The Virus Thing

Little did I realize that The Virus Thing would soon have an effect here and around the globe in a way that feels like it came from the pages of Williamson’s Thirst.
on Mar 16, 2020 · 5 comments

I don’t mean to sound flippant, but the name for the virus which is spreading faster than we’d like, and which has caused a number of head-turning closures—like March Madness and the NBA, the end of MLB Spring Training, schools in upwards of 30 different states, and any number of churches—the name of this thing is a bit long and the shortened version is not easy to remember (at least not for me, largely because I’m not that great with names, I guess.) So I’m settling on The Virus Thing.

I know for some people the quick spreading, deadly illness can be quite fearful. That’s why stores have sold out of things like sanitizer and sanitary wipes and health masks. Why the run on toilet paper, is another topic for another time, but I guess it does illustrate what fearful people will do. No logic to is, but everyone else is buying it up, so I’d better buy it up too.

And then there are the get-rich-at-everyone-else’s-expense schemers who an unverified report claims, are now selling the hoarded toilet paper on eBay for an exorbitant price. Such is the way fear can dictate society’s reaction to a widespread danger.

As it happens, speculative author Jill Williamson just released a novel in November, 2019, that now feels eerily spot on. Thirst is a prequel to her dystopian series, The Safe Lands, in essence explaining how the world got the way it was when the first novel in the series, Captives, opens.

Back in January I featured Thirst in one of our Fiction Friday segments.

Little did I realize that The Virus Thing would soon have an effect here and around the globe in a way that feels like it came from the pages of that book. Especially this part from the back cover copy:

Desperation brings out the worst in many of the travelers, infecting even those closest to Eli. When division comes, will he be able to hold his group together or will each fall victim to their own thirst for survival?

Of course we haven’t seen desperation bring out the worst yet. Just the crazy. (Toilet paper?? I can’t get over that one. As if having lots of toilet paper will safeguard anyone from a virus!)

Maybe that’s because no one actually, really is desperate. They just want to hedge things against desperation now while they can.

I’m not saying we are anywhere close to experiencing events such as the characters in Jill’s novel experienced, but it is a good study of society and how quickly order can descend into chaos.

I’m not saying that’s where we’re headed at this time either. I just think it feels eerily prescient that Jill wrote Thirst months before The Virus Thing broke out.

In all this public reaction to our current situation, I think a couple things remain clear:

  1. Christians should behave in a way that marks us as Christians. We should still be kind to our neighbor, to the people in the never-ending grocery line.
  2. We should resist the urge to take over for God. We can’t hedge ourselves against death. Our times are in God’s hands. Buying extra canned goods will not extend our lives a single day beyond God’s plan for our lives.
  3. We should remember that God is faithful, not just in good times. He is faithful even when the storm swamps the boat, even when we’re pushed into the fiery furnace, even when we’re trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army. He’s faithful when we face a giant and all we have is a sling.

For the sake of Spec Faith, I couldn’t help but point out that speculative fiction is a great source for understanding the “what if’s” of life. Jill’s story gives us a window into our society as we face a new uncertainty. Well, new to us. A century ago people dealt with influenza, pre-antibiotics, and  that must have been very hard and frightening. In centuries before that, people faced the Black Plague and Cholera and other diseases that took thousands of lives.

But in the 21st century, dealing with a quick-spreading disease that has no specific drug that will arrest it, is new ground.

Reactions vary from those who hoard, and those who mock, to those who go on as if nothing has changed. I guess I lean toward the latter. Sure, families have new challenges—with kids home from school and various meetings and conferences cancelled. I definitely don’t think we should be in panic mode, but I also think we need a bit of generous respect when it comes to taking health precautions.

Now is the time to be good neighbors, to show kindness, to stay connected (and we are blessed with so many ways of staying connected electronically), and to pray.

That’s probably the most important thing Christians can do. That and speak the truth about who God is, about how important it is to keep our eyes fixed on the One who holds us in His hand.

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.
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  1. We have been called a “culture of death” but really we’re death deniers. People seem to imagine that if the virus doesn’t kill them–and it is not the Bubonic Plague–they’ll live forever. Our only hope is in the Cross. If we believe in the Resurrection and the Life, even if we die we shall live.

  2. Awesome article Rebecca. Your insight as always is spot on.

  3. James Turk says:


  4. Brenna says:

    Thank you for this rational, Christ-centered post in the midst of the craziness. I’m a cashier at a grocery store, so the past several days have been exhausting. And as I have told my family in no uncertain terms, “I don’t want to talk about toilet paper!”

    But what doesn’t kill you is potential writing inspiration. 🙂

  5. When it comes to this issue…some people are definitely going overboard, trying to fight each other over toilet paper and whatnot. And there are probably people that buy up extra food just because everyone else is. But a lot of people have valid reason to buy up a little extra right now, and it is prudent to do so. If people are going to be quarantined for three weeks or more, obviously they need to stock up. And even if someone isn’t going to be in quarantine, the fact that all the products at the store are being bought up means they should get one or two extra copies of basic necessities, otherwise they might not be available when they need them.

    It’s somewhat annoying that some people seem to look down on anyone that stocks up when there are actual valid reasons in this case. Also…I find it funny that we as a society look at prepping as crazy, and some people almost seem to take pride in NOT preparing for/reacting to disasters unless the danger starts to feel very direct to them. But now, although we’re nowhere near apocalyptic levels of disaster, people are willing to start some basic prepping stuff(like buying extra food and supplies) and feel worried when they can’t do so. I’m not really a prepper, but there are still some common sense things that people should do. So, yeah, people shouldn’t panic, but they shouldn’t criticize others for buying a few extra week’s worth of supplies when there’s plenty of valid reasons to do so right now.

    Eh, I dunno. There’s been a variety of reactions to this disease and it’s been interesting to watch.

What do you think?