Transcript: Why Do We Love Pandemic Fiction? | Nov 17, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a blue suit, blue shirt, and striped blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "Why do we love pandemic fiction? @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says "WHO COULD HAVE IMAGINED THIS PANDEMIC?" IS A QUESTION MANY HAVE ASKED DURING THIS MOST CHALLENGING YEAR. WELL, IN FACT, IT TURNS OUT THAT MANY WRITERS HAVE ENVISIONED SUCH EVENTS, DATING BACK CENTURIES TO PREVIOUS PLAGUES AND EPIDEMICS. AMONG THEM ARE THREE INCREDIBLY SKILLED CANADIAN AUTHORS. THEY ALL HAVE NEW BOOKS OUT, WHICH WERE WRITTEN BEFORE COVID HIT, BUT THAT CAPTURE THE ESSENCE OF THIS KIND OF EVENT AS PERHAPS ONLY FICTION CAN. LET'S FIND OUT MORE AND INTRODUCE OUR GUESTS, AS IS OUR CUSTOM, FROM FURTHEST AWAY TO CLOSEST TO OUR STUDIO: IN BROOKLYN, NEW YORK: EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL, AUTHOR OF SEVERAL NOVELS, INCLUDING "STATION ELEVEN," AND THE JUST PUBLISHED, "THE GLASS HOTEL."

Emily is in her thirties, with short chestnut hair. She's wearing a white shirt.
A picture of her book appears briefly on screen. The cover features a picture of a tall glass building against a starry blue night sky.

Steve continues IN NORTH HATLEY, QUEBEC: SALEEMA NAWAZ, WHOSE LATEST BOOK IS "SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD."

Saleema is in her thirties, with long straight dark hair and short bangs. She's wearing a blue blouse.
A picture of her book appears briefly on screen. The cover features a picture of a light in a green field under a night sky.

Steve continues AND IN LONDON, ONTARIO: EMMA DONOGHUE, WHOSE MOST RECENT BOOK IS TITLED, "THE PULL OF THE STARS."

Emma is in her fifties, with shoulder-length wavy brown hair. She's wearing a black blouse.
A picture of her book appears briefly on screen. The cover features a drawing of two birds with colourful plumage flying in a circle against a starry night sky.

Steve continues IT'S GREAT TO HAVE YOU THREE, SPEAKING OF STARS, YOU THREE SUPERSTARS WITH US TONIGHT HERE ON TVO. I WANT TO GO AROUND OUR VIRTUAL TABLE HERE AND EXPLORE WHAT YOU THREE HAVE WRITTEN AND, EMMA, I'LL START WITH YOU BECAUSE YOUR BOOK TAKES US BACK 100 YEARS TO THE PREVIOUS GLOBAL PANDEMIC, THE SPANISH FLU. WHEN DID YOU DECIDE YOU WANTED TO WRITE ABOUT THAT TIME?

The caption changes to "Emma Donoghue. Author, 'The pull of the stars.'"
Then, it changes again to "Writing about end times."

Emma says OCTOBER 2018. I WAS READING AN ARTICLE IN THE ECONOMIST ABOUT THE CENTENARY OF THE GREAT FLU. I WAS... BY THE IDEA IT HAD ALMOST A POST APOCALYPTIC ATMOSPHERE. THIS WAS A BUSY, MODERN TIME, PEOPLE DASHING TO WORK. IT WAS OUR KIND OF WORLD. EVERYTHING HAD TO SUDDENLY GRIND TO A HALT. I THOUGHT I'D WRITE A NOVEL WITH NO THOUGHT OF CONTEMPORARY RELEVANCE. I WROTE IT AND WAS COMPLETELY OVERWHELMED AND STARTLED BY ANY LINK TO COVID.

Steve says THAT'S THE THING I WANT TO NAIL DOWN. WHEN YOU WERE THINKING ABOUT THIS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2018, YOU HAD NO INKLING YOU WERE ACTUALLY GOING TO BE ON THE MOST IMPORTANT TOPIC TWO YEARS HENCE.

Emma says IT PROVES YOU SHOULD WRITE ABOUT WHAT INTERESTS YOU RATHER THAN ANTICIPATE THE TRENDS. I COULDN'T SEE IT COMING.

Steve says SALEEMA, YOUR BOOK, "SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD," DOES SUGGEST THAT AN APOCALYPTIC PANDEMIC IS ON THE WAY. WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO WRITE THAT?

The caption changes to "Saleema Nawaz. Author, 'Songs for the end of the world.'"

Saleema says I FIRST PLANNED IT IN THE FALL OF 2012 AND THEN WROTE IT BETWEEN 2013 AND 2019.

Steve says AND SIMILARLY, ANY PREMONITION THAT A CORONAVIRUS WOULD BE IN OUR FUTURE IN THE WAY THAT IT IS?

Saleema says NO, NOT AT ALL.

Steve laughs and says SO WHAT DO YOU WANT TO CALL THAT? JUST INCREDIBLE PRESCIENCE OR DUMB LUCK OR WHAT?

Saleema says ONE OF THE TWO.

Steve says LET'S GO WITH INCREDIBLE PRESCIENCE, SHALL WE?

Saleema says SURE.

Steve says MAKES SENSE TO ME. EMILY, IT'S BEEN THREE YEARS SINCE YOU WROTE YOUR BOOK. I GUESS I'LL ASK YOU THE SAME QUESTION: DID YOU HAVE A HUNCH WHEN YOU WROTE IT THAT A MASSIVE GLOBAL PANDEMIC THAT WAS GOING TO KILL HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WAS ON ITS WAY?

The caption changes to "Emily Saint John Mandel. Author, 'Station eleven.'"

Emily says NOT SPECIFICALLY. BUT WHAT VERY QUICKLY BECOMES CLEAR IF YOU RESEARCH THE HISTORY OF PANDEMICS IS THAT THE HISTORY OF HUMANITY IS A HISTORY OF PANDEMIC. WE'VE JUST BEEN STRUCK BY ONE PANDEMIC AFTER ANOTHER. AND WHAT REALLY STRUCK ME IN THE RESEARCH FOR "STATION 11" IS THAT EPIDEMIOLOGISTS TALK ABOUT PANDEMICS REALLY IN THE SAME WAY THAT SEISMOLOGISTS TALK ABOUT EARTHQUAKES, WHICH IS TO SAY THAT NO SERIOUS PERSON ASKS, "I WONDER IF THERE WILL EVER AGAIN BE ANOTHER EARTHQUAKE?" THERE WILL ALWAYS BE ANOTHER EARTHQUAKE AND THERE WILL UNFORTUNATELY ALWAYS BE ANOTHER PANDEMIC. IT'S JUST PART OF OUR HISTORY.

