I used to think that Nationfall—the collapse I used to justify the existence of the Phoenix Society, Adversaries, etc.—was caused by something called the Patch, and that the Patch was psychiatric nanotech that was supposed to "fix" people by making them more tractable and more pliant. It instead turned willing recipients into zombies and left the traumatized survivors so skeptical of authority that they were willing to accept a watchdog organization that would arrest abusive authority figures, subject them to show trials, and then subject them to fates worse than death such as a lifetime in solitary confinement or permanent exile from Earth to artificial habitats orbiting Uranus.
I'd like to think that this isn't completely ahistorical, but the current crisis has led me to rethink things. What if it were something simple like COVID-191 and the complete inability of existing institutions to cope with the resulting crisis? That has happened before, as shown by the Black Death in Europe during the Middle Ages as well as the Antonine Plague that struck the Roman Empire between 165-180CE.
Suppose the world's governments completely ignored the advice of the scientific community and ignored the treat posed by COVID-19 because they did not want to sacrifice the interests of capital to preserve the lives of workers. Suppose, essentially, that the world did what Republicans in the US think we should be doing.
- No self-quarantine
- No encouraging people to remain at least six feet apart
- No effort whatsover to contain the disease
- No effort to "flatten the curve" so that hospitals aren't overwhelmed
This would be bad enough, but suppose that unscrupuloous corporations were allowed or even encouraged to rush inadequately tested vaccines or treatments to market. Again, this isn't completely unrealistic; Republicans in the US would happily allow this to happen—especially if the resulting suffering was borne mostly by poor people and brown people.
Imagine a death toll of hundreds of megadeaths worldwide, just to keep the stock market flying high. Imagine that death toll continuing to rise into thousands of megadeaths—billions dead—as all trust in society, the state, and markets collapses.
Now imagine a charismatic, manipulative opportunist seizing his moment, a chance to remake society in a manner that would let him operate mostly unchecked and mostly in plain sight. If he could rally enough of the right people to his side, he could take over the world.
If that isn't bad enough, imagine that this opportunist created the virus in question and willfully released it. Imagine that this opportunist then told the world's elite exactly what they wanted to hear: that business as usual could continue despite the plague, that the death toll wouldn't be any higher than that of a bad flue season, and that the economy could take another hundred thousand deaths due to disease per year.
It gets worse: imagine that this opportunist provided the traumatized survivors with a scapegoat: an evangelical Christian determined to help realize the prophecies from the Revelation of St. John and thus immanentize the eschaton. Again, this is not without real-world precedent; evangelical Christians in the US seem to have a massive hard-on for Armageddon, and hope both to see it happen in their lifetimes and to be among the elect chosen to lord it over the world to come after the end.
It gets even worse, though: that evangelical who released the virus wasn't just imagining he was getting orders from a higher power. He actually was getting orders from a higher power, a demon that our hypothetical opportunist became a demon in order to oppose.
So we've got at least two demons locked in conflict, with humanity caught in the middle with no clue as to what's going on. Suppose, however, that humanity wasn't alone on earth. Suppose another species—descended from a feline progenitor rather than a primate but genetically engineered to resemble humanity—lived among us. Suppose the main differences were that they had slit-pupilled eyes, teeth specialized for a carnivorous diet, delicate ears, and hair/eye colors not typical to homo sapiens?
These people could be said to have a congenital pseudofeline morphological disorder (CPMD), but when they first made contact with people after landing on Earth, perhaps people mistook them for gods.
But now I'm heading into Chariots of the Gods?2 territory. More later, because there's only so much bullshit people can swallow in one sitting.
Not that the coronavirus is actually simple, but it probably beats psychiatric nanotech triggering a zombie apocalypse. ↩︎
a 1968 book by Erich von Däniken that helped popularize all sorts of woo concerning ancient astronauts. According to von Däniken, aliens helped build the pyramids in Egypt, lay down the Nazca lines, and perform other feats that real archaeology showed to be well within human capability even way back in the Paleolithic era. Of course, this guy is also a convicted fraud. ↩︎