I did a history of epidemiology course as part of my history of science MA–it was the history of how medicine has learned to track, control, and prevent the spread of disease. We talked about some of these earlier epidemics and it was scary stuff. The best that medicine had to offer in each era was essentially useless in the face of these diseases. People dropping dead in the millions and no one could explain how or why, or what to do about it.
But, unlike them, this COVID-19 outbreak is the first pandemic that we as a species have the power to control and minimize.
Think of that! No generation of humans has ever been able to say the same thing. No generation before us has had the technical and scientific knowledge to identify and combat a plague in such swift fashion, nor the instantaneous communication and coordination abilities that we have to institute meaningful quarantine and isolation on a global scale.
We were alerted to this plague early. Our experience fighting SARS, that could-have-been-pandemic, helped us. We know what it is that we’re up against. We know how it spreads and how we can avoid it. We’re already trialling vaccines and antiviral drug therapies within THREE MONTHS of this thing first appearing. No other generation before us could say any of that about the pestilences that from time to time appeared, like a rider on a pale horse, and cut down great swaths of people.
I know that being cooped up for weeks or months sucks (I’m here with three little kids, believe me, I GET IT). But you’ll notice that right now COVID-19 is a little speck on that graphic, less than a pinhead in comparison to past pandemics. The sacrifices you make now by isolating and social distancing, by working from home and following the advice of medical experts–all those little things are what will help keep that tiny speck from becoming one of those giant, catastrophic blobs we see depicted in other eras for other pandemics.
It’s that time of year again: speculative fiction award season!
Calling all Canadians: Aurora Award nominations–the top Canadian prize in speculative fiction–are now open (until May 26), and if you’d like to support me then I hope you’ll consider nominating “The Waxing Disquiet” from me and co-author Tony Pi, eligible for Best Short Fiction. You can read it here for free until nominations close.
And if you’re not Canadian, well, feel free to read it anyway! Tony and I are quite proud of our beeswax-and-candle-punk tale 🙂
“The Waxing Disquiet” originally appeared in Deep Magic (June 2017).
Thanks to my co-author Tony Pi for the head’s-up about the first review of our story “The Waxing Disquiet,” which appeared last month in Deep Magic.
The Waxing Quiet, by Tony Pi & Stephen Kotowych in Deep Magic. “He retreated to the calculation antechamber, where the tallylooms worked unceasingly. Click-clack went the wooden hooks, tying knots in the coarse hemp twine, the knot-history of their answers.” Fate and faith are at the center of this story, set in a society where a complex loom is used to determine which decisions are the right ones: for the society as a whole, and for individuals. The loom itself is a breathtaking piece of imagined technology, and I love the way the organization of the society uses concepts and terminology from bees and bee-keeping. A uniquely imagined world, and I’ll be thinking about that loom for a while…
Thanks to Maria Haskins for the shout-out–we’re glad she liked the story!
Very pleased to announce that “The Waxing Disquiet”, a collaboration with Tony Pi, has sold to Deep Magic. It should appear in that magazine’s June issue.
This is the first collaboration for Tony and I, though we’ve known each other for more than ten years, including belonging to The Stop-Watch Gang writer’s group.
“The Waxing Disquiet” is set in a low-metal civilization built around hive-pyramids, bee-keeping, and the candle-and-waterworks-powered tallyloom computers that direct and order the society.
It was a lot of fun writing collaboratively with Tony. We both really loved this world, and I hope its one we can return to again soon.
And as it happens, Tony was able to arrange for a class of University of Toronto mechanical engineers to use the tallyloom idea as the basis for their year-end projects. Several teams actually built tallying machines that used only wood, water, wax, and weights to operate. It was very cool to see something you wrote about come to life like that!
A pair of NASA space probes have detected an artificial bubble around Earth that forms when radio communications from the ground interact with high-energy radiation particles in space, the agency announced this week. The bubble forms a protective barrier around Earth, shielding the planet from potentially dangerous space weather, like solar flares and other ejections from the sun.
This bubble is caused by human use of very-low frequency (VLF) radio waves. The observations suggest that the VLF waves can push radiation particles away, since the Van Allen belts (naturally occurring bands of charged particles that surround the Earth) are much further from Earth now than in the 1960s, when we sent fewer VLF transmissions.