Life At A Distance: an article for the post-Apocalypse by: GF Willmetts.

March 29, 2020 | By | Reply More

The one thing that can be done with writing on the Internet is I can always be topical or even change my mind what to write in an article, change or alter something right upto the last second it goes on-line. Editorials deal with topical subjects, too, but you do expect a lot more thought and analysis with any article. Of course, there is also a bridging subject that means it deserves space all to itself.

One of the things about creating a Science Fiction reality is it takes a lot of time to ponder on every effect on society. Much of the time, there is a need to focus on the areas needed for the plot and broadstroke the rest. Broadstroking is dropping in the odd line to show you had thought of something outside of the story, acknowledged you’ve been thinking and moving on because you have a story to write not a reality check. It’s there if you want to expand in a later novel and those who look for every detail tend to find such things are kept happy than think things are made up as they go on. The details perhaps, but the initial idea is covered.

With our present Science Fiction reality that we live in, we can get a first hand measure of a world-wide pandemic and how different cultures are affected by it. More so, as world-builders, we are seeing something that is likely to change the way we take our world forever. Useful fodder for creating a Science Fiction reality, although there has never been one like this before, not even in SF. We really are entering a real world-wide dystopia where no one is safe and that is something very familiar in Science Fiction circles. As reality analysts, even in dire circumstances such as this we are also here to study.

From our perspective, let’s explore the possibilities and see if a proper SF reality can come out of it. I’m not trying to make something good out of this, just exploring the consequences of what changes will be like somewhere down the line, assuming we reach a post-pandemic this time.

There’s lots of points to look at. Please don’t take this as a reason to stop doing anything that sound medical advice has also given. It’s more to look at the effects on society and how it might be applied to the real world as a sort of preparation for after the apocalypse.

There are a lot of consequences of avoiding shaking hands or getting within 6 feet of anyone is how long will people resist or how long vigorous hand-washing will continue. Humans are, after all, very fickle when it comes to doing something when it doesn’t appear to be doing anything to protect themselves.

Even so, the general consensus is to avoid skin contact with people for a limited time. You do have to ask yourself as to whether this will have any effect on the population in 9 months time when couples are told to stay in their houses together. Tall order and I think at the end of the way, it will be a bell percentage curve. But then, isn’t everything?

Going back to the 6 feet away from each other to reduce contact from each other is something where I can only remember being used once in Science Fiction. Any of you familiar with Isaac Asimov’s ‘The Naked Sun’. Saying that, Solaria, the planet used didn’t have a big population. 20,000 is a fraction of what we have on Earth but its colonisers took it as the norm. Losing people beyond a similar age was done in ‘Miri, Miri’ in the original ‘Star Trek’ and, of course, in ‘Logan’s Run’, although that was compulsory death at 21 in the book and 30 in the film/TV series, even if the enclosed city population didn’t know it.

Even so, humans are supposed to be sociable in all manner of ways and the lack of it has to have interesting consequences and how long a lack of grouping will cause will make ‘1984’ look normal. The lack of sport will certainly cut the paper count in newspapers but as I ignore that section anyway I doubt if I’d miss it. The likelihood of it doing significant permanent damage to newspaper sales shouldn’t be underestimated. On the other hand, people might want to have something physical in their hands than rely on just the Internet or television for information. Assuming sport resumes, I suspect there will be a lot of nervous looks on the first and often more occasions as players accidently touch each other. I could probably make a fortune in force field belts or protection suits.

One of things that might take off better for some jobs is working from home. Once various managements accept it as a reality, it would reduce the stress of travelling and save money. Of course, the train companies will lose money but for those who have to travel in the UK, they might actually have a seat at long last. How much that will cost is questionable. I can see big changes and probable public ownership which might not be a bad idea in the UK and might even be done cheaply.

That still depends on how big a population is left and no one knows how that will go. It is presumed that the coronavirus will lie dormant during the summer but it’s so new, who can really tell, more so as it seems to be thriving in hot temperature, let alone if we don’t get an even more dangerous variant as it evolves. It is said that the older population is the most vulnerable, but so, too, is anyone with a pulmonary complaint or other aliment. It might even end smokers and vapers. If the coronavirus persists for a few generations without generating an inoculation, we will have people fearful as they approach a pensionable age. As I’m already in the triple threat category myself, I do wonder why more people aren’t given the anti-pneumonia inoculation? At least, it would prevent one deadly effect to a downed immunity system.

