How Will Our Fiction Change Post Pandemic?

by James Scott Bell
@jamesscottbell

So I’m writing away on my WIP a couple of weeks ago when I suddenly stopped short (no, not the Seinfeld kind; the Hey, wait a second kind). What did it was a scene where my Lead gets introduced to someone and they shake hands.

Will anybody be doing that when this stinking, rotten, unprecedented pandemic and societal shutdown is over? I’ve heard several folks (including President Trump and Dr. Fauci) suggest that we should scrap handshakes altogether.

Wrap your mind around that. We’ve been shaking hands since Socrates was a baby. It is a way to say hello, make a deal, show good faith, express gratitude or admiration. The Civil War ended when Grant offered his hand to Lee and the two warriors shook. (On the other hand, some handshakes haven’t worked out so well. See Chamberlain, Neville, who declared “Peace in our time” after shaking hands with that Austrian paperhanger with the Charlie Chaplin mustache.)

Even if the handshake is not officially dispensed with, a large swath of people won’t do it anymore. This will have to be reflected in our fiction.

And what the heck will replace it? Please, please, I beg on my knees…not the elbow bump—the ugliest, ungainliest contortion outside a game of beer-bong Twister. Some are touting the Hindu namaste, a slight bow with both hands pressed over the heart. Others advocate the slight nod. Former hippies have resurrected the peace sign.

What will your characters do?

Hugs are also certain to go the way of the Blue-Footed Booby. Which makes me sad. I’m a hugger. If I know the person and haven’t seen them in awhile, I do the grizzly. I always give and get lots of hugs at church. But post-pan will people be too nervous to give or receive a hug?

How will social gatherings change? What if you have a scene in a baseball stadium, movie theater, or shopping mall? Our scenes will have to reflect the “new normal.” But what will that look like? What details will we need to emphasize?

What about the courtroom scene? Will they still pack a jury box? Will a criminal defendant who has been in the viral hothouse of the country jail be required to wear a mask?

How about restaurant scenes? Will servers wear gloves to go with their masks? And beauty salons and coffee houses—how will people space themselves in these venues? What will be happening on airplanes and buses and subways? What will folks be nervous about? Will a sneeze start a bar fight? Almost surely if a Raiders game is on.

If there is a Raiders game!

And what are we to do about little action beats like stroking the chin or rubbing the eyes? Careful, or you might get angry emails saying, “Your characters touch their faces! What are you teaching our children? Do you want to kill us all?”

Here’s another kettle of trout: the rules of romance. Will dates be dictated by distance? What’s a man supposed to do at the end of the evening? Will a kiss ever be just a kiss? Or will it be a negotiated transaction with terms, conditions, representations, and warranties?

Will a man who wants to get serious give his prospective lover flowers or a twelve pack of toilet paper?

Maybe love scenes will have to go like this:

Chase looked into Dakota’s eyes, eyes that said Yes and I don’t care about germs. He leaned forward then, reaching out tenderly, wantingly, and with a hand trembling with desire, he unhooked her mask.

I ask you: What changes do you foresee in our social habits post-pandemic? How will all this change our fiction? 

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85 thoughts on “How Will Our Fiction Change Post Pandemic?

  1. It’s kinda like losing weight. You can get it off, but it’s much harder to keep it off because you fall back into your old habits. My guess is we’ll see a version of that. People will become complacent.

    There will likely be some changes, but I don’t know how wide-spread or long-lasting they will be. Will banks allow patrons to come in wearing masks and gloves? The advances in facial recognition will certainly face challenges. Now we need mask recognition.

    Besides, some people look better under a mask, anyway!

  2. Not going to change. Romance readers aren’t going to be happy with handshakes, pecks on the hand by people in masks, or any other contrived shows of romantic, kiss-less affection.

    Jack Ryan will not come home after facing and racing villains both in and out of our government, to his lovely wife and wave across the room.

    Besides, today, we still have past viruses and even THE Plague with us, and yet we continue the games of Venus and Delilah. I learned today from an American veterinarian, a Phoenician, who is currently living in Hong Kong, that there are still traces of SARS floating around the hinterlands and some cities of China. In California, Arizona, and New Mexico, we still have cases of Bubonic Plague show up in people and fleas that live above the 4,500-ft altitude level. Yet, as near as I can tell, babies are still being conceived and born in China and Flagstaff–a powerful hint that, despite the threat of planting kisses on someone who might be carrying around a hideous illness of some kind, people ain’t shaking hands and writing notes.

