What To Do When The World Isn’t Watching: an article by: GF Willmetts.

November 1, 2020 | By | Reply More

Occasionally I like to speculate about our own world and oddly how it will affect our own genre in the covid-19 situation, although I doubt if people will want to read SF versions of what is going on now. I mean, what can they do but speculate on an inoculation or cure and I suspect people will want the real thing than dreams about it or what happens next. How can it compete with personal survival and even terminal life stories that must surely be entering the media now.

However, for the realms of modern day Science Fiction, a general lockdown with fewer people, including police, military and probably secret service agency personal roaming but bubble groups around, you would think opportunity knocks for experimentation by the unscrupulous companies that must exist. After all, there’s no one looking over their shoulders if a few lines are crossed and protocols are ignored. Of course, that might not happen in our world but in something very close as we can do in SF, the world would get suddenly dangerous. When you add the covid-19 restrictions, surely you’ve got the ingredients to shake up the pile some when the rest of the world isn’t watching or looking somewhere else? It would potentially make the zombie movies lack realism depending what they do and get away with and undoubtedly have the paranoid looking over their shoulders.

I should point out that we can use our current reality as a template to how we react and how we can speculate where it can be used or manipulated. So treat this article also an a means to explore current humanity’s reaction and whether SF realities can make it even more dangerous.

The villains might not necessarily be evil for evil’s sake. It just needs an element of greed or being the first to exploit a situation. If it’s a tad, shall we say, unlawful or illegal, well, I double if the police are watching and there’s a lot of guinea pigs who want money when jobs are short. Again, this is an alternative version but pretty close to our reality. You even have people bubbles to take advantage of. Groups of people together are the fodder of many genre stories. You’re already confined, but at least you’d be paid extra to try something out. All the elements that can be exploited. When you consider the number of people who have signed up to test covid-19, all for the right reasons I hasten to add, one shouldn’t under-estimate volunteers signing up for to test anything if they get adequate pay as an alternative to isolation boredom and needing a paying job. Careful what you sign up to test I any reality.

What To Do When The World Isn’t Watching: an article by: GF Willmetts.

Even so, one has to look at models from our own reality and whether particular countries will use the situation to their advantage. For those of you who remember the Peter Sellers’ 1959 film ‘The Mouse Who Roared’, where a small country invaded the USA when no one is paying attention can appear to be a victory when there was no opposition. Of course, in modern times there’s all kinds of early warning systems and retaliation strategies that should prevent any sort of pre-emptive strike but we are living in odd times and any sign of weakness is exploited. One only has to see how international computer hacking is being done by particular countries who are not only looking for information but taking over secured systems.

Exploited in a big way and people won’t know what to believe and how much any form of news can be believed regardless of whether its accurate or not. Hmmm…that sounds awfully like a current version of what we have, as I write this, one world leader declaring anything he doesn’t approve of as ‘fake news’ and yet he propagates what he also says his opposition are doing. Disbelieving everything or worse, believing what is clearly wrong as accurate is not something you want in a leadership who has access to the top experts in their particular fields and ignoring their advice.999

Of course, not everyone or company wants to rule the world, well at least not openly. Covertly takes away a lot of that responsibility and, unless caught, reduced liability. ‘It was only an oversight.’ Try getting every country to obey you without some act of force and then continue to having to do it every time there’s some dissent over any decision you make. All right, maybe it would be better to have puppet governments who take the blame for your decisions but we have something like that already if you recognise there are high end business bosses working together to keep financial control but let’s not go there today. Too close to the truth.

Then again, no one has speculated on what happens if one country finds the right coronavirus inoculation and won’t share it’s manufacture technique or want to sell it at an extraordinary high price to the rest of the world. It isn’t as though one particular country hasn’t offered to buy all stock even before an inoculation has been created. The ‘all right, jack’ still exists, although will get unstuck if medical testing isn’t carried out properly.

That doesn’t mean there are other things you can do. A lot depends on what you want or can do. If you examine our reality and the speed the majority of populations adhered to initial lockdowns then there is a good argument that hacking the media, even in an limited way, you can suggest other things. The way the media had to warn people on TV against Trump’s ‘injecting yourself with bleach’ comment being extremely dangerous shows how some people will react by believing, see the last paragraph, whatever they are told than questioning it. That is the mechanics of a confidence trick after all. You don’t necessarily have to be a grifter to test human gullibility, just keep gently probing to find a weak spot to exploit. Some people will believe any and everything and I’d rather have a percentage of people who will question anything than meekly obey.

At least, as percentages go, that might raise the chances of survivors in all but the most extreme conditions. There’s a combination of reacting to authority figures and hero worship in there somewhere but herd instinct extends beyond. Humans are also notoriously curious and even with a mask on, if you stood staring up at a window or something in town and at social distancing, some people will stop to stare as well. Walk on and many will still keep watching.

As I’ve already pointed out, our current scenario presents people needing jobs and the potential for buying human guinea pigs. Not necessarily for coronavirus cures but for Science Fiction, that might not be so important. The choices open from everything from zombie variants to turning people super-human or whatever. If it doesn’t happen in real life, then you can bet it will be a subject used in a film or a book coming to your area sooner or later. Maybe I should write a story on the subject and copyright the too obvious plot.

In some respects, our current reality presents three challenges for writers in any genre. Keep going as if it’s pre-covid, during our current situation or assume some time after an inoculation or cure is found. After all, a lot of Science Fiction is set in the future, it wouldn’t make much difference to have no reference to it than anything else in the modern day and skip a few generations and assume mankind has survived our current crisis.

Whatever the options, the ultimate decision on any SF-based story is whether there is a readership for it and that still depends on good ideas. Try to avoid the obvious. Science Fiction has a lot more opportunities than the rest of the fiction genres. We are supposed to be the genre or imagination not repeating old ideas. Did I just say that?


© GF Willmetts 2020

careful what you borrow

it might be yesterday’s news


Category: Culture

Warning: Use of undefined constant php - assumed 'php' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /homepages/40/d502808907/htdocs/clickandbuilds/sfcrowsnest/wp-content/themes/wp-davinciV4.6/single.php on line 65

About UncleGeoff

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.

Leave a Reply