I made two mistakes when I started writing the novel Immunity Index.
The first mistake was to try “pantsing” as a writing technique — that is, to write from the seat of my pants rather than from a plan and an outline. While my first drafts are always shit (which does not make me at all like Hemingway in any other sense), this first draft was especially bad and required nine painful complete rewrites.
The second mistake was trying to tell a story set in the near future. Events in the future, like the things seen in a convex mirror, are closer than they appear.
This vision of the future, however, started back in the 1980s. As a newspaper reporter, I was covering news about AIDS, then a terrifying new disease. One evening, before a meeting, I was chatting with the Wisconsin state epidemiologist. He said that as bad as AIDS was, it could have been worse. He was a gay man, and we both knew that AIDS was already a disaster, and the disaster would keep growing.
He said, though, we were lucky that AIDS was only communicable, not actually contagious. Worse would have been a fatal illness that could be spread as easily as a cold.…
In 2018, I imagined a deadly, contagious coronavirus. It was fiction. Until it wasn’t.
My fictional story, though, is better than our shared reality. For one thing, the novel has a happy ending — and it has suspense, intrigue, adventure, and a woolly mammoth.