Three Questions with Lawrence Wright

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


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. 

Heather Scott Partington is a writer, teacher, and book critic.
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