    I once heard someone say–or read someone who wrote–that babies are God’s vote that the human race will go on.

    Don’t think romance is going to give into microscopic entities whose very existence depends on us not swabbing them with alcohol, or dousing them with medicines.

    Kiss and tell will continue to be kiss and tell, and it won’t become
    anything else.

    • Maybe a kiss will still be a kiss, Jim. But will it require permission? I hope not…but will the ol’ Clark Gable grab-and-plant-one be deemed rude and inappropriate among younger readers?

  3. Tough to say. Before a few weeks ago I never would’ve thought hysteria would be accepted as a a viable business, government, or individual model. Now people will be writing it into individual text books on business management, where just-in-time inventory used to be.

    I was never drawn that much to writing stories set in a contemporary setting in the first place, and even much less so now. What it HAS done is made me even more eager to write stuff set in the 19th century–no phones & computers, characters just had to meet life head on.

    I’m with you on the elbow bump. If the hysteria makes permanent greeting changes, I vote for the toe bump instead. That would have the added benefit of making people more conscious of the condition of their lower extremities, encouraging them to work on such things as strength and balance, which are often ignored until they develop problems with gait and movement (and even then many elect not to address the problem).

    I’ll be curious to see how the percentages change in coming months on various genres. SciFi & Fantasy already seem like hot genres, but will they increase even more? Apocalyptic? And what genres will be viewed as escape fiction? Hmm….

    • There’s one answer, BK–write historical fiction! I have and one thing I love about it is that the technology doesn’t change overnight like it does in contemporary fiction. Hmm…

  4. Haha. Love your romance scene, Jim! I’m a hugger, too. I can’t imagine a world without hugs (even though we’re living it). As for fiction, I say we leave it alone. If the new normal includes no handshakes or hugs, then let the reader live vicariously through the characters.

    • That’s an interesting thing to ponder, Sue. How much leeway will readers give us? Or will they be thinking, He’d never do that now…

      I feel like I’m going to have to anticipate some changes and at least mention them. I can see a character offering his hand then quickly withdrawing it, saying, “Sorry.”

  5. I plan to address this in my own blog post tomorrow. I started work on the current WIP last November, with interruptions for other projects, like launching a new book, audio, etc. It’s a mystery/romance and it’s set in the British Isles. Although I’m not specifying actual dates, most of my book are set “present day.” And I’m wondering whether fiction readers of the genre, who read for escape, will accept that there are no references to “The Virus” or the changed behaviors in the book.
    Because I’m sure as heck not going to rewrite it where a romance hero and heroine have to be 6 feet apart.

    • I’m going to drop in a reference to the virus as it is just developing, setting this particular book in the recent past. I think I can get away with that.

      But certainly characters will have to talk about it. It would be like writing a novel in 1947 and not talking about WWII and returning GIs trying to find jobs, etc.

  6. Boy, have you opened a can of fish bait, JSB! What a lot of un-thought-of details…

    I foresee the black hat/white hat label in creative writing classes being supplanted by “black mask/white mask”.

    All novels written pre-pan style will now be found on the historical fiction shelf, no matter the setting. Ha!

    Thinking of romance and the six foot rule, I recall the scene in Dances With Wolves when Stands-with-a-Fist walks from a romantic interlude at the river with Dunbar and points at him with her index finger, warning him not to get too close for decorum’s sake. I think it’s one of the best scenes in the movie. I guess we should all practice that point.

    This was an entertaining post in a sad sort of way. And eye-opening. What will our way of life and love look like when my grandchildren are on Social Security-assuming there will still be such a thing? I can’t yet wrap my head around where we are now and where we might end up.

    But, I leave you with this. Yesterday, I masked up and gloved up, jumped in my Jeep, and made a run to town to get our mail. As I drove the weirdly empty streets, I saw the most charming thing I’ve seen in days and days. I hope it stays stamped in my memory for a long time, as I try to keep up with the ever-evolving “news”.

