Charts & Graphs

Novel Threats

Fictional plagues in literature.

  • JL3

    René Barjavel, The Immortals

    An airborne virus that stops the aging process and confers immunity to all other diseases, including cancer, renders the inhabitants of a remote island who contract it effectively immortal.


    Walter M. Miller Jr., “Dark Benediction”

    An extraterrestrial pathogen gives its human hosts gray skin, superior intelligence, and an irresistible urge to hunt down and forcibly infect other people by touching them.


    José Saramago, Blindness

    The complete loss of vision caused by this disease turns out to be reversible, unlike the violence civilians commit against one another as society crumbles into mayhem.


    George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire

    The disfiguring skin infection is rarely fatal in children, but for adults the only hope for survival is immediate amputation of any limb exhibiting a cold, tingling rash.


    Ling Ma, Severance

    Named for Shenzhen, the global economic center where cases are first detected, the fungal disease initially acts like a cold but soon attacks the brain, turning victims into harmless zombies who slowly starve to death.


    Margaret Atwood, MaddAddam Trilogy

    After wiping out most of humanity, an alarming Ebola-like illness turns out to be not a contagious disease but a pharmaceutical bioweapon disguised as a popular sex-enhancement drug.


    Edgar Allan Poe, “The Masque of the Red Death

    “No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous,” Poe writes of the inescapable plague that causes death by “profuse bleeding at the pores” a half hour after infection.


    Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain

    Just as scientists believe they’ve learned how to defeat an alien pathogen that solidifies victims’ blood, a series of mutations leaves it capable of dissolving entire spacecrafts.

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