Jack London (1876-1916) first saw The Scarlet Plague published in the London Magazine in June of 1912. It was then published in book form in 1915 (cover at right). Much like George R. Stewart’s later 1949 novel Earth Abides, it is a post-apocalyptic story involving a plague. The original story takes place in the year 2072 and centers on plague survivors in San Francisco, where London spent much of his life. This radio adaptation differs from the original story in several respects, the most obvious being that in the original we see the main character passing on his knowledge and wisdom to his grandchildren (Stewart’s Earth Abides ends in almost identical manner 37 years later), whereas here the story ends…differently. Another difference is the lack of London’s cynical social commentary on the inherent nature of Man for war and violence in the radio adaptation, the focus instead keeping to the disastrous effects of the plague itself.
Jack London is of course better known for several of his other novels, including The Call of the Wild (1903), The Sea Wolf (1904), and White Fang (1906). While these novels are considered world renowned classics, a number of critics consider London’s strength to lie in his short fiction. Along with more traditional themes, he would write stories we would now consider to be science fiction; such varied subject matter included a powerful energy weapon, invisibility, meeting up with a woolly mammoth, and an island’s inhabitants held captive to an extraterrestrial “object.”
Escape (1947-1954) aired its adaptation of The Scarlet Plague on April 8, 1954. Listen now as we see first a few hundred fall victim to the deadly plague, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands across the globe, in this well produced radio play.
Play Time: 24:31