    Two young people, maybe early twenties, walked on the sidewalk holding hands. They were laughing. The girl actually skipped a couple of steps as I drew close. I slowed down a bit to watch. As their hands swung, their long steps keeping stride with each other, I saw him glance at her as she laughed, tossing her long blonde hair over her shoulder. I know that look. Pure, unadulterated adoration.

    As I passed them and looked in my rear view mirror, I remember a feeling of optimism washing through me from my toes up.

    We’ll be just fine, I think. 🙂

    • Optimism washing through you… you’re already stuck on the word, wash. Be careful of the slippery slope.

    • I feel the same way, Deb. Having some fun with it, but with a tinge of sadness. We all know things are going to change somehow. But how exactly we can’t know. Uncertainty stinks, bu then again, we’ve all dealt with it many times.

      It’s nice to catch a little bit of optimism. The other night Mrs. B and I sat on camping chairs on the sidewalk with our next door neighbors (a healthy 10 feet apart) and had some wine and just talked. A few people walking dogs went by and waved. An Amazon Prime van stopped across the street and the driver–masked and gloved–got out and we all waved to him. I couldn’t see his smile but I think it was there as he waved back.

      A bit of community and fellow feeling. It was nice.

  7. My own hope is that we will – just maybe – emerge from this with a greater respect for personal space that includes not only touching but noise as well. Of course it’s possible we could go overboard in the opposite direction, like rebounding from a bad relationship, in which case Introverts like myself may just remain isolated forever.

    • I’d be happy if public libraries would go back to the “old days” when you had to keep your voice down or the librarian would shush you. Last time I was in my local branch the librarians and patrons talked away at full volume. Really?

      Hang in there, RLM!

      • Speaking of libraries, I’ve missed my local library. I used to be at the library at least twice a week. Now I have no idea when it will be open again. When I went shopping at the little organic market near me, everyone was wearing masks and gloves. People put on hand sanitizer upon entry and exit. Different world.

    • RE: Noise, maybe restaurants will use this time to remodel and do something to cut down on the noise so that when you go to a restaurant you can actually hear the person sitting across from you! Now that would truly be novel!

  8. Courts are already bringing the accused into the courtrooms for their hearings by video only. Here in Norfolk, they are releasing as many non-violent inmates as they can through bond hearings and the like, but no one, not even attorneys, can even get into the courtrooms unless they are representing someone in an essential hearing. Everything that is not an emergency is being rescheduled.

    The backstory for one of my WIPs has always had a pandemic that lowered our resistance to illness and infection, thus the handshake went away long ago. Their solution? The right hand, held out palm forward in a gesture of greeting. Personally, I take the Namaste approach.

    Whether or not this changes things going forward, I think it will be a long time before we forget these associations.

    • Here in Cal they’re granting early release to prisoners, around 3500 so far.. What a conundrum. No one has addressed the question of what this will mean to communities.

      I agree, Drema, we will not soon forget, and characters in the immediate future will have to exhibit some awareness.

  9. An author I know who writes futuristic young adult SF and otherworld fantasy observed ruefully on Twitter yesterday that she was glad she wasn’t writing “contemporary fiction” right now, because of the pandemic. I am, though my current book is the last in my alternate-history contemporary fantasy series, so I’m off the hook as well.

    I think it’s definitely a challenge for the short-term. I wonder if “recent historical”, for books set just before this pandemic will become a thing or not? I also wonder if, at least for the short-to-medium term, readers will prefer to read about life without pandemic in it?

    As for behaviors, I’m also a hugger, and I’ll miss that greatly. Handshaking might well be replaced by the handwave–I also don’t see the elbow bump taking over. I’ve wondered about if and when I’ll return to my beloved Hollywood Theatre to catch a film, and what that will feel like. Right now, it doesn’t sound appealing.

    One thing should be for sure–thorough hand-washing. But, people tend to get lazy. (SIGH).

    In the long-term, I’m very confident we’ll have developed an effective vaccine for this virus. There are numerous initiative going on around the world, including one in Pittsburgh which apparently is based on SARS and Mers and thus, if the trial works, could be ramped up quickly. Then there’s Bill Gates, who has been sounding the alarm on the threat of a global pandemic for some time, and who is preparing to spend billions on several factories for different trial vaccines, with full knowledge that most won’t be needed, but wanting to save time. We’ll likely have a vaccine in 18 months. That’s a while, but it’s also a record. After the vaccine, will thing return to what they were like, pre-pandemic, or, will there be a “new” normal?

