Imagining Life, Post-Pandemic

There was a time – two months or so ago – when readers flocked to dystopian fiction so that they might imagine  what strange, dark days might lay ahead. Now that we’re all living through something that feels a bit like sci-fi itself, futuristic fiction is still there to help us envision and contemplate the way forward.

In Mike Chen’s Beginning at the End, it felt pretty apocalyptic when the viral epidemic known as MGS wiped out 70% of the world’s population. But the world didn’t end, and six years later we join three residents of San Francisco as they emerge from social isolation into a city and a world that is different, yet in many ways still the same. Rob’s young daughter doesn’t yet know that her mother has died. Struggling former wedding-planner Krista escaped her own abusive family under cover of the plague, and now counsels traumatized survivors. Former pop star Moira’s life has been reinvented in surprising ways during the epidemic. Chen’s perceptive, empathetic novel helps us to process realities not so very different from our own.

For Luce Cannon, the worst thing about the global pandemic was the cancellation of all live rock concerts, a stance that’s more understandable when you know that she’s musician and was on the verge of superstardom when the quarantine shuts it all down. Coming of age in a technologically mediated, stay-at-home world, young Rosemary Laws takes a new job with virtual concert organizer StageHolo that sends her outdoors into a brave new world where rebellious rockers like Luce illegally perform thrillingly spontaneous live concerts. Will Luce “sell out” to the homogenized corporate holo-pop, and how will her first prolonged experience of immediate humanity affect Rosemary? In A Song for a New Day, Sarah Pinsker convincingly imagines the emotionally complex landscapes of post-viral proximity, while exploring the challenges faced by performing artists struggling to survive and adapt to an increasingly isolated, plugged-in world.

In Kimi Eisele’s The Lightest Object in the Universe, it isn’t just the viral pandemic that brings America to its knees. There’s also a devastating flood, rampant inflation, widespread civil unrest, and then cyberterrorists disable the power grid. With seemingly nothing to lose, Carson Waller decides to head out across country – hitchhiking, by bike, on foot – to reunite with an online crush, Beatrix, while she works to rebuild and restore her West Coast community without recourse to modern technology. In what seems like an infinitely more reassuring version of The Road, Eisele highlights humanity’s capacity to overcome self and work together when faced with seemingly overwhelming challenges – a story that seems more and more these days like the way things truly are.

   ~ Posted by David W.

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