Steve says THAT IS TRUE. BUT EVEN AS RECENTLY AS SARS WHICH WAS 2003, WE GOT THE SENSE AFTER SARS WAS OVER THAT, PHEW, OKAY, YES, 44 PEOPLE DIED IN TORONTO, BUT IT WASN'T AS BAD AS IT COULD HAVE BEEN. THANKFULLY WE HAVE DODGED THAT, WITH NO THINKING THAT THE NEXT ONE WAS JUST AROUND THE CORNER. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHY WE THINK THAT WAY?

Emily says I THINK IT WAS A MASS FAILURE OF IMAGINATION. I FIND MYSELF A LITTLE BIT HAUNTED BY THE PERIOD IMMEDIATELY BEFORE THE PANDEMIC, WHICH IS TO SAY, THREE WEEKS OR SO BEFORE EMMA HANDED IN HER NOVEL, IN FEBRUARY, INTO VERY EARLY MARCH. WHERE EVEN THOUGH WE KNEW WHAT WAS COMING, WE COULD READ THE HEADLINES, WE WERE STILL SHAKING HANDS WITH STRANGERS AND TAKING OUR KIDS TO SCHOOL. IT WAS THAT CONDITION ABOUT KNOWING BUT NOT KNOWING SOMETHING AT THE SAME TIME, IT SEEMED UNIMAGINABLE, EVEN WHEN IT WAS BEING REPORTED IN THE NEW YORK TIMES. IT WAS PROBABLY MORE FOR A PSYCHOLOGIST TO COMMENT ON BUT I AM FASCINATED BY IT.

Steve says HOW MANY COPIES OF "STATION 11" DID YOU SELL?

Emily says QUITE SOME NUMBER.

Steve says I KNOW. I'M ASKING YOU TO BE MORE SPECIFIC THAN THAT.

Emily says I ACTUALLY DON'T HAVE THE NUMBERS IN FRONT OF ME.

Steve says DO WE SEE A LOT OR HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OR MILLIONS, OR WHAT DO WE SAY?

Emily says SINCE THE PANDEMIC BROKE, YEAH, WE SHOULD SAY A LOT. I HAVEN'T DONE THE ANALYSIS FOR THE PERIOD.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Steve says "A LOT" WORKS FOR ME. THAT'S FINE. SALEEMA, LET'S DO AN EXCERPT FROM YOUR BOOK, FROM "SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD."

A quote appears on screen, under the title "This could get very bad." The quote reads "He did not really think that the human race would come through with flying colours. Not ethically. People with power would fear losing it, fuelling unwarranted instances of panic that would no doubt be distorted out of all proportion by the media. At a certain point, all governments traded in utilitarianism, and surviving a pandemic would become a numbers game, with the penalties and restrictions that went along with protectionism. There might not be witch hunts and persecutions like during the Black Death, but there would certainly be civic unrest and related reprisals. Harsh legislation to deal with disorder, a spreading-too-thin of police resources, the breakdown of law enforcement. Vigilantism. The inevitability of roving looters was an idea implanted in his brain by Hollywood, but he knew it had taken root in the collective imagination all the same. Maybe he ought to buy a gun."
Quoted from Saleema Nawaz, "Songs for the end of the world." 2020.

Steve says THAT IS SO PRESCIENT, IT'S SCARY. WHAT IS THE ATTRACTION FOR AN AUTHOR TO WANT TO DESCRIBE WHAT SHE PERCEIVES AS THE END OF THE WORLD?

The caption changes to "Saleema Nawaz, @SaleemaNawaz."

Saleema says WELL, FOR ME IT SORT OF CAME FROM TWO THINGS. ONE WAS SOMETHING ALLUDED TO IN THAT PASSAGE, WHICH IS LOOKING AT OTHER PANDEMIC LITERATURE AND HOLLYWOOD STORIES ABOUT DISASTER AND THINKING ABOUT WHAT THEY'RE TELLING US ABOUT HUMAN NATURE, YOU KNOW. THEY'RE SO OFTEN SAYING, YOU KNOW, IT'S GOING TO BE EVERY PERSON FOR THEMSELVES, YOU'VE GOT TO LOOK OUT FOR NUMBER ONE, IT'S GOING TO BE DOG EAT DOG, AND I JUST DIDN'T THINK THAT WAS NECESSARILY TRUE, BUT I WAS INTERESTED IN WHAT EFFECT THOSE STORIES HAVE ON OUR UNCONSCIOUS AND WHAT IF WE START ENACTING THESE STORIES WE'VE BEEN TOLD ABOUT WHO WE ARE. SO I WANTED TO EXPLORE WHAT I BELIEVE HUMAN NATURE IS LIKE AND THE EFFECT OF THOSE STORIES ON OUR IMAGINATION, AND I ALSO WAS JUST INTERESTED IN A PANDEMIC AS A DEVICE THAT CONNECTS A LOT OF CHARACTERS. I HAVE A LOT OF DIFFERENT CHARACTERS IN MY BOOK. AND A PANDEMIC OF COURSE CONNECTS ALL OF US. AND IT ALSO HAS A WAY OF TESTING US IN A WAY THAT A CRISIS CAN SORT OF SHOW WHO A PERSON OR A CHARACTER REALLY IS.

Steve says WE'RE GOING TO PURSUE THAT NOTION OF HUMAN NATURE AND HOW IT REVEALS ITSELF DURING AWFUL TIMES A LITTLE BIT LATER. BUT I DID WANT TO THROW OUT THIS OTHER PERSPECTIVE IN THE MEANTIME AND THIS IS FROM A PERSPECTIVE OF A READER WHO JUST MADE THIS CONTRIBUTION TO A WEBSITE, VULTURE.COM, AND SHE WROTE...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Figuring out what to do?" The quote reads "Pandemic fiction is about how people behave in response to acute, sudden-onset helplessness. When we're confronted with that helplessness in real life, watching some version of it -any version of it, and ideally one where at least some people survive- is comforting. It's a model for how we could respond."
Quoted from Kathryn VanArendock, Vulture.com. March 6, 2020.

