ZACHRY WHEELER

Science Fiction Novelist
Staring Into the Void: An Author’s Take on the Great Pandemic
Posted on April 17, 2020
Category: Zeedub Inkwell
Zachry Wheeler, Science Fiction Novelist

I find it oddly fortuitous that The Mortal Vestige was released shortly before COVID-19 brought the world to a grinding halt. As a spoiler-free explanation, let’s just say that the nature of the story has given me some serious deja vu over the last several months. (Anyone who has read the Immortal Wake series will know exactly what I’m talking about.) It’s very strange having lived inside that world for so long, only to see a real-life version unfold after publication.

I guess strange would be an understatement. It’s been downright unsettling.

As an author, I spend a great deal of time staring at a computer screen. I sit by myself and think up new and interesting ways for fictional characters to interact. A quarantine does not derail my life all that much, so I am content to weather the storm. (And for the record, this does not discount the workers who are risking their lives to keep society afloat. You are all champions who keep idiots like me fed. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay awesome.)

Despite the downturn, looking at the world through a new set of eyes has been a captivating experience. My daily activities have not changed, but the contexts surrounding them have been completely upended. And so, I thought it would be interesting to highlight some of the strange new takes on our strange new times.

Shaking Hands

Dr. Anthony Fauci has been the go-to voice of reason throughout this crisis. “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again,” he said, a quote that will likely outlast the pandemic. As someone who regularly attends conventions to promote my works, I cannot begin to express the relief behind this statement. Finally, I can reject a handshake without looking like a smarmy douchebag. When you shake the hand of anyone at an event, you shake the hands of everyone at an event. This grossed me out long before the crisis and I always packed a bottle of hand sanitizer. I do love that nerdy greetings have risen up to vanquish the handshake, everything from “Live Long and Prosper” to “Wakanda Forever.” I used the latter on a pizza delivery guy and he responded in kind. That alone has made the world a better place.

Public Gatherings

It’s often said that introverts like people, but hate crowds. I definitely resemble that statement, so I wasn’t all that heart-broken when my convention schedule got wiped clean. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy meeting readers and experiencing the joys of a fan event, but I always need to recover afterwards. I much prefer the quiet walls of my own home, so receiving a mandate to stay there was like telling a kid to eat the entire bag of candy. I used to love going to concerts and sporting events back in the day, but the thought of large crowds really unnerves me. Now that it’s socially acceptable to keep your distance, it does make me wonder how the convention scene will recover. Perhaps a marketing revamp will be in order.

Air Travel

I hated flying before the pandemic, but it was a necessary evil when it came time to travel for events. Now that airports are breeding grounds for infection (not that they ever weren’t), the thought of air travel went from unpleasant to unthinkable. I was lucky enough to satisfy my wanderlust over the last several decades, so the thought of being grounded doesn’t really bother me. In addition, all that globetrotting instilled a sharp disdain for the airline industry. Their cost-cutting, comfort-eroding, passenger-gouging practices have slowly pushed me into hermit mode. And now that I have a valid excuse to stay home, my days in the baggage claim may have officially come to an end.

Social Media

My social media usage has always been a reluctant slog, but the sudden torrent of thirst and banality has pushed it into revulsion. I understand that people are looking for ways to curb the boredom, but in doing so, they have killed any notion of curation. As an example, someone thought it was a good idea to create a smash-cut of Richard Dawson (yes, the deceased game show host) kissing women on the old Family Feud show. This ignited the outrage machine, which is more than happy to go grave-digging for virtue points. This is nothing new, mind you, but the current surge was enough to push me over the edge. I wiped all of my accounts down to a handful of blog posts and removed all links from my ebooks. (I would have deleted them outright if not for retaining my author handles.) Done, done, done with the circus.

General Vibe

The introverted worldview can best be illustrated by a box and a window. We are comfortable in our own space and view the world through a portal (be it a computer screen, a book, or an actual window). We value silence, stability, and consistency. In the wake of a global pandemic, we are relishing an unexpected camaraderie from our fellow human beings. Many reject the notion of a quiet life, but more and more are seeing the benefits of solitude. I think this is one of the few positives revealed by the crisis, a collective “pause and catch your breath” moment as a species. I burned out on the hustle a long time ago, which is why I work from home as a programmer and write books for fun. I have always been an anomaly in that regard, but now it’s like the world has joined me in the void. At least, for a brief window of time.

Hmm, a rare moment of floridness. Don’t worry, it’ll pass.

Writers around the world are experiencing a call to arms. Commanders have summoned us from solitude and demanded that we stay there. As we rise from our ergonomic chairs, we proclaim in one triumphant voice, “They may take our toilet paper, but they will never take our disinclination to leave the house!” I would don some blue paint and hoist a broadsword, but the cats are sleeping and I don’t want to disturb them.

Read more:
A Post on Posts: Viewing the Past Through a Pandemic Lens