Life imitates art. But art also imitates life. Horror and sci-fi movies from the 1950’s depicted mutations and nuclear horrors, which was appropriate considering that these movies came out during the atomic age. Many horror movies from the 1970’s depicted Satanism (The Omen, The Exorcist, Satan’s School For Girls, Warlock Moon, The Devil’s Rain, The Blood on Satan’s Claw, just to name a few), this came about due to the rise of occultism, evangelical fear, and public figures such as Anton LaVey popularizing Satanism in the mainstream. All of this, of course, led to “stranger danger” and “satanic panic” in the early 1980’s…this fear that a terrifying, unknown evil could be lurking right around the corner. And what kind of entertainment did we get in the early 80’s? The rise of the slasher movie, where faceless killers lurked in neighborhoods, high schools, and campgrounds. Our writing is directly influenced by the zeitgeist of the era. It’s unavoidable really. In 2020, as the Corona virus literally changed the way of life for all of us, our fiction will no doubt be transformed as well. My question is….how will you implement it?
Already, it has been announced that the sitcom, The Conners (The Roseanne spinoff) next season will focus heavily on how the pandemic affected the main characters, Curb Your Enthusiasm will also implement a COVID plotline, according to Larry David. In a way, if you write fiction that takes place in our world at our time, you kind of have to make mention of it. To do otherwise would place your story in an alternate reality. That is not to say that one must write a COVID plotline, or focus heavily on the pandemic itself of course. But as writers, should we not at least acknowledge that this is the world we live in. For the sake of realism, you can’t have your characters go to an indoor restaurant for example. This is obviously not an issue if your story is a period piece, or some kind of alternate universe thing, but if your story takes place in this current era and world, then my question is, how much of COVID will you implement in your stories? I can see how this may be difficult for those of you with long running series that have lasted years. Maybe a casual mention of your character putting on a mask when entering a store? Or would go full-on and maybe have a character actually contract the virus?
None of this is, of course, meant to trivialize or capitalize on what is of course a very real and very serious problem in this world, but to not mention it at all would be less than realistic, would it not? For me personally, it has not been an issue since HOMETOWN takes place in 2013, but for my next story in the saga (HOMETOWN 3 or whatever it will end up being called), I was thinking of doing a time-jump. This was an idea I had even before the pandemic hit. So now, I’m not sure exactly how I want to handle things. It also depends on what happens with the pandemic over the next few months or years. These are uncertain times, and as such, it kinda makes our writing uncertain as well, doesn’t it?
This month, my question is a simple one. How will you implement COVID in your fiction, if at all?
“I’ve already found a couple of stories on Nifty that mention COVID. One of them actually uses it as an excuse to get three or four families together at a vacation home which was passed through the family. Whenever there’s a disaster movie, like 2012, or Independence Day, I can’t help but think: what about the aftermath? What changes will this have on the landscape of the “mini-universe” inside this story? I don’t think I’d write any stories about COVID, present day, but post-COVID? Maybe I’ll set a story in 2027, and it mentions how someone’s grandma died of COVID or something. I have no idea at this point.” –Page Scrawler
“There’s this moment in the movie, “Home Alone”, where the whole family is trying to catch a flight…and they’re running through O’Hare airport in Chicago at top speed in order to not be late. Hehehe, I watch that now, in a post ‘9/11’ world…and it’s just so strange to me. Like, ummm…NO!!! LOL! That would NEVER happen in this day and age. Not a chance. But 9/11 changed the way we see things. And while it might have been normal at the time it was filmed, it’s just not the same anymore.
I totally agree with the idea of art imitating life and vice versa. I don’t think writers could avoid it, even if they wanted to. However, I think there’s a deeper underlying emotion that will become the defining feature of the times we’re going through right now. One of my favorite examples of this is the movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. That’s a story that keeps coming back to us with every generation, slightly different, but altered to fit the times. It pops up during the Communist scare, it pops up during 70’s Occultism, then again in the 90’s during the AIDS epidemic, then again in the 2000’s under the threat of terrorism…and I’m sure that Covid-19 will inspire someone to reake it yet again in the near future. I’ve even seen teasers that they’re remaking Stephen King’s “The Stand”…which makes sense. Anyway, while they don’t directly address the issue they’re dealing with…the ‘feeling’ is still there. And I think the Covid-19 era will be a big part of the vibe in stories going forward.
