This has been bugging me for almost a year now! There's a short story where a pandemic cold like virus changes people into "better" people (socially, morally, etc). If I recall correctly, the story follows one guy who begrudgingly fights the infection at the CDC and I remember there being moral quandaries regarding the nature of the virus, his fight, and whether he's already infected.

Can anyone PLEASE help me figure out what the story was? I think it was written by someone like Greg Egan or Verner Vinge and I could have sworn it was available online but I can't find it now.

  • 2
    It might help if you provide a few more details, like when you may have read it and whether it was in an anthology, take a look at this guide and see if you can edit in any more details
    – Edlothiad
    Jan 30, 2018 at 7:46
  • probably the same as scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/211596/… (which is newer but has an accepted answer)
    – Otis
    May 4, 2019 at 11:04

2 Answers 2


The Giving Plague by David Brin, I last read it in Otherness, here are the GoodReads links.


Giving Plague

The start of the epidemic is reports from people who feel compelled to donate blood. They then use this as an excuse to add more altruism into their lives. The disease is called ALAS I believe. The main character is the junior researcher of a pair that discover the virus, he plays the cynic to his boss' optimism that the virus can change human behavior and lead to a better world.

The story doesn't quite match your recollection. While I think the pair do work at the CDC, they're not directly trying to fight the infection. They're studying it; in fact the superior of the pair actively prevents news of the virus being released as he believes it represents a beneficial symbiosis.

Not all villains succeed at being evil. Not all diseases deserve the word plague. Fate can be ironic indeed. The chilling short story, The Giving Plague, follows microbiologist Forry, a self-proclaimed cynic, as he encounters a virus transmitted by blood donations that could alter humanity for good, forcing him to wrestle with his own inner demons


I'm sure Jontia's answer is correct, but when I read the OP I thought of Sterling's The Moral Bullet. In that, the Euros grow tired of the US's attitude, so they decide to change it with a mind-altering... something... that makes everyone so much nicer to each other.

This review has a small summary:

And “The Moral Bullet” (with John Kessel) has a post-apocalyptic feel familiar from the time, detailing a future wherein life extension pharmaceuticals have wreaked worldwide havoc; a standoff develops between responsible European missionaries and a greedy bandit kingdom that’s come into power in the fragmented, anarchic new US. It’s a bit unsubtle politically, perhaps, but an inventive and nicely realized scenario.

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