First came the Chicken Little reports. Then came the predictable lull, a hushed period of post-hysteria updates. Now we know the chicken was just under the weather. It's his pal, Porky, who's sicker than a dog.
Through it all, for the past four years, Crawford Kilian has dutifully monitored reports from around the world, posting regularly to his blog on pandemic influenza.
The blog is called H5N1, which is the official name for avian flu. These days, his reports more often cite H1N1, the swine flu. If you followed his blog earlier this week, perhaps prompted by his Twitter feed ( @crof), you'd have been linked to stories from Spain (832 cases, six "grave"), Brazil (905 cases), Tasmania (first death), and Jamaica (first death). You'd also be able to read a 16-page plan by the American College of Emergency Physicians to cope with this fall's expected surge in cases.
He sent alerts about three deaths in Canada, 231 cases in Thailand, 11 sick students in South Africa, not to mention the Secretary-general of the United Nations calling for a billion-dollar fund to help poor countries fight the infection.
Perhaps the most disconcerting report concerned hospital staff in Argentina ("now the epicentre of the world") refusing to help treat a three-year-old girl in Entre Rios province.
The blogger seems indefatigable, although recent events are starting to tire him out.
"It has run me ragged the last 10, 12 weeks," he said. "The news has come in so fast and furious."
The flubloggia (the cyber community of influenza obsessives) finds redemption of sorts in the cascade of bad news after the anticlimax of the avian-flu scare.
"We knew we were cranks," Mr. Kilian said. "We were making a huge fuss about, and spending a lot of time on, a non-existent pandemic."
Mr. Kilian is doing his part in keeping the public informed on H1N1. At 68, he likely has some resistance to the illness, having lived through influenza pandemics in 1957 and 1968.
The flu blog is one of 16 he maintains. A prolific writer, the retired college instructor has published novels, historical fantasies, a critique of the education system, a thriller set in Antarctica, and a terrific history of pioneering black settlement in British Columbia ( Go Do Some Great Thing, reissued last fall in a revised edition by Commodore Books).
Self-Counsel Press will issue his latest book in September, Write Your Non-Fiction Book Online.
He has yet to publish in print what may be his most compelling tale - life as a Red Diaper Baby in the midst of a Red scare.
Born in Manhattan in 1941, he graduated from Columbia University with an English degree, then completed two years as a clerk in the U.S. Army before becoming a technical writer at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley, Calif. In 1966, Mr. Kilian saw on a magazine cover a photograph of the man who drilled him, Master Sergeant Donald Duncan, "one of the coolest guys I'd ever met in the army." The cover line read, "I quit!" with the tease, "The whole thing was a lie!" The next year, Mr. Kilian abandoned the Bay Area to start a new life in Vancouver. Although he had fulfilled his military obligation, he'd had enough of the Vietnam War.
Mr. Kilian became a college instructor and, 40 years later, retired as the last original hire from what is now Capilano University.
Mr. Kilian is a rare person who can say, "I owe my existence to Hitler." His parents met at a rally of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League.
They named their son for a family friend, magazine illustrator Will Crawford. The artist spent time with Mr. Kilian's grandfather at Free Acres, an experimental community in New Jersey whose residents were dismissed as "freakers." Actor James Cagney, also a family friend, lived there for a time.
Victor Kilian and Mr. Cagney were vaudeville partners, both later moving to films, Mr. Kilian usually as a villain. Family lore has Victor Kilian taking a misplaced punch in the head from John Wayne during the filming of a fight scene for Reap the Wild Wind .
Victor Kilian and his namesake son, an actor and screenwriter, both belonged to the Communist Party, the son once escorting the Canadian doctor Norman Bethune on a fundraising tour of New England in support of the Spanish Republic.
The senior Mr. Kilian was ordered to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He refused to name names and was blacklisted, as was Victor Kilian Jr., who moved his family to Mexico City.
In Mexico, young Crawford befriended screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Mr. Trumbo won an Academy Award under an alias before effectively breaking the blacklist by being named the writer for Spartacus in 1960.
Mr. Kilian's relatives' misplaced devotion to the Soviet Union caused untold disruption.
"I thought Communists were a bunch of old farts. Who wanted to hang out with them?"
Mr. Kilian's H5N1 blog averages 1,668 visits a day. Some day soon, the page tally for visitors will hit No. 1,500,000.
Special to The Globe and Mail