    • Dale, I do think “pre-pandemic, recent historical” could be a shelf in Barnes & Noble. Except, will there be a Barnes & Noble? They just shuttered 400 stores our of 600+ remaining. That’s another “new normal” thing. The traditional publishing industry, along with the once promising independent bookstore resurgence, is being pummeled. Will either be able to return fully?

  10. Great post, and lots of food for thought.

    One thing that I see that could actually happen and would change the way people interact is public labeling – visible buttons, stickers, arm bands, etc that would be visible to all we encounter.

    Testing for immunity to Covid-19 is here – IgG antibodies that indicate we have had and are immune to new infection (supposedly, or until a new mutated form crops up next year). I foresee and hope that such testing will be used to determine who can be freed from house arrest and allowed to go back to work.

    Those individuals will need official visible identification that they are “certified safe.” Visible identification has been used through out history and in novels – Hester’s scarlet letter, the black band of mourning, even the sticker you’re given after you vote or donate blood. The list goes on.

    If such policies and labeling are instituted, people will line up and clamor to be tested.

    As someone who has had and recovered from Covid-19, I chafe at house arrest and the destruction of our economy.

    I propose a large green button that will be worn by those who are deemed safe:

    I – I’m
    g – good to
    G- go!

    • Glad to hear you got through it, Steve!

      Your labeling idea, while it makes surface sense, kind of gives me the willies. Would villains fake it? Would this lead to a sort of caste system?

      But certainly we have to do some thinking outside the box. And the next big decision–the biggest, in fact—is going to be when to open up America for business again. How much and how fast. No easy answers. Pray for wisdom for the decision makers!

    • Can’t believe I didn’t think of this yet.

      I can definitely see public labeling becoming a non-fiction reality, and I think it’d be wise to do so. And glad to see you made it through your illness safely Steve!

      And in regards to fiction, it’ll be interesting to see how creators inject this into their work. I could definitely see it exaggerated creating a more intense dystopia than the reality we’re currently living.

      I’d really like to see hugs and handshakes become an act of affection again…

  11. I have a little different take on this. I read for escape and figure that’s why most people read, and once the pandemic ends unless the story is about a pandemic, I don’t want references to what we’re going through to show up in a romance or mystery.

    People are people and most will return to hugs and handshakes.

    • Patricia, I’d like things to return to “normal” with limited “new.” But I can’t shake the feeling that we’ll have to acknowledge this moment and the after effects in some way in our fiction.

      I love handshakes. And I love hugs. Maybe, slowly, they’ll come back into widespread use, but I’m certain many people will not want to reciprocate, and we’ll have to be aware of that.

      • Ha! My hubby hasn’t wanted to reciprocate handshakes since LONG before this pandemic. 😉 I know a few people (not him) who purposely loiter outside the church until the greeting time is over, then they slip into a pew with a quick escape route during the closing prayer!

  12. I guess for the near term we’ll all be writing either “historical (if not hysterical), fiction” or “science fiction… depending on things go/turn out…

    As a healthcare architect, I have additional things that may change significantly (and not JUST in hospitals/clinics) – e.g.:
    Will colleges and universities embrace distance learning instead of offering it as a novelty, and quit building large classrooms and lecture halls? They may notice the decrease in some revenues during these times, but also the off-set in operating costs by not having to heat/light/clean unused buildings…
    Will they design/upgrade dormitories to flex/flip to overflow patient care spaces to support adjacent hospitals? That is, if they’ll even need the number of beds they currently have or project…
    Will work-from-home change the need for office towers/office parks/parking lots/parking decks in our downtown cores?

    As to replacing the handshake – I’ve seen the “foot-bump” – awkward, too, plus, you’d still have to clean up when taking off your shoes… besides, my foot stays in my mouth so much this wouldn’t offer me much better protection than hand shaking…

    Stay safe…

    • You bring up good additional questions, George. Anything to replace the massive ripoff so many colleges are these days would be a good adjustment.

      The foot bump? Really? I’ve not seen that…and hope I never do.