Steve says EMMA, I WONDER, WHEN YOU WERE WRITING YOUR BOOK, DID YOU THINK TO YOURSELF AS YOU WERE WRITING IT, "I WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT HOW PEOPLE RESPOND UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES"?

Emma says YES, I WAS REALLY IMPRESSED, FOR INSTANCE, THAT SO MANY... I WAS LOOKING AT DIARIES AND LETTERS BY NURSES OR MEMOIRS IN WHICH THEY LOOKED BACK ON THEIR TIME DURING THE 1918 PANDEMIC AND THEY REMEMBERED IT WITH SUCH NOSTALGIA. I WAS SO IMPRESSED THAT SO MANY OF THESE WOMEN ROSE TO THE OCCASION AND FELT SO NEEDED AND USEFUL. SO EVEN THOUGH THAT WAS A GRUELLING TIME AND PEOPLE THEY LOVED DIED, THEY WERE JUST SO THRILLED TO BE DOING IMPORTANT WORK. I THOUGHT THAT WAS ONE VERY IMPORTANT THING TO CAPTURE. LIKE SALEEMA SAYS, PANDEMICS ARE IRRESISTIBLE TO FICTION WRITERS, I THINK BECAUSE THEY SHOW HOW PEOPLE ARE CONNECTED, THAT KIND OF VIRUS INVISIBLE THREAD BETWEEN US ALL. IT'S A GREAT EXAMPLE OF HOW NOVELISTS ARE ALWAYS TRYING TO SHOW PEOPLE'S CONNECTIONS AND ALSO IT'S A HUGE ETHICAL PAIRABLE. SO I THINK LOOKING AT WAYS OF PEOPLE MIGHT RESPOND TO CATCHING THE ILLNESS AND HOW HEALTH CARE WORKERS RESPOND TO THE VAST CHALLENGE OF THIS ILLNESS, I THINK IT'S A BRILLIANT SUBJECT, WHICH IS WHY SO MANY OF US HAVE BEEN DRAWN TO IT.

Steve says LET ME FOLLOW UP WITH THIS WITH YOU, EMMA. UNLIKE THE OTHER TWO BOOKS, YOURS IS A REAL EVENT THAT TOOK PLACE 100 YEARS AGO AND THERE WILL BE HISTORIANS WHO WILL READ YOUR BOOK AND CERTAINLY HAVE AN EYE TOWARDS WHETHER OR NOT YOU HAVE BEEN HISTORICALLY ACCURATE WHEN YOU NEED TO BE. OBVIOUSLY YOU CAN TAKE SOME LIBERTIES WHERE YOU WANT. BUT I GUESS THERE'S SOME DUTY TO HISTORY THAT YOU HAVE TO MAKE SURE YOU GET SOME THINGS RIGHT. YOUR BOOK IS SET IN 1918 DUBLIN. HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT RESEARCHING IT TO MAKE SURE THAT THOSE HISTORIANS LOOKING FOR ACCURACY WALK AWAY SATISFIED?

The caption changes to "Recreating plagued worlds."

Emma says AS WITH ALL MY HISTORICAL FICTION, I DO HUGE AMOUNTS OF RESEARCH AND I NEVER ASK MYSELF WHAT'S THE BARE MINIMUM I NEED? I FOLLOW UP EVERY LITTLE TANGENT, I GO INTO INTERNET RABBIT HOLES, I POUR MY TIME INTO IT AND ONLY USE WHAT'S RELEVANT. I FELT A PARTICULAR PRESSURE TO WRITE IT THIS TIME BECAUSE I WAS WRITING ABOUT MEDICAL FACT. IN OTHER BOOKS IF I FUDGED THE MATTER OF 1918 DRESS DESIGN, NOT MANY PEOPLE CARE. BUT IF DOCTORS AND NURSES READ MY BOOK, IT'S REALLY IMPORTANT TO GET IT RIGHT. SO I WAS ALWAYS DOING KIND OF A DOUBLE RESEARCH TASK ON THE MEDICAL ISSUES. I WOULD LOOK AT WHAT SOURCES OF THE DAY SAID AND ALSO AT WHAT MODERN REALLY RELIABLE WEB SITES WOULD SAY BECAUSE I WAS TRYING TO MAKE IT PHYSIOLOGICALLY TRUE BUT THEN ALSO CHECK HOW THEY WOULD HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT IT BACK THEN AND ABOVE ALL WHAT TOOLS DID THEY HAVE, WHAT UNDERSTANDING DID THEY HAVE? I WOULD LOOK AT SOMETHING HOW THE IMMUNE SYSTEM WOULD RESPOND BY GOING INTO HYPER-DRIVE IN RESPONSE TO THE FLU, AND THEN I WOULD LOOK BACK IN 1918 AND SAY, OKAY, THEY DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT THE IMMUNE SYSTEM, THEY DIDN'T KNOW WHAT A VIRUS WAS, HOW COULD THEY UNDERSTAND IT, WHAT WOULD THEY POSSIBLY DO ABOUT IT? THE ANSWER WAS USUALLY WATCH AND WAIT. THEY WERE DOSING THEIR PATIENTS WITH HOT WHISKY.

Steve says I'VE GOT TO SAY THAT ONE OF THE THINGS... TRYING TO HAVE 12 KIDS IN THE MIDDLE OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC, THAT WAS CERTAINLY A HECK OF A TRICK. ANYWAY, THAT'S JUST MY LITTLE ASIDE. EMILY, I WANT TO KNOW WHY YOU, I GUESS ONE OF THE THINGS THAT DISTINGUISHES YOUR BOOK IS YOU REALLY FOCUS ON LIFE AFTER THE PANDEMIC HAS ALREADY HIT AS OPPOSED TO DURING THE COURSE OF IT. WHY DID YOU MAKE THAT CHOICE?

The caption changes to "Emily Saint John Mandel, @EmilyMandel."

