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Austin’s Lawrence Wright’s “The End of October,” out next month, prophesied our current apocalypse

by Rich Oppel

New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg's Sunday piece was headlined, "Lawrence Wright Saw a Pandemic Coming." It was a fine column about an impending book—and one written by one of Austin's finest authors.

Wright is a long-time resident of West Austin. His new book, "The End of October," comes out next month. As Goldberg reports, it is about a devastating illness that races around the globe, leading to apocalyptic upheaval.

This is not the first time Wright has been prescient.


He co-wrote the screenplay for "The Siege," a 1998 movie that foreshadowed 9/11. "The End of October" describes an epidemic that begins in Asia and spreads worldwide. America had plenty of plans, but health officials weren't given the resources to carry them out. There was a shortage of ventilators, syringes, diagnostic test kits, gloves, respirators and antiseptics—"all the stuff we need to treat patients and protect ourselves," said a character in this novel.

As Goldberg writes, the president in Wright's book is "almost entirely absent from the debate about how to deal with the contagion, except to blame the opposing party for ignoring public health needs before he took office."

Just before President Trump's news briefing yesterday, I emailed Wright with my compliments and a couple of questions:

Q: Would you describe how the president in "End" compares with President Trump in their respective handling of the epidemics?

Q: You've now effectively forecast two catastrophes, 9/11 with "The Siege" and the COVID-19 pandemic with "End." Have you begun working on still another book about impending disaster in the world's future? If you can't or won't say, could you mention 1-2 possible large-scale threats that we should be worrying about?

Twenty minutes later, Wright messaged back:

"Rich, thanks for the good words. It's going to be interesting to see what happens when the book comes out. There's a lot of interest, but there are also obstacles—bookstores shuttered, no author tours.

"As for the president in the novel, let's just say he's one of a kind.

"I'm not writing another book about the future, at least not now, but I've received quite a lot of suggestions: a world in which we solve the climate crisis, elect a woman president, etc. The general sentiment is: please don't write about another catastrophe. Even my wife is on that page."

Count me with Roberta Wright when it comes to predicting more catastrophes, but I'll definitely read "The End of October." And I hope Austonia readers will as well.

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