Author Topic: Should I mention Covid 19 in my novel?  (Read 3183 times)

Vidya

Should I mention Covid 19 in my novel?
« on: March 28, 2020, 03:03:34 PM »
The situation:

19 year old Castor grew up in India and now studies in the US. He teleports to Jandan, a kingdom in an alternate universe where he meets the Crown Prince Nikhil.

People are trying to kill Nikhil, who is unpopular among large sections of the population because he has promised to protect the minorities.

Then someone frames Nikhil for the attempted murder of his father, the King.

Nikhil is in love with Kaya, but he won't be allowed to marry her since she isnt royal.

At the low point, the all-is-lost moment, Castor suggests the only way to keep Nikhil safe is to teleport him and Kaya to our  world, Earth, where they can live the rest of their lives.

The situation our world is in now, obviously that would not be the safe choice now.

Should I mention this or not? Nikhil anyway refuses his offer, insisting he has to remain in Jandan since he is the one leader who will protect the minorities.

The novel includes themes about the safe choice versus the right choice. Should I include the current situation the world is in?

Nikhil and Kaya would be safer in India than in the US since India has far fewer cases of Covid 19, at least for now. But really, who would want to leave their world and come to a world like ours now? India is under a three week lockdown and we can only go out for necessities. Again, who would want to live under such conditions now? Surely anyone would rather choose their own universe that is untainted by this disease.

So should I just not mention Covid 19 since it seems ludicrous that anyone now would think our world a safer place?

Or should I mention Covid to deepen the theme and indicate there is no such thing as a safe choice anyway. Anything can kill you anywhere, so you might as well choose the brave and difficult thing to do. You might hunker down in your home in our world and someone can still bring in the virus through mail or anything.

Complicating all this is the fact the story is written with a lot of humor. Castor is a sarcastic wise-cracker. But even he would not make light of Covid and the havoc it has wreaked. [well, the fact everyone ran to buy toilet paper is funny but apart from that, what’s funny about this whole tragic situation?]

Of course he doesn't have to make light of Covid. He could mention that is what is happening in the world, but it would still be safer for Nikhil and Kaya to hide for a while in his home until the world is open again.

What do you think?
 

TimothyEllis

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Re: Should I mention Covid 19 in my novel?
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2020, 03:16:17 PM »
Go for it.

Once this is over, people need to be confronted with reality as it really is, and as authors, it is our job to confront them.

I'd go a step further.

Not really give them a choice in the first instance, teleport them here, live for several weeks with the world breaking down, and then have him choose to go back to a more lethal but fightable foe.

Might die here verse probably will die there, but staying here means the death of hope, while going back there has the hope of winning.

Use here as a counterpoint to there.

I'd even go so far as to find a cure there for here's virus, and have it rejected as impossible to be used here by people who shouldn't be making that decision.

If you're going to use it, you may as well totally confront all the assumptions the world is operating on at the moment at the same time, and show them up under the gaze of an alien perspective.

And maybe the reason for going back is there is sane, and here is insane, and they'd rather fight a foe in the real world, than hide in a lunatic asylum.
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She-la-te-da

Re: Should I mention Covid 19 in my novel?
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2020, 07:28:57 AM »
Going by what I'm seeing lately, no don't mention it. Someone just had a book refused, even though they were willing to change the mention of the virus (it had been written before it became big news). Amazon is not posting any nonfiction about the virus, and seem to be going through previously published and newly uploaded books and returning them to draft.
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TimothyEllis

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Re: Should I mention Covid 19 in my novel?
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2020, 12:27:58 PM »
Going by what I'm seeing lately, no don't mention it. Someone just had a book refused, even though they were willing to change the mention of the virus (it had been written before it became big news). Amazon is not posting any nonfiction about the virus, and seem to be going through previously published and newly uploaded books and returning them to draft.

Last I heard, virus non-fiction was the next wave. When did Amazon start rejecting them, and why?

And why would a contemporary novel with the virus in play be a problem? Or a mention of it as part of history in a future and possibly dystopian novel?
Genres: Space Opera/Fantasy/Cyberpunk, with elements of LitRPG and GameLit, with a touch of the Supernatural. Also Spiritual and Games.



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Alec Hutson

Re: Should I mention Covid 19 in my novel?
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2020, 01:55:05 PM »
Going by what I'm seeing lately, no don't mention it. Someone just had a book refused, even though they were willing to change the mention of the virus (it had been written before it became big news). Amazon is not posting any nonfiction about the virus, and seem to be going through previously published and newly uploaded books and returning them to draft.

Last I heard, virus non-fiction was the next wave. When did Amazon start rejecting them, and why?

And why would a contemporary novel with the virus in play be a problem? Or a mention of it as part of history in a future and possibly dystopian novel?