  13. Jim, the issues you raise are already evident in TV commercials. There are ones filmed BCV (before coronavirus) with people in close contact, touching, hugging, kissing, etc. Then there are new ones that address everyday life ACV (after coronavirus) featuring restaurants with workers in masks and gloves handing out carefully sanitized orders to customers in masks and gloves driving through in cars.

    I think time may well be divided into distinct periods of BCV and ACV, as it was divided by BC/BCE and AD.

    Have to say, I kinda shudder when I watch BCV commercials. But I also shudder at ACV commercials for a different reason.

    • Wow, Debbie, great point. Commercials really are a window into our thinking, because they have to be. I’m shuddering with you, and for the same reasons.

  14. “Will a man who wants to get serious give his prospective lover flowers or a twelve pack of toilet paper?”

    Ha! What a great line. I’m relieved to see we can still maintain a sense of humor in scary times. If we lose the ability to eat out, that’s nothing. If we lose the chance to shake hands with our neighbors, that’s something. If we lose the ability to laugh at ourselves, that’s everything.

    I believe things will return to “normal” when the danger passes. Human contact is too important to us. We’ll just wash our hands more and carry hand sanitizer on a lanyard around our necks. In the meantime, Amazon will probably create a “Covid-19” category and sell a billion books.

    • Personally I love eating out, Kay. That’s the secret to my marriage. We go out to eat four times a week. I go on Mondays and Wednesdays, she goes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Ba-dump-bump.

      I do hope things return to mostly normal. One of the biggest issues I see is sporting events. Teams can’t exist financially without packed stadia. I can’t even begin to imagine my favorite sports time of year, March Madness, without the crowd element. Ack!

  15. I can see tons of ideas on surviving this virus & its aftermath. As Sue said, many readers want escapism & may not want to see a fiction world that changes too much, but what great potential for world building in future books where writers give their characters a past from the pandemic.

    I’d like to see authors tackle the aftermath – who survives, who dies. How will this affect children who lost parents & whole families? Legal thrillers with class-action lawsuits. Thrillers on conspiracies surrounding deliberate pandemic attacks. Imagining a dystopian future where social norms change forever, going forward.

    Will there be differences in how big city/urban people look at this pandemic versus people in rural areas?

    How does this virus change agoraphobia tendencies? I can see an updated version of MONK.

    Covid-19 is a life changer that is still evolving. It will potentially impact our lives even more than 9/11. Think about how fiction has been changed post 9/11 – ie airport security, suspect surveillance thru city-wide CT & traffic cameras, counterintelligence techniques, etc. Readers will expect an aftermath that we, as authors, may have to envision going forward.

    Great topic, Jim. Very thought provoking.

    • You are spot on, Jordan. Just like 9/11 changed so many things, things we now take for granted (i.e., the new normal). We have to be aware of it. And you’re right about the thriller possibilities.

      Also, the wife and I are bingeing on Monk, one of our all-time favorite shows!

      • A MONK version of post-covid19 “new normal” could be fresh &.original. The idea can be related to a Seinfeld feel for humor, like “the close talker.” Or imagine how this can change older people’s view on their mortality. I’m envisioning a new kind of MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING family, post pandemic. Instead of Windex for zits, try homemade sanitizers & plastic covered furniture that smells like bleach.

        I’m waiting for another genius series from you, similar to your zombie lawyer series.

    • Wow, Jordan! Your imagery evoked a “Book of Eli” response in my brain.

      If you haven’t watched it, do-there’s some violence in it, but the message is clear. Society in the future may not look like what we enjoy now.

  16. I’m not writing futuristic stuff. Mine is pasturific. Thus, I love these social changes! They add tons of color. Or, more specifically, it lets me make my readers recoil in horror in ways that are different from setting stories in the present or future. Or laugh.

    For example, I’m writing a novel set in 1974 where Our Hero takes a gym bag with a double-barreled sawed-off shotgun with him to the high-school dance because he had a bit of a zombie problem earlier in the week. His date asks him if he’ll get in trouble if it’s discovered. He says, “I’ll get off with a warning. It’s not like anyone ever shoots up his own school.”

    I also note in passing when people neglect to wear their seat belts for period-correctness and to send a frisson of horror up my young readers’ spines. So will any mention of unprotected sex (the setting falls into that possibly-halcyon interval between The Pill and AIDS).

