The Scarlet Plague
The Scarlet Plague
“After the plague, civilization fell apart, and the few survivors, scattered in a primitive world, had to fight for survival, echoing Darwinian theories: “Civilization was crumbling, and it was each for himself”…
Jack London wrote science fiction?
In his The Scarlet Plague, it is the year 2073. Two figures, a boy and his grandfather, wearing animal skins, are walking through deep woods. Having fought off a starving bear, they come to a fire on the beach, where several boys sit watching their sheep. The old man asks for food. They harass him.
Finally, they ask him to tell his story about the past and the scarlet plague.
In the summer of 2013, rumors began that a new plague was killing people in New York.
People appeared not to be alarmed because they “were sure that the scientists would find a way to overcome this new germ, just as they had overcome other germs in the past.”
Those infected developed a scarlet rash, had convulsions, then became numb and died, their bodies decomposing almost immediately.
The entire process took as little as ten minutes.
Bacteriologists died even as they tried to find a vaccine.
People began dying by the millions. The plague finally reached San Francisco and mayhem broke out. The wealthy tried to flee the city and the poor murdered them and looted in revenge for their long oppression.
There was no means of communicating across the country or to other nations, since the fires set by looters consumed nearly every structure.
Society had been set back to a nomadic existence.
People ran away from cities in a blind panic:
“Thursday night the panic outrush for the country began. Imagine, my grandsons, people, thicker than the salmon-run you have seen on the Sacramento river, pouring out of the cities by millions, madly over the country, in vain attempt to escape the ubiquitous death. You see, they carried the germs with them. Even the airships of the rich, fleeing for mountain and desert fastnesses, carried the germs.”
Few writers have captured the living texture of life as well as Jack London. Masterworks of intricate creation, each has stood the test of time. He paints his descriptions of the vastness of nature, the high, red grasses, the endless wind on the plains, the open roads, the extreme poverty of the powerless, the lethal effects of plague, with strokes so vivid as to make us feel in our bones we've just come in from a walk on that very landscape ourselves.
JACK LONDON (1876-1916) was an activist, journalist, short-story writer, novelist, and one of the most widely translated of American authors. He was a child laborer in Oakland at 14, a Bay Area pirate at 15, a transcontinental hobo at 16, an able-bodied seaman at 17, a New York State prisoner at 18, a California ‘work beast’ at 20 and a Yukon prospector at 21. London published over 50 books, and is today most famous for The Sea Wolf, White Fang, The Call of the Wild, Martin Eden, The People of the Abyss, The Road, and John Barleycorn. His influence upon later American writers has been enormous, and continues to this day.