Three Questions with Lawrence Wright

The acclaimed writer considers the 1918 flu, recommends sci-fi authors, and discusses his novel The End of October.

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Why didn’t people talk much about the 1918 influenza pandemic after it was done?
It was overshadowed by the war. War is more dramatic, and there is a sense that humans can control the outcome. There was a sense of shame on the part of the survivors.

Which science-fiction authors would you recommend?
While I was writing about the Church of Scientology in Going Clear, I became interested in the circle of writers around the magazine Astounding Science-Fiction. They included Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein and many others who defined the so-called golden age.

How did research affect The End of October?
I always want to know how things actually work, what words are actually said, how humans might actually behave. And so I look back at history, for similar events, and I talk to experts about how something—say, a pandemic—might actually unfold.

Explore the complete Science Fiction Special Section in Alta’s Summer 2020 issue. 

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