Author notes: Virulence

VirulenceI wrote the first draft of this story in 1999, after reading a few articles about a few cases of avian influenza in Hong Kong. At the time, the idea of influenza as a serious threat was so far from public consciousness that several critiques of the first draft struggled with the concept because infectious disease pandemics don’t happen anymore. I thought it was an odd statement at a time when HIV was giving the world its worst pandemic since the Black Death but it didn’t occur to me to challenge the obscurity of influenza as a global threat.

Through multiple rewrites, the story progressed along with my writing ability and the world progressed with it. By the time it was published in the much lamented Æon magazine, its original title of Pandemic had to be changed because the word had ceased to be an obscure technical term and become such a household word that it sounded bland. Meanwhile, ‘bird flu’ was discussed as the pending apocalypse.

I was working in Mindanao at the time so that was where I set the story, and there it stayed through multiple rewrites. I think the choice of setting was the wisest choice I made about the first draft, and one of very few things that didn’t get changed.


Virulence was published in ÆON #6, Mar 2006, which is no longer available. It is now available as part of the Steel in the Morning collection, and as a standalone from the Amazon Kindle store.


Cover by Manda Benson.

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