Emily says IT SEEMED TO ME THAT MOST OF THE PANDEMIC... YOU KNOW WHAT? I'M GOING TO BACK THAT UP A LITTLE BIT. MOST OF THE POST APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE I HAD READ WAS SET IN THE IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH OF A COMPLETE SOCIETAL BREAKDOWN, WHICH IS TO SAY THE PERIOD OF MAYHEM AND CHAOS AND HORROR. AND IT'S NOT THAT I THINK THAT WON'T HAPPEN, I THINK IT ABSOLUTELY WOULD, BUT IT'S NOT PLAUSIBLE TO ME THAT THAT WOULD LAST FOREVER, AT LEAST NOT EVERYWHERE ON EARTH. I FOUND MYSELF MORE DRAWN TO AND INTERESTED IN, THINKING, WHAT COMES NEXT? WHAT WOULD BE THE NEW WORLD AND THE NEW CULTURE THAT MIGHT BEGIN TO EMERGE SAY 15 OR 20 YEARS DOWN THE LINE? MIGHT THERE BE SPACE IN THE WORLD FOR TRAVELLING SHAKESPEAREAN THEATRE COMPANIES AND GROUPS OF TRAVELLING MUSICIANS? YEAH, I WAS JUST MORE DRAWN TO THAT TIME LINE PERSONALLY.

Steve says UNLIKE EMMA'S BOOK YOU'RE NOT DEALING WITH AN ACTUAL REAL EVENT OF 100 YEARS AGO, YOU ARE KIND OF FREE TO DO WHAT YOU WANT. HOW DOES ONE DO RESEARCH IN THAT KIND OF CIRCUMSTANCE?

Emily says BY RESEARCHING THE PAST. YOU KNOW, BY READING ABOUT THE 1918 PANDEMIC, FOR EXAMPLE. BUT THAT BEING SAID, I TOOK SOME PRETTY SERIOUS LIBERTIES WITH THE SCIENCE IN THIS BOOK. PROBABLY THE MOST REASSURING THING I COULD SAY IS THAT THE FLU PANDEMIC IN "STATION 11" IS NOT ACTUALLY SCIENTIFICALLY PLAUSIBLE. IN ACTUALITY AN ILLNESS THAT KILLED THAT MANY PEOPLE THAT QUICKLY WOULD BURN ITSELF OUT BEFORE IT DID TOO MUCH WIDESPREAD DAMAGE, WHICH I WOULD HAVE TO SAY A SHOCK FOR ME WITH OUR CURRENT SITUATION WAS REALIZING HOW MUCH SOCIAL UPHEAVAL COULD BE CAUSED BY AN ILLNESS WITH A SINGLE DIGIT MORTALITY RATE. THAT WAS WHAT SHOCKED ME WITH COVID. I WOULDN'T CALL THE FLU PANDEMIC IN MY BOOK SCIENTIFICALLY ACCURATE.

Steve says THAT DIDN'T MAKE IT ANY LESS HORRIFYING WHEN I READ THE BOOK, FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH. SALEEMA, THIS IS NEAT. WE'RE GOING TO PUT UP A GRAPHIC NOW, BECAUSE YOU DID A LOT OF RESEARCH TOO AND HERE'S THE PANDEMIC YOU RECREATED. SHELDON, DO YOU WANT TO BRING THIS GRAPHIC UP? HERE WE GO. IN YOUR BOOK, IT STARTS WITH...

A slate appears on screen, with the title "Incredibly accurate?"

Steve reads data from the slate and says
A NOVEL CORONAVIRUS FROM WUHAN PROVINCE IN CHINA. THERE IS AN ANTI-ASIA BACKLASH. IT IS A RESPIRATORY DISEASE WHICH IS AIRBORNE AND HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS. PEOPLE ARE QUARANTINED FOR THREE WEEKS IF EXPOSED AND EVERYONE WEARS PPE. IT MAKES ITS DEBUT AS A SUPER SPREADER EVENT IN NEW YORK CITY AND SPREADS LIKE WILDFIRE. THAT IS EERILY ACCURATE TO WHAT HAS ACTUALLY TRANSPIRED. HOW HAVE YOU MANAGED TO GET SO MUCH OF THAT RIGHT?

The caption changes to "A prescient story?"

Saleema says WELL, I MEAN, LIKE EMMA, I DID A LOT OF RESEARCH, A LOT OF INTERNET RABBIT HOLES, AND BECAUSE I WAS WRITING FOR SUCH A LONG TIME, I WAS WORKING ON IT FOR SO MANY YEARS, THAT I KEPT RE-RESEARCHING THINGS AND AS NEW EPIDEMICS WOULD BREAK OUT, I WOULD SORT OF COMB THROUGH THE NEWS LOOKING FOR NEW DEVELOPMENTS, I READ A LOT ABOUT THE SPANISH FLU, I READ ABOUT SARS. I WENT AND READ A LOT OF EPIDEMIOLOGY PAPERS SHOWING THE MODELLING OF HOW INFECTIOUS DISEASES SPREAD AND HOW THAT CAN BE IMPACTED BY COMMUNITY MITIGATION STRATEGIES LIKE SOCIAL DISTANCING AND QUARANTINE. SO, YOU KNOW, ALL THIS INFORMATION IS OUT THERE, YOU KNOW, AS EMILY MENTIONED, EPIDEMIOLOGISTS HAVE BEEN SAYING IT'S NOT A MATTER OF IF, IT'S WHEN IT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN.

Steve says BUT I JUST HAVE TO WONDER, WHEN COVID-19 HIT AND THEN ALL OF THESE THINGS STARTED HAPPENING, DID YOU START TO SAY, "OH, WOW, THAT'S LIKE IN MY BOOK. OH, WOW, THAT'S LIKE IN MY BOOK. OH, MY GOODNESS, THAT'S EXACTLY LIKE... DID YOU HAVE THOSE MOMENTS?

Saleema says YES, COMPLETELY, THE WHOLE SORT OF BEGINNING OF COVID-19 UNFOLDING WAS JUST A LONG, PROLONGED MOMENT... MOMENT LIKE THAT FOR SURE.

Steve says GIVEN YOUR ABILITY TO PICK THE FUTURE, DID YOU THEN GO OUT AND BUY A LOTTERY TICKET?

Saleema says THIS IS NOT THE KIND OF LOTTERY THAT ANYONE WANTS TO WIN SO...

Steve says CLEARLY YOU CAN DEFINE THE FUTURE SO MAYBE THAT'S THE NEXT STEP FOR YOU.

Saleema says I WILL SAY THAT, YOU KNOW, ESPECIALLY BECAUSE IN MY NOVEL THERE'S ALSO... THERE'S THIS EXTRA LEVEL OF EERINESS IN THAT THERE'S A CHARACTER IN MY NOVEL THAT'S A WRITER WHO HAS WRITTEN A BOOK ABOUT A PANDEMIC THAT WITHIN MY NOVEL SEEMS TO BECOMING TRUE. SO IT SEEMS THERE IS A META LEVEL OF EERINESS. I AM GOING TO THINK ABOUT THE NEXT THING I WRITE, I'M GOING TO CHOOSE IT VERY CAREFULLY.