I'm guessing because shady scammers were uploading pamphlets about Covid-19 and spreading misinformation about the virus. Folks were panic buying them and getting misled.

Alec Hutson
 

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Re: Should I mention Covid 19 in my novel?
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2020, 02:00:34 PM »
I just did a search on Amazon.

Covid-19 brings up 103 pages. As at page 4, all are on topic.

Going by what I'm seeing lately, no don't mention it. Someone just had a book refused, even though they were willing to change the mention of the virus (it had been written before it became big news). Amazon is not posting any nonfiction about the virus, and seem to be going through previously published and newly uploaded books and returning them to draft.

Are they sure it was mentioning the virus which got it refused? Most likely it was something else.

The sheer volume of existing books would seem to suggest there is no problem publishing them.
Genres: Space Opera/Fantasy/Cyberpunk, with elements of LitRPG and GameLit, with a touch of the Supernatural. Also Spiritual and Games.



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Vidya

Re: Should I mention Covid 19 in my novel?
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2020, 03:05:22 PM »
Crystal said in TOP she is seeing a lot of announcements for quarantine romances. She is right. When I type “quarantine romance” in the search bar, there’s a whole list. One actually has COVID-19 in the title.
 

Alec Hutson

Re: Should I mention Covid 19 in my novel?
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2020, 03:46:41 PM »
I just did a search on Amazon.

Covid-19 brings up 103 pages. As at page 4, all are on topic.

Going by what I'm seeing lately, no don't mention it. Someone just had a book refused, even though they were willing to change the mention of the virus (it had been written before it became big news). Amazon is not posting any nonfiction about the virus, and seem to be going through previously published and newly uploaded books and returning them to draft.

Are they sure it was mentioning the virus which got it refused? Most likely it was something else.

The sheer volume of existing books would seem to suggest there is no problem publishing them.

https://www.wired.com/story/amazon-quietly-removes-coronavirus-books/

"AS THEnew coronavirus continues to spread, Amazon has cracked down on third-party sellers looking to profit from the outbreak. It removed more than 1 million listings last month that falsely claimed to defend against or cure the illness, as well as tens of thousands of items, such as face masks, that were offered for inflated prices. But the retail giant is confronting more than just an influx of sketchy coronavirus supplies. Its bookstore has become a source of dubious information about the outbreak, and Amazon has quietly begun removing some books about the virus from its virtual shelves.

As several news outlets have noted, Amazon has flooded in recent weeks with books about Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, some of which appear hastily self-published and contain conspiracy theories. At least a few appear to be successful: Last Friday, a self-published book titled Everything About Face Masks and Coronavirus was the top seller in Amazon’s Medical eBooks category, beating mainstream nonfiction titles like John M. Barry’s The Great Influenza, which ranked number two. That same day, however, the book’s listing was taken down. Its author, Dr. Timothy Zahar—a pen name, according to his bio—has no other books currently listed on Amazon."

Alec Hutson
 

notthatamanda

Re: Should I mention Covid 19 in my novel?
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2020, 09:53:36 PM »
Crystal said in TOP she is seeing a lot of announcements for quarantine romances. She is right. When I type “quarantine romance” in the search bar, there’s a whole list. One actually has COVID-19 in the title.
It's kind of a play on the vacation rental house mixed booking genre. Which has a better name but I forget it. Two people accidentally stuck in the house together decide to stick it out and romance happens.
 

Shawna

Re: Should I mention Covid 19 in my novel?
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2020, 10:55:21 AM »
I would avoid it just because at this point we have no real idea whether this is a thing that will blow over in a month or two and in three months the reference will feel dated and paranoid ... or if something else might happen. I think if anyone wants to include it in fiction like that, it would be better to wait until it's over and write with full knowledge of what the final impact really is. Only that way will you be likely to end up with a book that feels as relevant in ten years as it might a week from now. (And really, personally speaking, if I saw an author writing as if what's going on now is a world-wide black plague, guaranteed-death-level pandemic that's less safe than someone actively out to murder you, I'd have a hard time taking them seriously.)
 

Luke Everhart

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Re: Should I mention Covid 19 in my novel?
« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2020, 11:08:28 AM »
I think if anyone wrote a novel with everything playing out as it has, including the reaction, the global shutdowns, the eventual numbers, etc. you'd get a lot of readers leaving DNF reviews because the events defied credible suspension of disbelief.
The idea of shutting down the world's economy is itself, prior to these events, utterly implausible.
To do so and have people in various states in the U.S. actually arrested for not only attending church but in a couple cases for having a stay-in-your-car drive up church service?! Having people dragged out of subway cars by half a dozen officers for failure to wear a mask? Etc.
Then it plays out and the numbers come in at, so far at least, 526,412 deaths BELOW a recent global flu season death tally? It all defies plausibility.
It'd make a great Christopher Buckley or Douglas Adams style satire though.
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Vidya

Re: Should I mention Covid 19 in my novel?
« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2020, 04:38:48 PM »
Luke, though I think the lockdowns did work to infect fewer people, for some time i’ve found myself in agreement with you and Tim about the greater damage they’ve done in other ways.