I did actually write a short story called, “Special Delivery” (https://gayauthors.org/story/comicality/special-delivery/) where I dealt with masks and social distancing directly within the story itself. And before that, I dealt with a widespread virus in a story called “Agenda 21” (https://gayauthors.org/story/comicality/agenda21-theculling) Even though this was started during the time of Swine Flu and H1N1. But I think, even if authors don’t exactly make it a Corona virus story, the feeling will still be the same. In the near future, I expect stories involving feelings of isolation, or a craving of contact, mistrust of your neighbors or your community…possibly stories that are really self contained and limited to one house or neighborhood. It’ll reflect what people are going through these days, whether they include an actual virus and masks or not.
So, I’m thinking we’ll all see more zombie stories, or nuclear fall out tales, alien invasions…stuff where you have to wall yourselves in to stay safe. It’s just my prediction, and I’m sticking to it! 😛
As for me, personally, most of my characters exist outside of the current timeline, and the stories are far enough along where writing the current virus into their stories would only complicate and confuse things. Especially since there’s a number of them that are coming to an end soon. So, everything that I started before the pandemic (which is pretty much everything) probably won’t have that as a part of the story. But everything I write from here on out? Who knows?” –Comicality
“I don’t really have much of an opinion on this. Except I think people will probably be looking for some escapism, and would rather not read something about Covid, right now. Maybe especially if it’s about being locked down. It limits a lot of what you can write about too. If everything’s closed and socialization is so restrictive.
It depends on the type of fiction, and the setting, I guess. I’m not a writer so it’s not something I have to worry about, personally.
As for TV, there’s a lot of TV, or there used to be I haven’t been keeping up with them, lately, here in the UK, with just a romantic couple, or a couple of friends, (Bottoms, Young Ones, Men Behaving Badly, Gavin & Stacy, The Royal Family, etc) stuck in a flat (apartment) or a house together. So I could see some TV shows being based around the pandemic. But I can’t see them filming them with the pandemic going on outside. Certainly not with a live audience.” –Mike
For me, I suppose nothing I write is actually in the “Here and Now” or speaks directly to current events. I’ve always tossed myself out of time and out of reality as I’m living it because, why not? A past I want to change, a future with hope and really cool tech, a reality that is anything but the reality I am experiencing. I’m not saying that what is going on now has no historical impact, it will be in history books, talked about in school, possibly have a cultural impact that will be talked about for generations. What I am saying is that I am not the guy to document it in a way that this part of real life has an impact on my fictional realm, or at least I don’t plan to. I think that sitcoms (specifically) have a unique way of shining a spotlight on our current situation that can be looked at as significant. In any of the shows I grew up with, I can remember a sad event inspiring a normally comical show that gets serious to acknowledge whatever it is that had happened or was happening, or to focus on a specific issue. It would make you raise your eyebrows when they first aired but, looking back at these old broadcasts is almost like opening a time capsule that could be reflected on. I have seen it in online stories that had a retrospective, often intended to set the stage. In that aspect, I have included an acknowledgment of current events in a familiar past. In the story I posted on Imagine Magazine, The main character finds himself in the summer of 1980 and begins to realize it when he looks at a newspaper that speaks of a local baseball pitcher of the time or the recent eruption of Mt. Saint Helens just a month prior. For stories based in this time period, one of the historical landmarks that will identify the time will be our political chaos and a pandemic that reminded us that we are all in this together. –JeffsFort
“Most of my stories exist in their own established time streams and are not, necessarily, right now. Even Brandon Smiling is more of a 2010 meets 1985 amalgam since the Billyverse seems to have a very 2000s vibe flavoured with a dash of 1980s since both you and I are trying to draw upon our teen years and that was in the 80s more or less.
I think the rule applies: write what you know. If you are writing a contemporary story set for today then, naturally, you’ll want to reflect your current experience of now. An interesting idea, staying with the teen experience theme, might be a story about two boys who meet online and only see each other virtually during class and later Zoom. That might actually touch the experience of what a lot of kids are going through right now. My only problem starting such a story is that, it is my hope, that the story becomes a cute little history piece of a brief time in our lives when all the world seemed to be going to Hell but it all ended up alright in the end. Something to look back on as anomalous after we all get our vaccines by Christmas. :heart: Writing against that kind of backdrop can be difficult. But, if this thing drags on and on, then it might be a meaningful piece because it will mean a whole generation of kids will have grown up only seeing each other Through A Looking-glass Darkly.” – MrM