Steve says WAS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU HAD IN THE BOOK THAT, AS YOU LOOK AT HOW COVID-19 HAS INTRODUCED ITSELF TO US, YOU THOUGHT, OH, I ACTUALLY KIND OF GOT THAT WRONG?

Saleema says WELL, THE THING THAT I FIND THE MOST ASTOUNDING... I MEAN, I DID HAVE SORT OF CONSPIRACY THEORISTS AND PEOPLE WHO DON'T WANT TO FOLLOW THE QUANTITY RULES, BUT IN TERMS OF THE ANTIMASK MOVEMENT, LIKE I KNEW THAT THAT WAS A THING BACK IN THE SPANISH FLU PANDEMIC BUT THE DEGREE TO WHICH THE ANTIMASKERS ARE AN ACTUAL MOVEMENT NOW, I JUST... I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT IN 100 YEARS WE WOULD HAVE MADE SOME HEADWAY. BUT OF COURSE THEY'VE BEEN EMBOLDENED BY THAT, YOU KNOW, TERRIBLE LEADER IN THE SOUTH.

Steve says WHO MIGHT YOU BE REFERRING TO THERE?

Saleema says THAT MOST UNFORTUNATE OF PRESIDENTS. BUT THAT IS SADLY SHOCKING TO ME AND SOMETHING I DID NOT ANTICIPATE AND IS NOT IN MY NOVEL.

Steve says I SHOULD GET EMMA TO COMMENT ON THAT AS WELL, THE NOTION THAT WEARING A MASK TODAY SOMEHOW BECAME A POLITICAL STATEMENT AND THE ECOS THAT THAT MIGHT HAVE TO THE TIME THAT YOU WROTE ABOUT?

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Emma says THAT'S RIGHT. THEY HAD BOTH SOME MASK LAWS IN CITIES LIKE SAN FRANCISCO IN THE STATES AND ANTIMASK LEAGUES. BUT, YOU KNOW, IN 1918, THEY DIDN'T KNOW WHAT THEY WERE DEALING WITH IN THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE WORE MASKS OUTSIDE AND THEN THEY WOULD TAKE THEM OFF WHEN ENTERING THE BUILDING AS IF IT WAS AN OVERCOAT. SO IN EVERY WAY I FEEL LUCKY TO BE AROUND TODAY BY COMPARISON. FOR INSTANCE, IN... THERE WERE POLITICAL TECHNIQUES AS WELL AS MEDICAL TECHNIQUES THAT THEY DIDN'T HAVE BACK THEN. GOVERNMENTS WERE PAYING PEOPLE TO STAY HOME AND PAY SAFE AND CONCEPTS LIKE BASIC INCOME, FOR INSTANCE, JUST NOT AVAILABLE THEN. SO THE MANY WAYS IN WHICH GOVERNMENTS CAN, YOU KNOW, PROTECT US FROM THE LARGER EFFECTS, NOT AVAILABLE AT ALL TO THESE GOVERNMENTS JUST STRUGGLING TO GET TO THE END OF WORLD WAR I. SO I THINK THIS IS AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT WORLD, AND I THINK OUR SCIENCE IS IN A MUCH STRONGER STATE. THE VERY RAPID DEVELOPMENT OF A NUMBER OF VACCINES, FOR INSTANCE, NO EQUIVALENT IN 1918. SO, YES, I'M VERY AWARE OF THE HORRORS AROUND TODAY, BUT EVEN MORE SO, I'M GRATEFUL THAT THIS IS NOW, NOT THEN.

Steve says EMILY, I WANT TO TAKE YOU BACK FIVE AND A HALF YEARS, BECAUSE THIS WAS NO DOUBT ONE OF THE GREAT HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR LIFE. YOU WERE ON THIS PROGRAM. SHELDON, LET'S ROLE THE CLIP. EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL ON AGENDA FIVE AND A HALF YEARS AGO. ROLL TAPE, PLEASE.

A clip plays on screen with the caption "Emily Saint John Mandel. June 3, 2015.."

In the clip, Emily speaks on screen and says I GO THROUGH A LITANY OF THINGS THAT WOULD DISAPPEAR. NO TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS AT CONCERT STAGES. NO MORE GASOLINE, ET CETERA. IT ENDS WITH A PARAGRAPH ABOUT THE INTERNET WHICH, TO BE ABSOLUTELY HONEST, JUST BETWEEN THE TWO OF US IS SOMETHING I MIGHT NOT MISS. IT'S INCREDIBLY HELPFUL, OBVIOUSLY, FOR RESEARCH AND FOR EASILY KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH PEOPLE. BUT WE ARE SO DISTRACTED AND I DIDN'T WRITE THIS BOOK WITH THE AIM OF IMPARTING ANY REAL MESSAGE ALONG THOSE LINES, BUT IT'S SOMETHING THAT I THINK ABOUT, THAT THERE MIGHT BE SOME VALUE IN THE IDEA OF BEING A LITTLE BIT LESS DEPENDENT ON OUR MESMERIZING PHONES.

The clip ends.

Steve says YOU KNOW I WANT TO FOLLOW UP ON THAT COMMENT. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE MESMERIZING PHONES TODAY?

Emily says IT IS A REAL IRONY OF THE CURRENT PANDEMIC THAT WE'RE COMPLETELY RELIANT ON TECHNOLOGY RIGHT NOW. THAT SOMEHOW THE PANDEMIC HAS CATAPULTED US INTO THIS WORLD OF ZOOM CALLS, SKYPE, FACETIME, CROWDCAST. I'VE GOTTEN FAMILIAR WITH A DOZEN DIFFERENT PLATFORMS. IT'S FUNNY. I SOMEHOW ALWAYS IMAGINED THAT A PANDEMIC MIGHT DECREASE OUR TECHNOLOGY, AND YET SUDDENLY HERE WE ARE.

Steve says NO, WE HAVE GOVERNMENT LEADERS QUITE FREQUENTLY TELLING US, "PLEASE, DOWNLOAD THIS COVID-19 APP INTO YOUR SMARTPHONE BECAUSE THIS IS THE BEST WAY THAT WE CAN TRACK HOW THIS THING IS PENETRATING THE POPULATION."

Emily says I'VE GOT THE NEW YORK STATE APP ON MY PHONE.