With countries like the USA banning flights to and from other countries, international commerce is going to be affected in the long term unless current trading rules are kept or expanded upon. It will be like a war-time conditions without a war. Think of that now when you’re ordering on-line even now and how long before it becomes essential items only and how do you prove that. In many respects, I hope that will change. Material objects are mostly inorganic and not virus carriers and you have more chances of picking up an infection from an iPad than a parcel.

It would certainly change your minds where you people go when travelling on your holidays. More so, as the news media is giving insight into how different medical services are treating people in this crisis.

What will always be a bigger worry is that if we survive this pandemic, then how will we fare with the next one? Hopefully, better precautions will be in place, especially in China’s animal markets and better hygiene standards if they are allowed to continue. In many respects, one can only hope China bans them as this is the second from this kind of source. We don’t really want a third pandemic.

I think the biggest surprise is how the supermarket shelves were emptied in the first week. For those of you who’ve seen the last season of ‘The Americans’ where Martha Hanson (actress Alison Wright), a lady forced to defect after being manipulated by Philip Jennings (actor Matthre Rhys) was looking for something to buy in a Russian supermarket that had little to choose from. Who would have thought this would happen in the western world or for all the regular usual products.

Who can eat toilet rolls? In a nuclear war, would that really be the first thing to go after? From a diabetic point of view and a long list of food intolerances, I saw myself a couple weeks down the line in some serious terminal trouble. I have found some solutions but I’m a geek, I’m supposed to be good at finding things but many aren’t. As such, there is more a need of a slight overlap of purchasing without emptying the shelves to ensure survival. No wonder with apocalyptical SF stories we rarely see characters with medical problems surviving.

In many respects, in the space of half a year, things are going to change rather rapidly. Even looking at my examples, my main areas for stories are in the black market and war-time conditions. You do have to wonder how long before ration books or limiters are put on buying is enforced continually to prevent people buying far more than they need? At least the medical people and those with serious medical complaints will be able to get the food they need. The former are certainly the backbone of any country right now. The geek loner is likely to be the way of life but we’re used to that.

Maybe fictionalising our reality is going to become a black comedy. I’d love to see a film drama come out based on keeping everyone at 6 feet from each other, showing all the complications of what it is like now. David Lynch must be considering it right now.

Considering all soap operas are on hold and I imagine new films, TV series and adverts as well, a progression of this is likely to be a new version where no one is going to go get within 3 or 6 feet of each other. Someone is going to do a wind-up of this. Oddly, ‘Monty Python’ got there first with ‘Wuthering Heights’ in semaphore keeping the two lovers divided by two hills.

Something that did occur to me while writing this article is would someone really want to read a story centred on our new reality? Of course, it’s bound to be used in our soap operas. It would be stupid not to but look at how long it took for ethical groups to finally appear in our national soaps. For Science Fiction, I suspect people would prefer something different on the whole. In that regard something far worse for the pessimists those who want to soak up on people with a far worse situation and for the optimists, a reality with a happy ending.

Do we need pessimism to cheer us up right now? Even writers can feel dark when things look pessimistic. Mind you, black humour is the British way and we will joke about anything, especially on some of the more bizarre things some leaders say and really show how some leaders aren’t as good as they pretend to be.

I have this rather interesting image of Donald Trump lying on a bed denying he’s got the coronavirus infection and being televised saying, ‘My fellow Americans, I have the virus but I am not prepared to die. I have someone else who will do that for me.’ Stranger things are likely to happen. I think there will be a lot more honesty and that can’t be a bad thing, especially from politicians.Then again, regardless of your status in life, wealth or political power, your odds of infection are as equal as anyone else and have closer odds than any game. A world that is not safe for anyone is pure Science Fiction fodder. I await first contact with an extra-terrestrial species any time in the next ten years.

© GF Willmetts

March 2020


Category: Culture, World getting weirder

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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