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SYFY WIRE coronavirus

Stephen King explains how coronavirus pandemic led to a change in his next book

By Matthew Jackson
Stephen King

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to alter daily life around the world, every profession is affected in its own way, even those jobs that are usually done from the comfort of your own home. Take, for example, novelists. Sure, you can still write if you're forced to stay in your house all day; in fact, you might actually have more time while you're social distancing than you would otherwise. But how do you stay productive when the world outside your window is so uncertain and scary? And perhaps more importantly, if you are productive, how do you adjust your present-day novel to the new reality of the world? 

That's a struggle that even Stephen King has had to deal with. The master of horror is making the interview rounds this week to promote his upcoming novella collection If It Bleeds, and in a conversation with NPR King revealed that he's had to make some changes to a novel he's working on right now because, thanks to the pandemic, his setting no longer made a lot of sense.

"I set [the book I'm working on] in the year 2020 because I thought, 'OK, when I publish it, if it's in 2021, it will be like in the past, safely in the past.' And then this thing came along, and I immediately looked back through the copy that I'd written and I saw that one of the things that was going on was that two of my characters had gone on a cruise. ... And I thought, 'Well, no, I don't think anybody's going on cruise ships this year.' And so I looked at everything and I immediately set the book in 2019, where people could congregate and be together and the story would work because of that."

King is certainly far from the only working novelist out there having to make changes to works in progress because of the pandemic, and in the end he might be thankful that all he had to do was tweak his timeline a little bit. While he's certainly not alone in the way the pandemic seems to be touching his work, King's particular brand of fear also seems to be looming particularly large in the public imagination at the moment. One of his most famous works, The Stand, is a sweeping tale of an America decimated by a pandemic, after all. With that in mind, he knows what you're thinking, and he's got a very simple response. 

"I keep having people say, 'Gee, it's like we're living in a Stephen King story,'" he said. "And my only response to that is, 'I'm sorry.'"

If It Bleeds, King's first collection since The Bazaar of Bad Dreams five years ago, features four new novellas, including stories focused on private investigator Holly Gibney, who was recently seen onscreen in the HBO adaptation of The Outsider. The book hits stores April 21.