Steve says YOU DO HAVE THE NEW YORK STATE APP ON YOUR PHONE?

Emily says I DO.

Steve says HAS IT RUNG YET?

Emily says THE THING IS I DON'T SEE PEOPLE. WE TAKE QUARANTINE VERY SERIOUSLY. I'M IN A THREE-FAMILY POD. SO MY PHONE IS NEVER WITHIN 6 FEET OF ANYBODY WHO IS NOT IN OUR POD. HOPEFULLY IT WILL NEVER RING. IT'S NOT SOMETHING I WORRY ABOUT.

Steve says GOOD. TELL ME AS WELL, I ASKED THIS QUESTION EARLIER OF SALEEMA. I WANT TO GET YOU ON THIS AS WELL. YOU... YOU KNOW, THE WORLD YOU DESCRIBE IS ALL IN YOUR IMAGINATION, AND YET PRESUMABLY YOU GOT SOME OF IT RIGHT, AS YOU'VE WATCHED COVID-19 UNFURL. WHAT DID YOU GET RIGHT?

Emily says THE SENSE OF FEAR. BUT IN FAIRNESS, THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN HARD TO GET WRONG. IT'S SO INEVITABLE. I FIND MYSELF THINKING MORE ABOUT WHAT I GOT WRONG, WHICH IS, YOU KNOW, I THINK THE MAIN THING IS, I REFERRED EARLIER TO THAT STRANGE INTERLUDE WHERE WE KNEW WHAT WAS COMING BUT WE DIDN'T BELIEVE IT. I THINK THAT BEFORE GOING THROUGH THIS EXPERIENCE, I HAD THOUGHT OF BEING IN A PANDEMIC AS SOMETHING OF A WINE ARE I STATE. YOU'RE EITHER... BINARY STATE. YOU'RE EITHER IN A PANDEMIC OR YOU'RE NOT IN A PANDEMIC. IT DIDN'T OCCUR TO ME THERE WOULD BE THIS STRANGE IN-BETWEEN WHEN YOU'RE KIND OF IN IT AND KIND OF NOT. THAT'S ONE THING I GOT WRONG. I THINK I GOT THE DREAD RIGHT.

Steve says YOU GOT THE DREAD RIGHT. I WOULD AGREE. EMMA, LET ME TAKE YOU BACK 100 YEARS AGO, AND GOVERNMENTS THEN, AS THEY'RE DOING TODAY, ARE TRYING TO GIVE I GUESS THE BEST ADVICE THEY CAN TO THE POPULATION. WE CAN HAVE GREAT DEBATES ABOUT IT TODAY AS TO HOW WELL OUR GOVERNMENTS ARE ADVISING ON US ON WHAT TO DO. WHAT'S THE VERDICT ON HOW WELL THEY ADVISED PEOPLE BACK THEN?

Emma says ONE THING WE HAVE BEEN STARTLED BY THIS YEAR IS HOW OFTEN THE POLITICIANS IN EVERY ERA GIVE VERY MIXED, WEASEL-TONGUED MESSAGES, BECAUSE THEY'RE NEVER SIMPLY TRYING TO GIVE SCIENTIFIC ADVICE. THEY'RE TRYING TO DO THINGS LIKE BOOST THE ECONOMY, YOU KNOW? SO BACK THEN, JUST AS NOW, THERE WAS A LOT OF VAGUE REASSURANCE OR EVEN A WAY OF TALKING ABOUT THE ILLNESS THAT EFFECTIVELY BLAMES THE VICTIMS. THEY WOULD SAY THING LIKE, DON'T BE DEFEATIST. LET THE GERMS IN. WHICH IS A BIT LIKE BORIS JOHNSON SAYING STAY ALERT OR WAYS OF IMPLYING THAT YOU MADE IT BECAUSE YOU MADE A PERSONAL MISTAKE RATHER THAN BECAUSE THERE WAS NO GOOD POLICY IN PLACE. LOTS OF BLAMING THE POOR FOR PREEXISTING CONDITIONS. BLAMING THOSE WHO LIVE IN CROWDED CONDITIONS FOR THE FACT THAT, YOU KNOW, THEY ARE GOING TO PICK UP THINGS FROM EACH OTHER. SO A LOT OF EMPHASIS ON INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY IN A WAY WHICH REALLY MAKES NO SENSE WHEN YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT INVISIBLE MICROBES. SO I PUT A LOT OF GOVERNMENT PROPAGANDA INTO MY BOOK BECAUSE I WANTED TO CAPTURE THAT WEIRD SENSE IN WHICH, YOU KNOW, THE ADVICE YOU'RE GETTING FROM THE AUTHORITIES MIGHT REALLY BE INTENDED FOR CROWD CONTROL RATHER THAN INTENDED TO TRULY GIVE YOU THE MOST UP-TO-DATE INFORMATION. SO WRITING THIS BOOK HAS MADE ME FEEL PRO-SCIENCE RATHER THAN PRO-POLITICIANS IN A WAY THAT EVERY YEAR WE NEED TO FIND OUR DR. FAUCIS AND THERESA TAMS AS THEY ATTEMPT TO WORK OUT WHAT'S ACTUALLY TRUE INSTEAD OF WHAT'S POLITICALLY VISIBLE OR EXPEDIENT.

Steve says LET ME FOLLOW UP WITH THIS, BECAUSE WHEN THIS THING FIRST BROKE, IN FACT DR. FAUCI AND DR. TAM BOTH SAID, DON'T PUT A MASK ON, YOU PROBABLY WON'T DO IT PROPERLY, YOU'LL FUTZ WITH IT, TOUCH YOUR FACE, AND YOU'LL PROBABLY HAVE A GREATER CHANCE OF GETTING IT. THEY CHANGED THEIR TUNE WHEN THEY LEARNED PEOPLE NEEDED TO WEAR MASKS AND EVERYBODY SHOULD BE WEARING THEM. BUT THAT WAS A CHANGE OF ADVISE. DID WE HAVE THAT IN 1918 AS WELL?

