Category Archives: Media

The Pandemic In Fiction

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We know, inevitably, the Pandemic of 2020 (and sadly, 2021) is going to eventually work it’s way into fiction. Humans use fiction to make sense of things, humans use real events in fiction to ground them, and known things sell books.

But what will the Pandemic of 2020 do, specifically to American media and fiction? I asked myself that recently – and then found myself standing on a precipice of imagination, looking into the unknown.

The Pandemic of 2020 is, for America, an unmitigated disaster, with 200,000 people dead as of this writing. We’re humiliated in the eyes of the world, our politics in chaos, our social media clogged with conspiracy theories, and no end in sight. Right now the biggest source of Pandemic fiction is people lying about the situation or making up stories to grift money or excuse our failure.

How do we fictionalize this?

If we step back, the Pandemic of 2020 looks like a badly written novel. If you had composed this a decade ago, would anyone have believed it? America having the worst outcome in the world? The CDC losing face? 200,000 deaths? This would be a made for TV movie or hack novel at best.

I asked myself again, how do we fictionalize this?

So as I stared into this abyss of the unexpected, I’ve come to a few shaky conclusions. Perhaps this is in my own head as I try to cope with the insights as well as the Pandemic.

First, I don’t expect to see “Pandemic In Fiction” as a theme for awhile. We’re still in the middle of it, and crass and exploitative as some media is, I don’t see this becoming widespread. Also we’re sick of it, and there’s little market for it when you’re living it.

Second, I expect any fictionalization of the Pandemic of 2020 will be politicized or seen as politicized. You can tell the most honest researched story, and some hack pundit will decry it for hits and to push products. In time this may pass, but not for a few years.

Third, I expect to see many a fiction piece that are political fiction of the Pandemic of 2020. Some will indeed have agendas, pundit ranting aside, and you can expect plenty of apologia and non-apologia. It is my hope this is minimized in the face of harsh reality, because even if I agree, crass fictionalization of important things may not do any good.

Fourth, I expect fictionalization of the Pandemic will have no middle ground. It will be done in wild metaphor or fantastical parallels in world of magic and science fiction – or it will be tales based on real life. The uncomfortable middle ground where we mix hard fact and big dreams will be too ambiguous, too uncomfortable. We’ll want the abstract fantastical – or the painfully familiar – because that middle ground is where speculation runs and harsh truths emerge.

We’re ready for Godzilla and Alien Plague, or for two people at a coffee shop decrying the state of life. We’re not ready for fiction with enough fact that the speculation cuts us.

The near future of Pandemic Fiction is going to be not much different than we have now, a mess of politics and agendas, the fantastic and the on the nose, and people arguing over it. It is my hope in time we can confront our experiece and our history with the power of imagination, but for the short-term I fear a muddle is where we’re headed.

May we reduce the time we’re in that muddle so our writing may clearly illuminate the human experience, our lessons, our losses – and those responsible. Because we’re doing it half-assed now.

Steven Savage

Sharing Interesting Things

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

One thing I did this Christmas was to gift some people various games that deserved their attention as they were:

  • Indie games that were original or interesting.
  • Early access games that deserved support – and were usually Indie games as well.
  • Games that broke the mold or redid things in smart ways.

The reasons for this may seem obvious, but to be obvious:

  • I want to support Indie games so that the games industry continues to innovate. There’s fantastic stuff out there.
  • I want to support Early Access so games can evolve with proper feedback. I know what good feedback can do.
  • It’s fun to blow people’s minds, so they think outside of the box and experience new things.

I want to strongly encourage this behavior because there’s enough sameness out there, enough watered-down media. If you’ve got something good, share it – and a gift is a great way to share it. Hey, if nothing else, people feel obligated to try it.

Besides the obvious benefits of sharing and so on, remember this includes giving people cold, hard cash. That dev probably needs every cent spent, and you can pay a few extra cents to help out.

Steven Savage

Musings On Ideal Media Culture

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Last time I posted on how it was hard to deal with there being so much “stuff” out there, which Serdar has commented on. In turn, he also provides this link on how books are still dominated by a few megablockbusters. So yes, there’s problems with “so much stuff” as well as “big stuff over all of us.”

Think of it this way. We also have a lot of new stuff on Netflix and giant blockbusters dominating everything else. We can publish anything but there’s also huge books firmly lodged in popular culture It’s easy to get lost in obscurity or be overshadowed.

This doesn’t change my take on writing or creating your thing – do what you want and what works for you. But it does lead to another question.

What do I think a healthy media-culture ecosystem is? Admittedly not this one, but what is my ideal that I think is, you know, good for people (and thus creators).

Before answering that, let me turn to my ideas on a healthy society.

Steve’s Ideas on a Healthy Society (Duh)

So first, what do I think a Healthy society is like? I view it in a very organic sense – a healthy society maintains itself, grows, and evolves.

Thus I think of a healthy society as one that contains “interlinked independence” across all levels. People and organizations, states and government offices, are highly connected in ways that support each other. Think of it this way – an individual supported/supporting a strong union, working at a local business, voting at all levels, and working with an NGO dealign with climate change is closely tied with the world and closely supported. Everyone’s got your back with connection – but also you have the ability to “firewall” away from negative influences.

Or in short, a society needs people to have each other’s backs on all levels, while having the ability to survive the conflict among various factions and elements that will doubtlessly occur.

So that’s my ideal of a society in an abstract form. Now how does that apply to media?

A Healthy Media Ecosystem

In a healthy culture, I see media interest and creation as “scaled” much as I see a healthy society, a series of linked interests and enthusiasms on various levels. People would not just indulge, however, they would advocate.

  • You may do your own creative work, and and advocate for it. Your friends and connections would assist you, and perhaps you get wider views.
  • You enjoy local authors or niche authors. You advocate for them, promote them. Perhaps they get wider views.
  • You enjoy your various media tastes. Obviously you advocate for them, small or large.

Thus you’re independent and evaluating your own tastes – while also promoting them and taking feedback. You connect with media on various levels, from local to extended. You advocate and promote work.

New things get found, people evaluate, work gets elevated – and you never get dependent on one media strain or theme. Plus, of course, its hard for any one media company or source to dominate.

Needless to say this works best in a world of strong monopolgy laws.

So Is This Actionable?

So in our current world, is this actionable? Beyond a dream of mine based on my ideals can we do anything?

Well, yess.

First, KEEP CREATING. As I noted, do it for your own reasons.

Secondly, PROMOTE YOURSELF and tell people what you do.

Third, CONNECT with writer groups as well as other social institutions.

Fourth, PROMOTE other people you meet, help them out, help them get noticed.

Fifth, SELECT your media consumption to keep your life diverse and interesting.

Sixth, POLITICALLY be aware of the way our politics affects media.

This is an obnoxiously short list. Maybe it can be a point of discussion.

So, everyone . . .

. . . start talking.

Steven Savage