Shawna, I wouldn’t write as if what's going on now is a world-wide black plague, guaranteed-death-level pandemic. Though it is that to the doctors and nurses on the front line. i’d focus more on the freedom aspect.

In any case, I would not go into detail. IF I used it, I would have the characters arrive on Earth, in India, and the next evening they hear Prime Minister Modi announce India is on lockdown.

Meanwhile they have spent the day watching TV.

Again I would not detail everything. It would go like this:

Kaya lifted glazed eyes from the TV. “People are fighting over toilet paper? And white people tell us we’re too uncivilized to rule ourselves?”

“They don't say that in my world,” I said. “Not out loud, anyway.”

Devika shook her head, bemused. “Ignorance crosses universes. Even in your world, white people don’t know water cleans better than paper.”

“I grew up in India, so I do know that.” I was anxious to assure my new friends my butt wasn’t suspect.

“You wanted to live safe,” Nikhil said to Kaya. “This is Castor’s idea of a safe world. This is his idea of living free. A world where governments force people to hide in their homes. We escaped one dungeon to enter this.”

So now Covid-19 was my fault too? So what else was new? Clearly our detente was already over.

“In fairness to Castor, most people didn't take this seriously until now,” said Mom. “But yes, being imprisoned in one’s own house is taking a toll on people’s mental health and emotional well-being. A  friend of mine in the US told me she has recurring dreams of trying to escape her fourth-floor apartment through a window.”

“Your world has gone mad,” said Nikhil. “People have exchanged freedom for safety. I would rather fight a foe in the real world than hide in a lunatic asylum.”

“You can’t fight if you’re dead,” said Kaya. “As long as we stay indoors, this world is still safer.”

“I would rather be dead than trapped,” said His Haughty Highness.

***

that’s how it would go. What do you think of it? As you can see, i’m focusing more on the freedom versus imprisonment aspect than the virus being a sure killer of all.

It would be boring to list all that happened, so I just indicate it with the above exchange. Focusing on character reactions rather than the virus itself, which is way too dreary for me to write about.
 

Shawna

Re: Should I mention Covid 19 in my novel?
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2020, 12:23:35 PM »
In general, I tend to be of the opinion that if you really do want to say something political in your fiction, you're likely to have a bigger audience for your book if you do so through well-crafted symbolism that doesn't specifically call out any of your readers and tell them how bad/stupid/whatever they individually are because of whatever real-world group they happen to belong to (*ahem* "white people"?). Maybe read Gulliver's Travels, if you haven't already, to see how political commentary allegory was handled well enough that it became a classic, even long past the time period where any readers had the first clue what the commentary even was.
 

Vidya

Re: Should I mention Covid 19 in my novel?
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2020, 04:09:51 PM »
Shawna, Castor’s friends come from a universe where "white people” colonize much of the world, as they did in centuries  past on Earth. There is no tip-toeing around that fact. In future books they fight for their freedom from said colonization.

yes, my characters from the alt universe don't trust "white people.” except they do make friends with Castor who is on their side, and in a future book, one of them does fall in love with one of her oppressors. so, a lot of inner conflict there too.
 

Shawna

Re: Should I mention Covid 19 in my novel?
« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2020, 10:22:21 AM »
Shawna, Castor’s friends come from a universe where "white people” colonize much of the world, as they did in centuries  past on Earth. There is no tip-toeing around that fact. In future books they fight for their freedom from said colonization.

yes, my characters from the alt universe don't trust "white people.” except they do make friends with Castor who is on their side, and in a future book, one of them does fall in love with one of her oppressors. so, a lot of inner conflict there too.

Okay, well, that's a totally different topic, so I don't think we need to go into further details with that (other than to warn you that if you call out real-world groups of people in your novel, you will drive some readers off). But I guess that and the Covid question comes down to how many real-world "issues" you want in your fantasy. It seems like you want more than I would. Some readers like that kind of thing and some don't. I think it would lead to a more niche audience than a general audience, but really, just write what you want to and don't worry about how big the audience is. I do think that it's too early to know how big of an issue this virus will end up being. For all we know, the virus itself will end up being a footnote to the economic and other types of results that come from it. And it's all that unknown that makes it appear, to me, inadvisable to do too much with it in a novel at present (especially if your novel won't be published for a month or more). I think it'll be a lot easier for authors to write believably (and more timelessly) on the subject once we get some distance from it.