of the Red Death & Other Tales of Disease, Pestilence, & Plague. 2020, originally published in 1842
St. John Mandel, Emily. Station Eleven, 2014, relatively short, a quick read.
Taylor, Keith. This is the Way the World Ends: An Oral History of the Zombie War. 2007
World War Z DVD via Amazon, or movie via Prime Video.
Stewart, George R. Earth Abides, 1949.
Warren Rochelle lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, and has just retired from teaching English at the University of Mary Washington. His short fiction and poetry have been published in such journals and anthologies as Icarus, North Carolina Literary Review, Forbidden Lines, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Collective Fallout, Queer Fish 2, Empty Oaks, Quantum Fairy Tales, Migration, The Silver Gryphon, Jaelle Her Book, Colonnades, and Graffiti, as well as the Asheville Poetry Review, GW Magazine, Crucible, The Charlotte Poetry Review, and Romance and Beyond. He had also published a critical work on Ursula K. LeGuin and academic criticism of speculative fiction in various journals.
His short story, “The Golden Boy,” was a finalist for the 2004 Spectrum Award for Short Fiction. His short story “Mirrors,” was published in Under A Green Rose, a queering romance anthology, from Cuil Press. “The Latest Thing,” a flash fiction story, was published in the Queer Sci Fi anthology, Innovation in 2020.
Rochelle is also the author of four novels: The Wild Boy (2001), Harvest of Changelings (2007), and The Called (2010), all published by Golden Gryphon Press, and The Werewolf and His Boy, published by Samhain Publishing in September 2016. The Werewolf and His Boy was re-released from JMS Books in August 2020. The Wicked Stepbrother and Other Stories was published by JMS Books in late September 2020.
He is presently working on a novella continuing one of the stories in his collection. He wanted to know what happened next.