    So new social shifts that add more distance between now and the Seventies just add more color, though it does make it a bit trickier to leave the reader’s emotions unmixed.

    • I think “trickier” is the right word, Robert. What will reader reactions be? There won’t be just one. I see your “tons of color” as including characterizations based on modified behavior. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? A way to avoid what readers often complain about, the “same old, same old.”

      Maybe that’s the silver lining here.

    • Pasturific – 🤔 😊 😁 👍

      And to Jim’s point~ silver linings need clouds ~ but like the glass half-full~ it’s all perspective ~ And I’m a “linings” guy myself ~

  17. I think a lot of people say a lot of things during a crisis. But after the crisis is over, people calm down from the over stimulation and return to normal habits and routines.

    I also reject this concept of ‘new normal’ – sorry but we’ve had other severe situations before and it didn’t turn us into xenophobes. The polio scare comes to mind. 911 is another.

    I think a wait and see how things shake out works for me. I don’t plan to rewrite ordinary behavior in anticipation of how people will act in the future. Mostly because I don’t know how people will act in the future.

    Once this is over – and it will be at some point – we will probably have (hopefully) a lot more facts at our disposal. And facts often do a lot to assuage fears and emotions.

    Anyway…

    • Although, Anita, we do live differently after 9/11, as Jordan pointed out. Our “new normal” is TSA. So even though we don’t know for sure every permutation, I think it’s good to at least think about it now. Rationally.

  18. I think that for a while everyone will be a bit cautious interacting with fellow humans. But in my writing, I will still institute handshakes and hugs. Fiction is a safe place to do this in.

    • There was a commercial back in the 60s where a guy has brought a girl to the door after a date, and shakes her hand and walks away. The girl says to her roommate, “A handshake instead of a kiss?” And the roommate suggest she may need to take care of bad breath. I think it was a Listerine commercial.

  19. Love your references to “As Time Goes By.” Thematic. Pundits are saying that our behavior will change with the more time that goes by during this virus.

    I confess that I love my Zoom writing group. Without the commute to our local Indy book store, we have so much more time for each piece. And I don’t have to rush off because my husband will have dinner on the table. Now, maybe I can get him to serve dinner in my office while I am critiquing. (Well, maybe not. Some things—like being at the dinner table on time—won’t change.)

    With a prompt from Andrew Zimmern, (“What’s Eating America?”) I started a virtual tips GoFundMe for the laid-off wait staff in my neighborhood. My committee meets by Zoom, and Wells Fargo has agreed to transfer our donations ($35,000!) into cashiers checks so no one has to handle dirty money.

    All of these things accomplished in my pajamas! I understand people long for the good old days, but I do believe somethings will change.

    • As a former waiter, I honor you for your GoFundMe reach out.

      Funny, but I’ve tried not to stay in my bathrobe too much longer in the morning. Getting all ready for the day, even if that day is inside the house, seems to help.

  20. Members of wedding parties will request masks to match their outfits and babies will require pretty waterproof masks for their baptisms. Or will people host these events via Zoom, thus decreasing the probability of catching a Coronovirus but increasing the possibility of catching a computer virus?

  21. I’m in macro edits for a book that releases in January. And I’m wondering this very thing with each chapter. Makes macros even harder.

  22. This will be forgotten on a social level in a few years because that’s what humanity does. With the Black Plague and the Yellow Fever epidemics as a lesson, most sane people wouldn’t live in cities or near bodies of water, yet we do. Chastity and sex only in marriage would be the way to live after AIDS and the STDs throughout history, but nope. This is a tiny blip on human interaction. The constant change of technology and social media are a bigger worry for those of us who write mysteries and thrillers.

    When I saw the title of the blog on my email feed, I thought this would be about the publishing industry so a few thoughts. The readers who have avoided ebooks and prefer paper may switch over to ebooks. Some, when the physical libraries and bookstores open back up, may not switch back. I’ve given at least a dozen tutorials on ebooks, libraries, and free and legal sources of ebooks, just in the past few days, in comment sections where I hang out. The traditional publishing industry which is mainly in high-expense areas like New York City and London may very well rethink a physical space for all its workers and the need for physical meetings. My brother in another industry is already seeing this change in mindset. From what I’ve read in the trades and publishing blogs, the industry is also using this as an excuse to get rid of those pesky editors who expect to be paid to help create the content they sell. I’m expecting the same for those pesky authors who demand to be paid for their content. Contract terms for the authors and editors they keep will become even worse because that’s also what they do. They will also say this is temporary, but it never is. It’s what the stupid publishing executives who produce nothing do so their paychecks will increase.