Emma says OH, YEAH. THERE WAS COMPLETE CONFUSION IN 1918. FIRST THEY WERE SAYING LET'S DOSE EVERYBODY WITH ASPIRIN. THEY THOUGHT THAT WAS THE BEST MEDICINE FOR BRINGING DOWN FEVER. THEN THEY FOUND THAT PEOPLE WERE DYING POSSIBLY OF THE VERY HIGH DOSES OF ASPIRIN. SO THERE WAS A LOT OF, LET'S BACK OFF ON THE ASPIRIN. THE DIFFERENCE IS YOU SEE SCIENTISTS FINE-TUNING THEIR ADVICE BASED ON THINGS LIKE, ARE THERE ENOUGH MASKS FOR EVERYONE OR SHOULD WE KEEP THEM FOR THE DOCTORS AND NURSES. THAT'S TINKERING WITH THEIR ADVICE. BUT IT'S NOT A MAJOR SHIFT LIKE, SHOULD WE ATTEMPT TO PREVENT SPREAD OR SHOULD WE NOT BOTHER? SO THE DIFFERENCE WE'RE SEEING BETWEEN THE KIND OF ANTIMASKERS WHO ARE ALSO ANTI-VACCINE LIBERTARIANS, THAT KIND OF ME FOR MYSELF BUT I DON'T CARE IF SOMEBODY'S GRANNY DIES ATTITUDE, THAT HAS NEVER WHERE BEEN NEAR THE SUBTLE DISTINCTIONS THAT THE SCIENTISTS ARE MAKING BETWEEN ONE POLICY AND ANOTHER. SCIENTISTS MAY NOT ALWAYS AGREE ON EVERY LITTLE DETAIL BUT THEY'RE ALL BASICALLY SAYING LET US USE OUR COLLECTIVE SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY TO STOP OTHER PEOPLE FROM DYING.

Steve says SALEEMA, AS THE COVID PANDEMIC STARTED IN YOUR NOVEL, YOU HAVE A CHARACTER NAMED OWEN WHO HAD PREVIOUSLY WRITTEN A BEST SELLER ON SURVIVING A PANDEMIC, ONLY TO SEE IT BECOME A BEST SELLER AGAIN. HELLO, EMILY, INCIDENTALLY. HE STARTS TO FREAK OUT AS HE'S SEEING THE SIGNS POINTING TO A GLOBAL PANDEMIC, AND I'M WONDERING WHETHER YOU YOURSELF WENT THROUGH ALL OF THAT?

The caption changes to "Literary clairvoyants."

Saleema says I... I DIDN'T. I THINK IN SOME WAYS, YOU KNOW, OWEN, THE WRITER IN MY NOVEL, HE'S NOT THE MOST... HE'S NOT THE MOST... HE DOESN'T HAVE THE MOST PRISTINE CHARACTER, AND SO IN SOME WAYS I DIDN'T WANT TO BE LIKE HIM, SO I KIND OF HAD THIS HYPERAWARENESS AS WE WERE GETTING THESE NEWS REPORTS, YOU KNOW, IN EARLY MARCH, I WAS, LIKE, OKAY, I DON'T WANT TO GO STOCK UP ON A TON OF THINGS THE WAY OWEN WOULD DO. I DON'T WANT TO LOCK MYSELF IN MY HOUSE THE WAY HE WOULD DO. AND I THINK SORT OF LIKE EMILY SAID, THAT SENSE OF UNREALITY, YOU KNOW, EVEN HAVING DONE ALL OF THIS RESEARCH, EVEN HAVING WRITTEN THIS BOOK, EVEN HAVING CHARACTERS IN THE BOOK WHO ARE HYPERAWARE AND WHO PREPARE IN ADVANCE FOR THIS PANDEMIC, THERE'S THIS SENSE OF, OH, IT'S NOT QUITE HERE YET OR I'M JUST NOT SURE. WHEN IS THE DAY THAT I PULL MY DAUGHTER OUT OF DAY CARE? AND SORT OF EXISTING IN THAT WEIRD STATE OF DISBELIEF, EVEN HAVING DONE SO MUCH RESEARCH AND EVEN HAVING IMAGINED A VERY SIMILAR REALITY IN MY NOVEL.

Steve says EMILY, HOW ABOUT YOU? WHEN FEBRUARY TURNS TO MARCH AND THEN MARCH TO APRIL AND THEN WE REALIZE WE'RE REALLY IN THE THICK OF THIS THING HERE, HOW MUCH DO YOU START TO SAY: THIS IS SOUNDING A BIT TOO MUCH LIKE SOMETHING I JUST WROTE FIVE YEARS AGO?

Emily says TO BE HONEST, I WAS RELIEVED THAT IT WASN'T NEARLY AS BAD AS THE THING I WROTE, YOU KNOW? I THINK SOMETHING I HAVE IN COMMON WITH PARENTS AROUND THE WORLD IS A DEEP SENSE OF GRATITUDE THAT, IN CONTRAST, THE 1918 PANDEMIC, CHILDREN SO FAR ARE USUALLY NOT SEVERELY AFFECTED. SO THERE WAS A FEELING OF DODGING A BULLET THERE, THAT, YOU KNOW, THIS IS TERRIBLE, BUT THANK GOD IT'S NOT ACTUALLY STATION 11.

Steve says EMMA, HOW ABOUT YOU, SAME QUESTION?

Emma says OH, I'VE BEEN DEEPLY GRATEFUL THAT SO FAR NOT ONLY DOES COVID NOT LOOK AS BAD AS THE 1918 FLU BUT THAT WE HAVE SO MANY MORE TOOLS. THE SPEED WITH WHICH WE CAN SHARE INFORMATION... I MEAN, YES, THAT ALLOWS DISINFORMATION TO SPREAD TOO, BUT IN EVERY WAY, WE ARE MORE ABLE TO RISE TO THIS CHALLENGE THAN THEY WERE IN 1918. AND IN 1918, THEY WERE STILL IN THE MIDDLE OF A GLOBAL WAR WHICH, YOU KNOW, LITERALLY SPREAD THE ILLNESS AS HUGE POPULATIONS WERE MOVED AROUND THE WORLD BUT ALSO JUST SAPPED PEOPLE OF TIME AND ENERGY AND MADE GOVERNMENTS UNWILLING TO COOPERATE WITH EACH OTHER. SO, YOU KNOW, IF WE MESS THIS UP, IT'S REALLY OUR FAULT. IT'S NOT THAT WE DIDN'T HAVE THE TOOLS.

