Fiction must make more sense than real life. I think we all know that real life isn’t making much sense at the moment. If we wrote about a global pandemic in which presidential staff held hands and prayed that it would simply go away, it would seem ridiculous beyond words. It would be unrealistic if we had people believing that it was being caused by mobile telephone signals and attacking masts. We’d glance heavenwards and sigh loudly to see our PM making announcements flanked (too closely) by his cabinet members and whisper ‘of course’ when he tested positive for Covid 19. We’d wonder at the mentality of the great and the good standing too close together at the opening of a new coronavirus hospital in a London Exhibition centre. We’d yell at the screen if a president told his citizens to take an unproven drug against the advice of his public health experts. I’ve taken all of those examples from recent news reports on both sides of the Atlantic.
I see that conspiracy theorists are already posting to Facebook, positing that Covid 19 is a bioweapon from China meant to destabilise the rest of the world.
In my last blog entry I said that I always wanted to write about science fiction, I didn’t want to live in it – especially in a dystopia, which is close to where we are right now.
It’s been more than three weeks since Best Beloved and I stepped out of the front door. Any socialising we’ve done has been via Skype or Google hangouts. Our kids are too far away (one in the south of England, one across the Atlantic in Virginia) but even if they were not, we wouldn’t be able to visit in person, and that’s a good thing because my daughter and her family have definitely had something. Of course without readily available testing, either the virus test or an antigen test, we can’t be totally sure it was Covid 19. Since they’ve come through it relatively easily I have to hope that it was and that they are now immune.
We’ve been (so far) getting our groceries delivered but there’s every sign, now, that delivery slots are drying up because demand is far outstripping availability. We have a small greenhouse and a big garden so, though it’s many years since self-sufficiency was the trending thing, we’re going full-on vegetable growing in the knowledge that it will be several months before we start to produce anything edible. In fairness we’re not new to growing our own fruit and veg. We’ve had raised vegetable beds in the garden for the last ten years or so, but other than the strawberry beds, they haven’t been productive in the last couple of years due to lack of time and energy.
When we were newly married we had a yen for a smallholding with enough pasture for a couple of horses, a donkey or two (just because: donkeys), and a plot for fruit and vegetables. Maybe I would have been OK on that smallholding. Though if life had turned in that direction I might never have had time to write.
They say write about what you know, but I have to say right now that I won’t be writing about a global pandemic. However some of the experiences brought on by Covid 19 could be useful to a writer. Sowing all the seeds for the vegetable beds has reminded me just how much time it takes to produce your own food. This of course was highlighted superbly in Andy Weir’s The Martian. (If you haven’t read it, do so now. Highly recommended.) Growing food (on Earth or on an alien planet) is a major achievement. I’ve been checking my greenhouse daily, knowing that the first batch of seeds I sowed were mostly out of date. Whoo-hoo, today I have five broad beans (out of twelve) just beginning to show through. Result! Now, if only the others germinate, too. If this was truly post apocalyptic and there was no way to get fresh seeds, my life (and the lives of my family) would be depending on me cajoling a few packets of out of date seeds into life. (Yes, I have bought fresh seeds, now, though there’s also been a run on seed suppliers. Who’d have thought that getting Cos lettuce seeds would ever be difficult!)
The other thing that self-isolation has made me acutely aware of, is how socialising with family and friends over video links is what you might do if you were in space, or on a colony planet. Daughter is 200 miles away, son is 5,000 miles away, but honestly, they could be in the next street or on the moon. I can’t give them hugs in person. I must be satisfied with long distance relationships. Yesterday I managed Skype calls with son and daughter (and families) and all is well.
What is this pandemic teaching you?