People of the internet! As you sit atop your thrones of hoarded toilet paper and hand sanitizer, disposing of unwanted Corona beers, don't forget to feed the mind and soul as well as the body. When you're stocking your prepper bunkers, remember that a few well-chosen books will go a long way. Even should the global economy collapse and the electrical grid go out, never fear—there is one comfort that will never let you down in the midst of panic and quarantine: reading a good book. (Look, Ma! It doesn't even require electricity!)
At the risk of sounding even more irreverent than I already do, dystopian writers (such as myself) have been imagining pandemic scenarios for a long time. We now find ourselves in a weird position, looking around and humming, "Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality..." I know that for a lot of people the last three years have felt a little like a dystopia already, but throw a pandemic into the mix, and it's really starting to get there.
On the upside, introverts have been preparing our entire lives for such a time as this. Work from home? Avoid crowds and unnecessary contact with people? Don't shake hands? Um, yes, please!
Jokes aside, the coronavirus is set to change the way we all live, and for a significant portion of 2020, if not beyond that. While I think humor is a healthy way to keep everyone's spirits up during this age of fear, I don't want to diminish or delegitimize the danger certain people groups are in. Take care of yourselves and take care of others. And in the meantime, find activities to do at home away from people—like reading.
For some people, reading dystopian stories might be an interesting diversion during this time when it feels like we are so close to some version of a feared dystopian future. Having just released two books in 2019 dealing with global pandemics, (It's true! I did. You can get them here and here.) dystopia is heavy on my mind right now. Writers have great imaginations (Says the writer), and imagining what might come to pass in the future in such stories is one of the key factors that drove me to write dystopia in the first place. As such, these stories always come with implicit warnings about how to go about preventing the terrible futures we predict.
More importantly, though, dystopian writers usually take pains to show how we believe we should be caring for each other in the midst of futuristic crises. Sometimes it's by showing man's inhumanity to man (or woman) with the implied message of, "Go forth and do the opposite of this." Sometimes it's by writing protagonists who challenge the status quo to stand up for the oppressed and downtrodden. Sometimes it's by writing just how much all of humanity suffers when good people do nothing.
Dystopian stories are usually bleak, but the bleakness exists to cast into greater contrast the good. Our world doesn't have to descend into the sort of despair so many of us have written about—there is still hope.
My advice during this age of fear? Buy yourself some books to read about the dark to read in the dark. You might be surprised at the light you find in them.
And don't hoard the toilet paper. Everybody needs some, y'all. Be a good neighbor.
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