Robert McCammon – Swan Song & The End of the World

I recently finished the delicious horror dystopia Swan Song by Robert McCammon but this is not going to be a review. It made me think hard and even made me fear. A nuclear apocalypse is something that makes you ask the question – do I want to survive it or wish to go with the first wave, as quickly as possible?

The answer I reached is that I don’t know. Not really, at least. I don’t want to survive if my closest people haven’t, and I don’t want to go if they make it because I wish to be around and help. But is this how the world’s going to end? With a nuclear winter? Isn’t the world ending right now?

No, of course, it’s not, but a part of it will end with the end of the Coronavirus outbreak. It will emerge as a new world, a bit different and wary probably. But is it a disaster as described by Robert McCammon and other horror authors that destroys us or do we destroy ourselves?

The End According to Swan Song by Robert McCammon

The end comes with the bombs in Swan Song by Robert McCammon. They fall in a fiery fury one summer day across the globe, rendering the metropolises to dust. It’s a horrendous thing to witness – the way people make decisions to blast smaller people out of existence.

Of course, some survive and they face the horrors of inheriting a barren Earth. Supernatural Good and Evil lurk and battle for the last remnants of life around. But right from the book’s start, the reader knows one thing – we humans don’t need anything supernatural to make us do good or evil. We don’t need a nuclear winter to motivate us to be good or evil.

Some do good and evil every day when life runs its natural course. And when things are not natural, doing good and evil can, potentially, have huge effects.

The End in the Age of Covid-19

I came across tons of lists with books about pandemics that are supposed to be ‘vital’ reads in these times. But are they really? Do we need to relate to fictional characters and their predicaments when we ourselves live in a similar world? Would that help? Do ‘topical’ horror stories actually help with putting things in perspective or do they boost anxiety levels?

I know the answer for myself – they don’t help. With anything. I was curious about Stephen King’s The Stand that Swan Song by Robert McCammon so often gets compared to (but is about a virus). After the Bulgarian government put the country in a state of emergency on Friday the 13th of March (wow) due to the Coronavirus outbreak, I decided that refreshing my Stephen King knowledge can wait.

I don’t need more of that in my life right now. The media turned Covid-19 into an INFOdemic long before it became a PANdemic. And the snowball effect information had made me realize we don’t need bombs, viruses, or natural disasters to destroy humanity. We can do the job just fine. All we need is some ignorance, self-importance, and no desire whatsoever to do good.

Coronavirus in the Garden of Good & Evil

As Robert McCammon shows really well in Swan Song, it’s Evil that’s more active in times like these. But there are those capable of self-sacrifice and of Good if they are allowed to thrive.

As of writing this post, it’s been eight days since we’re in a state of emergency in Bulgaria. Only food stores and pharmacies, banks and government structures work. Most businesses that can’t operate ‘from home’ had to close doors or ensure their employees have the tools to protect themselves.

First, one of the major winter resorts here – Bansko, went on complete lockdown. And people started losing it moments after the state of emergency was announced. When it all seemed to calm down, all 28 provinces were put on lockdown, as of 00:00 hours on the 21st.

People can travel between cities only for work, health, or if they’re going back to their hometowns. People below the age of 60 can shop in stores only after 10:30 a.m. to ensure that the elderly would have a couple of hours to do their shopping. Dog owners are the only ones allowed to take a quick walk in the park daily.

Things seem pretty calm at the moment. Most people realize the necessity for such measures. But before the rays of something good started shining through, there was every indication that things are going to hell and fast. People have been stocking up on medication and face masks for weeks now, but it feels like food stores and pharmacies have been raided in the last couple of days.

People are overworked, medics are overworked and stressed, businesses are tanking. And while the government, for a change, does its best to contain the situation, there are those who are not only taking advantage but actively trying to make it worse.

The Different Faces of Evil

  • The Scam Artists

We have a problem with conventional crimes, especially against elderly and lonely people. We have scam callers extorting money from the elderly. Now they are using the Coronavirus to run their new scam agenda and prey on the most vulnerable part of our population – our parents and grandparents. Fortunately, there haven’t been many cases registered, and I hope that would not change.

  • The Speculation Artists

There are those who stockpiled on masks and sanitizers, buying the supply out, driving prices up, leading to people paying hundreds for a few pieces of useless cloth. Fake products have flooded the market, overpriced ones, too. And we’re not a rich country.

It led to such a striking deficit, medics didn’t have the necessary tools to protect themselves, and the elderly can barely find them to at least feel like they’ve done something to help themselves.

