Why Stephen King Is Saying ‘Sorry’ to Some of His Fans

Stephen King is a horror guru, and he’s known for his writing some of the most terrifying stories in modern literature. But now, as the world faces the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, some can’t help but compare it to his 1978 novel, The Stand.  Now, to those who feel like they’re living in a King story, the author says he’s “sorry.” 

Stephen King on 'Good Morning America'
Stephen King on ‘Good Morning America’ | Lou Rocco/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

What is Stephen King’s The Stand about?

The Stand is a post-apocalyptic story that starts out with the spread of a deadly virus called Project Blue, the superflu, or  “Captain Trips.” The pandemic begins when security protocols at a secret military lab fail, and an infected soldier carries the bug off base into the world.

The highly contagious and deadly virus spreads around the world and kills 99.4 percent of the population, including animals. The few that survive are pulled by opposing psychic connections and they form two separate groups. Through their dreams, one group is led to find and join a sweet, God-fearing, 108-year-old woman named Mother Abigail.

Through their nightmares, the other group is drawn to Randall Flagg, aka The Walking Man. He is an evil being with a dark face, red eyes, and a maniacal grin. Mother Abigail says God is guiding her to help her followers defend themselves against Flagg. Eventually, the two sides fight an epic battle between good and evil, and the survivors are left to restart human civilization. 

Why are people comparing current events to ‘The Stand’?

Films like Outbreak and Contagion have seen a resurgence since the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading. And because of its virus-centered storyline, people have been comparing the current situation to King’s The Stand.

“Trips anyone?!? Feels like the beginning of the novel “the stand,'” one Twitter user wrote.

For fun, some are calling the new coronavirus by the name it’s referred to in King’s novel.  “Is it too early to start calling COVID-19 Captain Trips,” a Twitter user wrote. “I still like calling it Captain Trips for Spooky Reasons,” another Twitter user joked.

But Stephen King says he’s ‘sorry’ if you feel like you’re living in his horror story

In an interview with NPR, Stephen King said he understands why people are comparing his books to the current situation. “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.’ “

The author also said that a pandemic like this was “bound to happen” sooner or later.  But he suggested that in a time that’s so frightening, good horror stories can feel like a “dream.”

“You’re able to go into a world that you know is not real,” King told the outlet. “But if the artist is good — the filmmaker or the novelist or maybe even the painter — for a little while, you’re able to believe that world, because the picture of it and the depiction of it is so real that you can go in there. And yet there’s always a part of your mind that understands that it’s not real, that it’s make-believe.”