Let me re-phrase that title: what REALLY is our social responsibility as fiction writers during this pandemic? The writers’ guilds and forums are all aflutter with plot ideas for all genres and characterisation of every possible actor in the next books using the lockdown and social distancing as a backdrop. Why not? After all, there are endless permutations of situations and cases to choose from based on the stories, and each country has more than its fair share to offer – and we are far from over.
Whilst I am all for weaving a fictional tale around a current event, there is a heavy responsibility that comes with it, in honouring the collective societies that united to fight the virus in whatever way possible. Reporting and photojournalism carry with them the burden of responsibility in reporting the truth as they see and experience it. What about fiction writers or literary activists like yours truly who choose to champion a particular cause through the use of fictional characters? Yes, there is of course creative and poetic license to work around, but there is also the responsibility not to over romanticise the situation and mirror the facts in a manner that generations to come will be able to understand it.
Romance, sex, crime, mystery, comedy and children’s books have the magical ability to transcend generations and cultures for as long as people continue to love books and a good story. But novels set around socio-political backdrops that demand a certain awareness and knowledge of the reader in order to fully appreciate the plot are more challenging to write in a timeless manner. Thus the burden of accuracy.
So am I jumping on the bandwagon and using the lockdown 2020 in one of my upcoming novels? Honestly I am very reluctant to do so because there are so many other more pressing issues that need to be brought to light – the cases that will never be prioritised by governments or unconditionally supported by a global movement.