  • The Panicked Buyers

Look, it’s good to have consumables at hand, but don’t stockpile. Wherever you are. That would burden manufacturers, hurt the economy, the environment, and will drive prices up. Trust me, I’m an economist.

Plan well, buy for a week, and use the next trip to the store to breathe some fresh air and simply enjoy being out for a few moments. Remember, please, remember, that everything has an expiration date, including medicine. You’ll throw away more than you actually consume during quarantine, state of emergency, and lockdown.

And, believe me, you can’t eat toilet paper. You’re just taking a pack of toilet paper that someone else needs more than you. Just because you already have 20 packs of toilet paper and they probably have zero.

  • The Immortal Ones

My favorite ones. Those who would do their best to sabotage the state-of-emergency measures just because they don’t believe in the virus or that they might get it. Well, congratulations.

While you feel immortal, my mom and my grandparents aren’t. While you flaunt around in the city doing nothing and rebelling against that huge social injustice that tries to protect you and those around you, you can get exposed without realizing it.

And even if you don’t get sick, you might make someone else sick. And not just metaphorically, like you’re making me sick right now.

If your government says it, stay home. No one’s ever died, as far as I know, from staying at home. Someone might die if you decide to stick it to the government and unnecessarily stretch your feet or go to a party at the neighbors. This is especially necessary for people who have symptoms of the virus, even if it’s not due to Covid-19. Stay safe, give those around you some peace.

I get truly frustrated from knowing the safety of those around me depends on how responsible such people might or might not be. And before we get too morbid for good tastes, let’s see what the good does in these trying times.

The Different Faces of Good

  • The Selfless Ones

All those on the front lines. The medics, the pharmacy workers, store workers, the international drivers, the flight crews, border control, all those who due to the nature of their work are always at risk – thank you. Thank you for the spirit and will, and all that doesn’t stop you from continuing your work and doing your duty. Stay safe.

When the first cases of Coronavirus were diagnosed in Bulgaria, there were (still are) people who resigned, medical staff that quit. When I first heard, I was stunned.

I won’t blame those people, it’s okay to be scared and worried when you lack the means to protect yourself. But it made the act of staying on the front lines all that more important and impressive.

  • The Charitable Ones

Volunteers and donations can make a huge difference, especially in such dysfunctional social and health systems like the ones we have. It’s the elderly who are the most vulnerable.

There hasn’t been a better time to offer your help to them than now. What makes me happy is that there have always been and always will be ordinary people ready to help and make the situation easier for someone less fortunate.

  • The Creators

So much art and content has been made available online for free, in all its shapes and forms, for all those isolated at home. So many course platforms and academies have given free access to some of their courses and resources. Some publishers here not only discounted their books but also gave out some for free.

All to help people cope with the need to stay home, to help them distract from the thought of being locked between four walls. Those are creators who have to be supported when this is all over.

  • The Grateful Ones

It’s an insignificant gesture in truly trying times, but people in Bulgaria have also begun to applaud the medics on the front lines for their dedication and efforts. On the one hand, it’s sad that we come together as a nation only in severe situations. On the other hand, it invokes hope when you see that we’re still able to come together.

Your Face According to Robert McCammon

I’d like to wrap up around here somewhere. It might seem like the scales of good and evil are equal at moments like this, even that sometimes evil prevails. But if we do everything in our power, even if it’s just staying at home, we can tip the scales towards good.

It’s bombs that decimate the world in Swan Song by Robert McCammon, it’s a virus that destroys it in Stephen King’s The Stand. But it’s people who send the bombs and spread the virus, it’s people who kill people with their actions or inaction. We’re guests on this Earth, fleeting in our self-importance, and there’s no one to blame but ourselves.

Take action on the side of good today:

  • Stay home, if you can, stay safe.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Exercise social distancing.
  • Help the elderly around you.

Remember that we will come out of this, and it will truly matter what we did for who we’d be when this is all over.

According to Robert McCammon, some people’s faces peeled off at the end of Swan Song to reveal the true faces of their souls. Some were beautiful, some were horrendous. Think of the face you’d want to see in the mirror when the Coronavirus outbreak ends. Think well.

And don’t buy out the toilet paper. Baloo never mentioned it:

p.s. I promise I’ll offer you a Swan Song review at some later point in time. Still wrapping my mind around that book.

I’m a copywriter by work, reader by heart, writer by night & a daydreamer all year round. I dabble in graphic design whenever time’s left. I breathe words and try to weave worlds.
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