Steve says I DO RECALL 100 YEARS AGO, THEY HAD TO CANCEL THE STANLEY CUP BECAUSE ONE OF THE PARTICIPATING MEMBERS HALL DIED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STANLEY CUP FINAL AND THIS YEAR THEY MANAGED TO... THEY MANAGED TO PUT ALL THE PLAYERS IN A BUNCH OF DIFFERENT BUBBLES AND THEY PLAYED THE STANLEY CUP AND THEY AWARDED THE STANLEY CUP AND THEY GAVE THE PUBLIC A SENSE OF NORMALCY THAT WE'D GET THROUGH IT. I MEAN, THAT DOES SHOW SOME SENSE OF PROGRESS, I PRESUME, DOESN'T IT?

Emma says OH, I THINK THERE'S NO COMPARISON. WE UNDERSTOOD AND HAD DIAGRAMS OF CORONAVIRUS WITHIN A COUPLE OF WEEKS, YOU KNOW? IN 1918, THEY REALLY HAD NO IDEA WHAT THEY WERE DEALING WITH. I DON'T THINK ANYTHING THEY DID GOT THEM THROUGH THE PANDEMIC. I THINK IT JUST DIED OUT ON ITS OWN, AS EMILY WAS SAYING. SO I THINK WE'RE IN A MUCH BETTER STATE, IF ONLY WE DON'T ALLOW THE MADNESS OF, SAY, CONSPIRACY THEORIES TO UNDERMINE THE SCIENTIFIC EFFORTS.

Steve says SINCE YOU'RE ALL THREE SO GOOD AT PREDICTING THE FUTURE, HERE WE GO. I WANT TO ASK YOU WHETHER YOU THINK LIVING THROUGH A REAL PANDEMIC, HOW YOU THINK THAT WILL AFFECT DYSTOPIAN LITERATURE GOING FORWARD. EMILY, DO YOU WANT TO TRY THAT ONE FIRST?

Emily says I PREDICT FEWER PEOPLE WILL WRITE ABOUT PANDEMICS BECAUSE, SERIOUSLY, WHO WANTS TO READ ABOUT A PANDEMIC WHEN YOU'VE JUST GONE THROUGH IT. I DON'T MEAN TO UNDERCUT ALL OF OUR BOOK SALES HERE. BUT IT'S JUST NO LONGER SPECULATIVE. I WOULD IMAGINE PERHAPS FEWER PANDEMIC BOOKS OVER THE NEXT FEW YEARS.

Steve says ISN'T THAT INTERESTING BECAUSE I WOULD TAKE... BOY, I HATE TO DISAGREE WITH A GUEST IN THE MIDDLE OF A PROGRAM, BUT I THINK WE'RE ALL UTTERLY FASCINATED WITH IT NOW AND DON'T YOU THINK THE APPETITE... I MEAN, IT'S POSSIBLE THE APPETITE FOR THIS KIND OF WORK WILL BE EVEN MORE INTENSE, ISN'T IT?

Emily says I SUPPOSE IT IS POSSIBLE. I'VE NEVER... YOU KNOW, I GUESS IT COMES DOWN TO PERSONAL PREFERENCE. I'VE NEVER PERSONALLY RECOMMENDED READING "STATION 11." DURING AN ACTUAL PANDEMIC, WHICH REALLY COMES DOWN TO MY PREFERENCES AS A READER. I FIND IT HARD TO READ ABOUT PANDEMICS IN A PANDEMIC. BUT, AS THEY SAY, YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. PERHAPS OTHER PEOPLE ARE HAVING THE OPPOSITE EXPERIENCE.

Steve says THIS PERSON HAS HAD THE OPPOSITE EXPERIENCE. SALEEMA, HOW ABOUT YOU? HOW IS THIS GOING TO AFFECT APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE GOING FORWARD?

Saleema says I THINK FROM A WRITER'S POINT OF VIEW, I THINK I AGREE WITH EMILY. I THINK THERE MIGHT BE FEWER BOOKS ABOUT PANDEMICS IN THE NEXT LITTLE WHILE JUST, YOU KNOW, SPEAKING FOR MYSELF, I OFTEN AM DRAWN TO WRITE SOMETHING FROM CURIOSITY. I WAS CURIOUS WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE TO LIVE THROUGH A TIME OF DISASTER AND JUST NOT AS THE PERSON WHO'S STOPPING THE MEDIA OR FINDING THE CURE BUT JUST AS A REGULAR PERSON. HAVING LIVED THROUGH THIS, I FIND THAT CURIOSITY IS MOSTLY SATED. I WONDER HOW THIS WILL ALL PAN OUT AND RESULT, BUT I DON'T HAVE THAT DRIVE OF CURIOSITY TO WRITE... THAT YOU NEED TO WRITE A WHOLE NOVEL. BUT I DO THINK THAT BECAUSE THIS IS THE KIND OF CRISIS THAT HUMANITY HAS FACED FOREVER, I DON'T THINK THAT THESE KINDS OF STORIES ARE GOING TO GO AWAY.

Steve says EMMA, YOU GET THE LAST WORD.

Emma says WELL, I THINK WHAT'S BEEN SO INTERESTING THIS YEAR, WHICH I WOULD NOT HAVE PREDICTED IS THE HUGE BOOST IN INTEREST IN THE BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT. YOU KNOW, THAT'S NOT A VERY OBVIOUS RESULT OF PEOPLE BEING AFRAID OF CATCHING CORONAVIRUS. MAYBE OUR FICTION WILL EMPHASIZE MORE OF A KIND OF EXTRAORDINARY SOCIAL CHANGES THAT YOU COULD GET WHEN A SOCIETY HAS HAD A REALLY SHORT, SHARP SHOCK.

The caption changes to "Producer: Sandra Gionas, @sandragionas. Student Intern: Danielle Neri."

Steve says WELL, I AM GOING TO SAY THAT I CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF THIS STUFF RIGHT NOW, I DON'T KNOW WHY, BUT I READ LAWRENCE WRIGHT'S BOOK AS WELL, AND, YOU KNOW, WE'RE IN HISTORIC TIMES AND IT REQUIRES PEOPLE LIKE YOU TO GET US THROUGH IT. I GUESS WHAT I'M SAYING IS I'M DISAGREEING WITH EMILY AGAIN. BRING IT ON, BRING IT ON, BRING IT ON. I WANT TO THANK THE THREE OF YOU FOR JOINING US ON TVO TONIGHT, EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL, SALEEMA NAWAZ, EMMA DONOGHUE, GREAT TO HAVE YOU ALL ON TVO TONIGHT.

Emily says THANK YOU.

Saleema says THANK YOU.

Emma says IT'S BEEN FUN.

Watch: Why Do We Love Pandemic Fiction?