Thoughtful Thursday: Speculations about a post-COVID world

The COVID pandemic is a shocking new experience for all of us. Epidemics aren’t new, but a global pandemic we watch on our devices as it plays out in real time is. We are all experiencing changes in behavior; staying at home, social distancing, using hand sanitizer, wearing facial coverings. We miss our social get-togethers and dining out in a pleasant restaurant or coffee house, and we’re getting expert at video-conferencing.

The changes associated with COVID are sweeping, and no one can predict what “normal” will be on the other side (I’m going to be optimistic and say, “When we have a vaccine”). We can’t predict, but we’re speculative fiction readers, so let’s predict anyway. Instead of the huge, scary and gloomy changes, let’s talk about day-to-day social changes.

Will the handshake go the way of the courtly bow and the curtsy? Will the bow and curtsy make a comeback? Will “share your toys” be bad advice? Will food trucks and park benches become the new fine dining establishments… or will fine dining be exclusively private, with your own hermetically sealed booth?

Masks are already becoming fashion items. What else do you predict will happen with them? Will sign language spring up to augment communication through a mask?

What about work, especially in the information industry? What about shopping? Trying on clothes?

Please share your speculations with us. One commenter with a USA address will win a book from our Stacks.


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Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

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20 comments

  1. Kelly Lasiter /

    I’d really love to see masks remain popular! I reflected the other day that all this social distancing has protected me from more than just COVID–I haven’t had a head cold since March. It’s kind of nice!

  2. SandyG /

    Unfortunately I don’t think things will go back to normal any time soon. I think restaurants will get better at making meals to go which will actually be hot and properly cooked when you get them home. And the company that develops the new packaging technology will make a fortune

    • Noneofyourbusiness /

      Every projection of when it will end feels like counting the chickens.

  3. Mary Henaghen /

    I also really hope masks are here to stay.i think inside fine dining will become very expensive because of seating limitations and might become a once a year special event for most families.

  4. I think we’ll see more European style pedestrian area and restaurants that are small indoors but have large outdoor seating (I think a lot of new restaurants that open in the next few years won’t open in areas where they can’t have outdoor seating, and maybe localities will need to create those sorts of areas (thus the pedestrian areas)

    More remote work and education, not necessarily because people want it but because the way this crisis and fear of the next will push technological progress and knock down barriers

    I’m hoping more recognition (tangible, not moral support) for care workers–higher pay to start with.

    a recognition of the greater role the federal govt can play in health care, child care, education

    • Kelly Lasiter /

      I hope so on the outdoor seating, Bill! Our hotter climate might be prohibitive in some places as some times of the year (there’ve been times I *wanted* to do patio dining recently, but retreated to the air conditioning at home instead), but on a nice day, it’s great to eat in the open air while people-watching and dog-watching. And yes, definitely more recognition for care workers.

  5. Noneofyourbusiness /

    Not directly related (except that I think the quarantine played a role in the protests not fizzing out this time), but I think the public perception of the police will change and this will be reflected in fiction, with fewer works having them as protagonists.

    • Kelly Lasiter /

      I agree–I think a lot of movements have fizzled out just because everybody had to go back to work/school, and this time it wasn’t possible, so the momentum kept going. And masks have been so ubiquitous that they’re not seeing COVID cases coming from it.

    • I think that’s already happening in TV, with some reluctance to renew police-centric shows. (Admittedly, most of them were well past their “best by” date.)

  6. John Smith /

    With the restaurant issue, of course it used to be before the early-20th century or late-19th century that “nice people” wouldn’t have been caught dead dining outside of their homes (unless it was a high-society dinner or social function). You had the food you liked prepared by your cook or chef, and why would you stuff yourself into some strange public venue populated by who-knows-who?

    In the early- to mid-1970s, I don’t think most people made a habit of eating fast food. You might get it once a month or every-other-month as a special treat, and of course some people never ate it, because–ugh!–fast food/junk food.

    The fast-food industry, giant sporting venues, giant music venues, and even vastly democratized higher eduction, all seem to be a result of our society valuing consumption and corporate profits above all else. Music and sporting venues seem to be especially designed to propagate disease. With the sporting events, I certainly find it hard to see how most of the attendees get much enjoyment out of it. You can’t see anything, and you’re surrounded by angry, loud, obstreperous, thoroughly unpleasant people. And at music and sporting venues you might also be losing your hearing.

    In a society that values materialism above all else, we need an assured basic income from the government. Because there is less and less work in a world where creeps like Jeff Bezos are destroying smaller businesses and demanding that employees perform like the robots that are replacing them.

    Higher salaries and 4-day work weeks are also important.

    And world population–we need to work zealously to have fewer babies because the planet simply can’t handle more than a billion consumerist human beings, if that. That’s what’s behind global climate change, environmental degradation, pollution, vast species death, and the spread of disease from wild animal populations to human populations.

    And the Chinese need to shut down the wildly unhealthy and repulsive “wet markets” that have given us the current outbreak, as well as some of the other recent potential pandemics. Eating raw wild animals is not a good idea. Ask the Australian guy who ate a slug from his garden on a dare (but you can’t, because he’s brain-damaged and quadriplegic now).

    • John, I haven’t heard anyone mention the 4-day work week (or even reduced office hours, with higher salaries) as a suggestion, and it’s a good one. It will be about limited exposure for quite a while, I think, and that’s an easy way to do it.

      • Paul Connelly /

        Many futurists in the old days imagined the work week shrinking more and more as automated technology took on more and more tasks. That’s what should have happened, but it didn’t. Unions got the 40 hour week (one of my family members worked a 72 hour week during the Gilded Age), but then they stopped pushing for shorter hours and kept asking for more money instead (to satisfy those materialistic cravings John Smith mentions).

        At this point a 30 hour week should be the norm. It ensures that there are more jobs available and relieves some of the stress of modern life. And I would bet that it would make many workers more productive.

        I also think we need a modified version of the Butlerian Jihad from Dune. There are certain types of AI and other automation that just should not be allowed. For instance, I never again want to call customer service and get a robot that tries to talk me through interminable menus of options. ;-)

  7. Lady Morar /

    In the Starz TV series “Counterpart”, the parallel universe suffered a superflu years ago, so people don’t shake hands anymore.

    • That shows take on post-pandemic life was excellent (and apparently prescient.)

      • Lady Morar /

        Given that it ended with the virus being released in our universe…

        (also, I can’t believe it wasn’t renewed)

  8. The Distinguished Professor /

    Change I’d like to see: everyone being more socially conscious and aware of how they impact the well being of others.

  9. Jillian Williams /

    I think that everyone will be excited to get back out into the world and see people.
    Children and babies who are growing up right now will keep to themselves more because they are not using their social skills.
    People are resistant to go back to work so we may have a rise in unemployment since they all expect to be able to work from home.
    Also the discrimination to people with allergies, we’re not sick people! You can’t catch it. One day they’ll learn.

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