This post is also available in: العربية

It must be one of the world’s greatest literary coincidences.  A 1981 novel by American horror writer Dean Koontz features a Chinese virus called Wuhan-400.  It tells the story of a mother who discovers her son Danny is being kept in a military facility after being infected with a man-made microorganism called ‘Wuhan-400’.

A character in the novel talks about ‘a Chinese scientist named Li Chen [who defects] to the United States carrying a diskette record of China’s most important and dangerous new biological weapon in a decade.  They call the stuff ‘Wuhan-400’ because it was developed at their RDNA labs outside the city of Wuhan, and it was the four-hundreth viabe strain of man-made microrganisms created at that research centre.  Wuhan-400 is a perfect weapon.  It afflicts only human beings…’

The internet is now awash with stories on the coincidence and readers on Amazon are all pitching in with their expressions of amazement.  One writes: ‘Is this book purely fictional ???? when it is describing a viral infection that is now affecting countries.  And that Wuhan is stated as the country it was started in !!!!!  How could a writer possibly know about man made viruses in 1981 that are now killing people in the same way that is described in this book ?????’

Some have suggested that the fiction RDNA research centre could be referring to the Wuhan Institute of Virology which is where China’s only level four biosafety laboratory is located.  Indian Congress leader Manish Tewari posted a cover of the book on twitter and asked “Is coronavirus a biological weapon developed by the Chinese called Wuhan-400?’

Meanwhile, in the publishing industry – and elsewhere – the situation is changing literally by the hour.  Macmillan US, HarperCollins US, Simon & Schuster US, Ingram and Amazon have all pulled out of the London Bok Fair , due to begin on Tuesday, 10 March, but at the time of writing (2 March) the London Book Fair said it would be going ahead.  Additionally, Livre Paris in France has been cancelled and the Bologna Book Fair has been postponed by six weeks.