The Post-Pandemic Future of Fiction


We don’t know what the real future looks like yet, but it’s almost certain the world will not return to the way it was. What effect is this going to have on writers of fiction? I suppose works considered “contemporary” would almost have to reflect what’s really going on in our world, but should they? Must they? How do authors in the middle of a series handle this crisis? Do they incorporate current events or continue the series as originally planned?

I assume some readers will actually prefer stories that make no mention of the pandemic and it’s wrenching and unwanted effects on our lives. Most people read to escape reality for a while, and with the pandemic literally everywhere, there’s little stomach for more of it in their reading material!

Admittedly, I would be hard-pressed to craft a compelling story where everyone is trapped at home, can’t meet face to face, or really do much of anything without fear of dropping dead! (Well, Stephen King could probably come up with something even more frightening, but I would have no interest in reading it.) On the other hand, how can I get away without at least mentioning the life altering affects of the virus in my work?

Some claim this will be over soon enough and relegated to the dustbin of history. If so, it might be unwise to focus on the pandemic in our current and near-future books. Instead, we could offer a mix of fleeting references alongside the familiar setting of  a world in which life as we knew it still (mostly) applies.


It’s right for us to ask questions, yet I don’t claim to have the answers. Only time will tell what readers want and expect, and of course, the new normal is evolving as we speak. Going forward, perhaps book descriptions should include a content label such as “Pre-Pandemic” or “Post-Pandemic”  to help readers make an informed decision before they purchase. Realistically, what works today may not fit the world of tomorrow at all. By  “dating” our books amidst a very fluid and quickly changing situation, we risk publishing stories with what could be a very short shelf life.

As a writer, what changes will you be making, if any, to your stories or the way they are marketed? What about a series already in progress? Will the pandemic and it’s effects show up in your writing – a little, a lot, not at all?

As a reader, what do you expect your favorite authors to do in response to recent events? Do you vote for escapism, realism, or something in between? How might this affect your decision to purchase?

This is an issue we cannot ignore. Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

PS – until things have settled down, I don’t plan to incorporate the pandemic into my writing, including existing series. 



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6 responses to “The Post-Pandemic Future of Fiction”

  1. Victoria Ray NB Avatar

    Between or both. I think we should create books about the world without “pandemic” in it… and the books where it exists. I believe ppl will figure out how to live in a new world.. & travel too. I hope 🤞

  2. Alexander Elliott Avatar
    Alexander Elliott

    I hope so too! Meanwhile, writers have a difficult choice before them. It will be easier to decide once the new normal emerges and we figure out what everyday life looks like. Until then, I feel more comfortable writing about what I know.

  3.  Avatar

    Tough decision. As a reader, I become distracted by things like that. For example, if someone wrote a new novel about a character who works in the World Trade Center I would continue to read but I would check the publish date and then think about everything as it relates to 9-11 and questioning the author’s motives and such while completely losing sight of the story. With the pandemic in a novel about current times that you are writing right now, maybe you could provide a small reference to changes in travel or social distancing due to a virus and not name it. After all, we may encounter a COVID-20 or any number of different illnesses that may affect our lives. Interesting times, that’s for sure. I hadn’t really considered this from a writer’s perspective…tough decision but I’m sure you will figure a way to manage it just perfectly!

    1. Alexander Elliott Avatar
      Alexander Elliott

      Is is tough! I suspect the best approach may be somewhere in the middle as you suggested. Personally, I have no desire to read about it!

  4. lynnefisher Avatar

    I’ve been waiting for a writer to have a good think about this, Alexander. As you know it’s been bugging me, and I’m in your mindset for the most part. If we write realist fiction we cannot ignore what is becoming and will be a new reality. We have to reflect it somehow, but how? Do we put a time label on the book? Do we write plots about it? (I don’t want to) Or do we hint at it as a future or past event? Many genres may be able to carry on as usual, without it impinging at all, but realist novels reflect realism and I want to read realism and to write it. One writer I know has said because her new novel is a ‘retreat’ kind of setting, that this at least resonates with our lockdown quarantine state, as was, or as is, depending on where we live. But is that vague resonance enough? I don’t know the answers yet, but i am reflecting on the possibibilties as I progress with my realist novel. One big worry I have is will realist plotlines about non-covid aspects of our lives be interesting anymore?! Thanks for writing this post, Alexander. I agree it needs tackling by writers and I’ve seen very little mention of it. Cheers for now :>)

    1. Alexander Elliott Avatar
      Alexander Elliott

      Thank you for your thoughts. I’m taking more of a wait and see attitude before I include the pandemic in any of my writing. I’ve had some strong feedback from readers who are sick of everything pandemic related and do NOT want to read about it in their books! Others seems to expect minimal references only and get on with the story. Including our current realities (which are subject to change) will “date” the book from the start and this bothers me. It’s kind a minefield out there and every author must come to their own conclusions. In the longer term, reader feedback will provide some of the guidance we seek, but since we are talking about fiction, there is a place for stories where the pandemic and its effects do not exist. Let me know if you come to any firm conclusions or see anything on this subject from other authors. Stay safe!

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