Infectious Fiction #4
This is the Fourth Post of our list of fivefold 19 works — mostly science fiction, fantasy and horror — dealing with viruses, epidemics and pandemics.
And how can this not remind us of the legendary Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, the massive cross-title work he created at DC Comics after he left Marvel.
KIrby is widely recognized as one of comics most influential creators. At Marvel and its predecessor, he created or co-created Captain America, Black Panther, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Hulk and Iron Man. And at DC, he created the New Gods of the Fourth World.
According to Brent Staples of the New York Times:
[KIrby] created a new grammar of storytelling and a cinematic style of motion. Once-wooden characters cascaded from one frame to another—or even from page to page—threatening to fall right out of the book into the reader’s lap. The force of punches thrown was visibly and explosively evident. Even at rest, a Kirby character pulsed with tension and energy in a way that makes movie versions of the same characters seem static by comparison.
KIrby’s Fourth World was not a work linked to indigenous people, nor to underdeveloped, poverty-stricken, marginalized regions of the world. Rather it was primarily about two worlds, one good and one evil, which arose after the Ragnarok of Norse mythology. Apokolips is ruled by the evil Darkseid, who seeks the Anti-Life Equation which would allow him to control the thoughts of other beings. His primary opponent is his birth son Orion, raised by the good Highfather on the planet New Genesis. War breaks out between Apokolips and New Genesis and carries over to Earth.
The Fourth World saga started in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen and continued in The Forever People, Mister Miracle and The New Gods. Kirby intended to conclude the saga with the graphic novel The Hunger Dogs, but DC continued the characters long after the publication of the novel and even Kirby’s death in 1994.
“[M]y characters have hope. Hope is the thing that’ll take us through.” Jack Kirby
If you find reprints of Kirby’s work a bit pricey, you instead might consider reading these books published between the years 2005 and 2007, linked predominately to our independent community bookstore, Watchung Booksellers of Montclair, New Jersey. (The first, second and third posts were to works published from 2008 to 2020.)
Plague Year by Jeff Carlson. 2007. In the California Sierras, above a plague’s high-water mark, a small group of survivors eke out a desperate living, turning to cannibalism for survival.
Germ by Robert Liparulo. 2007. An Ebola virus that can seek and destroy specific individuals by matching their DNA.
World War Z by Max Brooks. 2006. A collection of individual accounts narrated by an agent of the UN Postwar Commission, following the devastating global conflict against the zombie plague.
The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen. 2006. The novel explores events in the fictional town of Commonwealth during World War I and the Spanish flu epidemic.
The Flu by Jacqueline Druga. 2006. Mutated and with a vengeance, the Spanish Flu returns. In a world blackened with plague, a glimmer of light exists in the small town of Lodi, Ohio.
The Children’s Hospital by Chris Adrian. 2006. People develop a sickness termed “the Botch,” which manifests differently in each patient.
The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs by Irvine Welsh. 2006. When his nemesis contracts a horrific, undiagnosable illness, Skinner understands that his destiny is inextricably bound to that of his hated rival, and he is faced with a terrible dilemma.
Transmission by Hari Kunzru. 2005. A naïve programmer emigrates to the US in hopes of making his fortune. When he is laid off by his virus-testing company, he sends out e-mails containing a malignant computer virus in a bid to keep his job, unintentionally causing global havoc.
Black Hole by Charles Burns. 2005. A sexually transmitted disease that causes grotesque mutations in teenagers.
Sources: Bookshop Blog, Electric Literature, Entertainment, Esquire, Haaretz, Headstuff, iNews, New York Times, Penguin Random House, The Star, Vanity Fair, The Virology Bookshop, Vulture, What Should I Read Next?