Why Stephen King Says ‘It’s Not Very Comfortable to Be Me’ During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Stephen King, the author of The Outsider, among many other iconic horror novels, says that the coronavirus outbreak reminds many fans of his 1978 book The Stand. He explained in a recent radio interview why it’s a bit uncomfortable for him. But–he’s been through this before.

Stephen King on fans who think the COVID-19 pandemic is like one of his books

Stephen King
Author Stephen King in 2006 | BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP via Getty Images

Terry Gross hosts Fresh Air, the interview show on National Public Radio. She recently invited Stephen King on as a guest to discuss The Outsider HBO TV series–as well as the ongoing pandemic.

Some readers of the famous horror author are reminded of King’s novel The Stand, when it comes to the coronavirus outbreak. The plot of the 1978 book centers around an infectious disease that spreads rapidly across the globe.

“Is this pandemic the closest thing you’ve come to living in one of your own horror stories?” Gross asked the author. King answered that “it is and it isn’t.” He recalled that in November 2016, when Donald Trump won the election, some Stephen King fans said the same thing about his book The Dead Zone.

“Now that Trump is actually president of the United States and there is a pandemic worldwide,” King explained,”… it seems almost like those two books cross-pollinated somehow.” He also revealed how it all makes him feel: “it’s not very comfortable to be me.”

“I keep having people say, ‘gee, it’s like we’re living in a Stephen King story,'” he told Gross. “And my only response to that is, ‘I’m sorry, it’s not your fault.'”

Stephen King says certain things about the COVID-19 outbreak remind him of ‘The Stand’

But for King, the “strangest thing” he noticed amidst the outbreak was “the fact that people seem to have fixated on bathroom tissue, toilet tissue, toilet paper as the focal point for their anxiety.” He continued:

The shelves are totally empty of that stuff. And every time the stuff comes in, it disappears again. I asked somebody at the supermarket, ‘what is the deal with this?’ And they said, ‘we have no idea what it is, because there’s no shortage.’ It’s just that people are stockpiling that one particular thing.

He never could have predicted that detail for his pandemic novel. However, King did admit that he saw several elements of the current situation that “remind [him] of The Stand.” The 1978 novel became a movie in 1994. He explained how in The Stand:

People kept saying to the American public and the world public, ‘don’t worry about this. It’s just the flu. Everything’s OK.’ …when you see pictures of Times Square in New York or the freeways in Los Angeles, you say, ‘yeah, this is really something that we’ve never seen in our lifetime.’

So in that way, it is like a Stephen King story.

‘The Outsider’ writer on the coronavirus outbreak

Instead of one of his own stories, King told Gross that the current pandemic reminded him more of a 1968 horror film. The writer shared on Fresh Air:

Stephen King
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert hosts guest Stephen King in 2018 | Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images

… when you were talking about viruses not being alive or dead, this really is like one of those zombie movies. …we’re living in the Night of the Living Dead, in a sense, because the virus is just what it is, which is something that’s almost incomprehensible to us and it’s incomprehensible to science.

“Because it’s invisible, because we can’t see it,” he continued, it makes COVID-19 all the scarier.