    • I almost wrote a post on the changes that will come to traditional publishers and authors. But this one just jumped out at me. But yes, there will be a big shift toward ebooks and borrowing after this. Sort of the right time to be indie.

  23. I’ve often been accused of being Pollyana-ish, and I’m good with that. I foresee no change whatsoever. 🙂 This too shall pass! I’m a hugger, and I’m still hugging all my family right here with me. Whenever I get back to church, I plan to hug every person I see. Of course, maybe it’s because I’ve already had the virus and I know I can with impunity. LOL but I don’t think that’s it. I think life will go on as it always has. If the 1917 pandemic didn’t do away with handshaking and hugging, I don’t see this thing as doing it either.

    • I hope you’re right, Colleen! Nothing would please me more. If we all used a little common sense (unfortunately, in short supply these days!) and went about our business, we could avoid draconian measures. Problem is there will always be voices shouting hysterically and demanding draconian. THAT is something that won’t change!

  24. It may become the new normal, but for some populations nothing changes. Because the church my husband pastors is in the ‘hood we work with a lot of homeless folks (we actually adopted a sibling group of 3 after they’d spent their young lives in chronic homelessness, violence, parental addiction, and there was no reason to believe it would change).
    Although not conscience, we don’t touch hands. We hug, lock arms, “pet” the kids on the head, and converse with each other warmly, there’s no hand shaking.
    After contracting Giardia (2 separate strains at the same time) a few years ago my unspoken policy on hand touching changed drastically — I’ve never been that sick for that long.
    I think fiction writing will purposefully or subconsciously have characters interact in ways that we will have (by the time this is over) become the “new normal.”

    • This hand touching thing appears to be the primary way this all spreads, which again leads me to agree with you there will be a “new normal.” As sad as that may be.

  25. I had to go to Home Depot for a garden hose yesterday. Wore my mask and gloves, as did most folks there. As I went into the store past a young clerk washing down carts, I said thanks and smiled at him. Then I realized he couldn’t see it. Made me sad.

    • That is sad, Kris. My sister’s putting homemade masks in the mail for us. Shopping won’t be the same, but it is what it is. 🙁

    • I went out with a mask yesterday and the moment I got out of the car I felt silly. I almost said to the first person I passed, “This is silly, isn’t it?” But then I saw one, then another, and another, and immediately I accepted it.

      Which brings up another consideration: how our characters will process emotions post pan.

  26. Did anybody here watch a show called Counterpart on Starz? Without going into too much detail, the premise of the show is that in the late 80s a parallel world (Prime) came into existence. Both worlds started to diverge ever so slightly immediately, but the changes accelerated after tens of millions of people in the Prime world died from a virus (believed introduced by the other world). Some of the characters cross back and forth, and when in the Prime world there are glimpses of how the virus has changed social interaction in that world. Covid has brought that to mind.

    I think there will be differences for the near term. But will they persist after a vaccine is introduced? Will anti vaxxers line up for this new vaccine? Or will they throw Covid parties? Will it change that mindset?

    How deep and long lasting will the economic carnage be? And how scarring will that be? People who lived though the great depression had different attitudes about saving, spending, and money in general than other generations. I’m really thinking here about new grads who won’t be able to get jobs for a very long time.

    I expect that after an effective vaccine is introduced things will start sliding back to “normal”. Ten years from now, when the population is heavily vaccinated and the virus all but gone and the economy recovered, the only remnants will be an emphasis on hand washing with a healthy dose of keeping well stock on medical supplies.

    People will definitely still have sex, one way or another. True fact: sex toy sales have gone way up since the social distancing mandates.

    • Oh yes Death, taxes, and sex (human and/or robotic. Sheesh!)

      I, too, worry greatly about the “economic carnage,” and those who fail to appreciate the damage it can do to people’s lives.

  27. These may have been suggested previously. Sorry for the repeat if so.

    The “new normal” will be everyone carrying a bottle of sanitizer.

