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Why a Virus? (Guest Post)

This content was originally posted on as part of the Shudder Blog Tour in 2013.

Originally, nuclear war was supposed to destroy the world. That seemed to me the most plausible way for the apocalypse in the Stitch Trilogy to come about. It’s a simple formula:

Overpopulation + Scarce Resources + Nuclear Weapons = End of Life As We Know It

We’re shuttling towards this eventuality every day in our own world, so it looked like a reasonable enough explanation. But when I did further research about how many bombs exactly it would take to knock the ecosystem of a planet like Earth completely off-balance, the answer was surprisingly comforting: way more than it’s likely we’d ever drop. Yay for humanity!

That’s not to say that nuclear war – and a resulting nuclear winter – isn’t a possibility. It’s just that in the Stitch Trilogy, world population didn’t just get severely reduced – it was completely and utterly decimated. And there’s only one thing that could effectively kill off 99.99% of the human population: a virus.

Think about it: globalization, air travel, a deadly disease that incubates in its host for a few days before showing any symptoms – it’s a recipe for disaster. If you’ve ever seen any zombie movie, then you understand how this works. And we see these types of epidemics – thankfully not on *quite* such a large scale – all the time already, with the annual flu hysteria, H1N1 and SARS, and smaller (but scarier) outbreaks of ebola and meningitis and cholera and plague.

And history has seen far worse. In 1918, influenza infected 500 million people – that was 25% of the world population at the time (though luckily – if you can call this lucky – only 75 million victims died). In the 14th century, the bubonic plague killed 30-60% of Europe’s population – imagine what could have happened if airplanes existed! Or don’t – you’ll just give yourself nightmares.

Viral pandemics are real, and they are scary. But what’s even scarier is that there are labs and research facilities experimenting with these deadly pathogens every day. All it would take is a single accident – one dangerous cell ending up in the hands of the wrong maniac – and the epidemic that ends the world could commence. One overtired researcher, one careless slip, one security breach – and we could all be dead within weeks.

And so this is the route I went with Stitch. Yes, overpopulation and scarce resources and nuclear war are still factors in that world, but they were only catalysts, destructive stepping stones that ultimately led to one catastrophic decision. And then a virus did all the rest – and a world much like our own was brought mercilessly to its knees.

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