    Friend approaches. Both squirt liquid on hands, rub palms together, bump fist, another squirt, rub hands and fist.

    Face masks will be made of clear plastic shields we’ll lift like knights lifting their helmet visor. Hmmm. Didn’t that become the salute! We’ll salute each other! Problem here will be who is the first to raise their hand. What protocols will be demanded. 🙂

    Social distancing will be reserved for future viruses or meeting those one doens’t wish to meet.

    Man is a physical creature. We’ll have a vaccine and people will wonder what was the fuss.

    • In the 40s, a guy would come up to another guy on the street and say, “Hey buddy, you got a light?”

      Will it now be, “He buddy, you got a squirt?”

  28. One thing I forgot to mention: I think that wearing masks on planes is going to be very common, if not required, at least until an effective vaccine is developed. Expect those to be N 95s once supply improves. Flight crews are especially vulnerable, not to mention able to spread the virus all over the world. While airlines haven’t been supportive to them yet, at some point they’ll have to be.

  29. He unhooked her mask, but trouble was brewing. The elastic broke. She screamed, painfully. “You snapped my eye.” In recoil she kicked him in the shins and immediately withdrew to six feet. “What have I become?” he said in his isolation. “You’re nothing better than a mangy mutt and no, I won’t pet you!” she said. At that, she stormed out the second door, never to return again.

  30. I shared this thread with my wife and we began brainstorming on a sci-fi theme. As a result of the Corona virus, a virtual face mask will be developed. It will fit over the nose, mouth, and chin and will have a pigment matching the surrounding skin. The material will filter out 99.99% of all germs, bacteria, and viruses while also allowing normal breathing. The mask will be computerized so their lips will be shown on the filter in real time. There will be an amplifier so the user is easily heard without any muffled sound. Thus, the person is protected while their facial features can be readily seen and speech heard. Unfortunately, sports and exercise put too much strain on the filter so people will either do without the filter when competing or exercising or will need to give up the activity. It will be called the “Smart Mask”.

    Sci-fi aside, I think people will quickly go back to their regular patterns after the crisis is past unless there is a similar epidemic within a year or two. Then, there might be a new normal.

    • Brilliant idea, Keith. The lips on the filter reminded me of a cartoon show when I was a kid called Clutch Cargo. The animation was static. But when the characters spoke the lips moved like human lips. I think they were superimposed. It was kind of funny and creepy at the same time.

  31. Our kids have had hand sanitizer, in a little bottle, attached to their school bags ever since kindergarten. Maybe the post-Corona world will see most people doing likewise (possible investment opportunity… should talk to my advisor).
    .
    I spent a decade and a few years in Japan. Even the best of friends there don’t touch each other – no handshakes, no hugs, no pats on the back. It isn’t as impersonal as it sounds or seems at first, it’s just different. When I’d come back to the US for an occasional holiday, two things always surprised me about (my fellow) Americans. They love to talk to each other, even total strangers in line at the grocery store or wherever, and they love to touch other people. Bowing, Japanese style, is often little more than a nod in friendly, familiar relationships. The bows get deeper and longer by degree as you dial up the formality of the occasion. Could this work in the U.S.? I don’t really know. It would be a huge change.
    .
    As for my writing, I choose to ignore the whole thing.

  32. I can tell you one thing – a surge of pandemic related fiction is sure to hit the market within 6 to 12 months – in every genre. The Dystopian/apocolypse/futuristic fiction genre will likely be better received. Just my predictions.

    But themes come and go in waves.

    I think another large portion of fiction that may change is how we depict certain characters and careers. Nurses and all medical staff may be portrayed much much differently by writers from now on than they have been in past years and/or decades. I’ve got a WIP with a young pre-med student grad and now I’m completely rethinking how to finish this story off. Contemporary events change the entire context and connotation of what and who medical personnel are now. IMHO

  33. I’ve been waiting for a post like this!
    I’ve also been wondering what genres might suddenly become more popular–or less popular? Are we too close to living in a Sci-Fi or Dystopian world to want to read about one? Or will these genres act as a kind of catharsis or even exposure therapy to lessen our fears?

  34. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday! For Writers & Readers 04-09-2020 | The Author Chronicles

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