Getting It Together Six Feet Apart - Umberto Tosi
|Colorado Symphony's "Play On" virtual ensemble|
It's early days, but reports indicate a surge in book sales as might be expected what with so many of us sequestered at home with time on our hands. It's difficult to tell if this will be a longterm trend, but demand for books seems to be surging at the moment, particularly for e-books - delivered electronically without risk of transmitting infection.
high demand online for The Plague and other pandemic scifi - including Stephen King’s The Stand and Dean Koontz’s eerily prescient, 1981, thriller, The Eyes of Darkness which centers on a fictitious "Wuhan-400" virus. The latter jumped to third place in Amazon's sales rankings last week - as if people haven't gotten enough of the real thing.
Were Camus around today, he might note the elegant irony that both of the horrific challenges to humankind's future on this planet - the pandemic and the climate change crisis - require sensible, worldwide collaboration at a moment when we've not been so widely torn by authoritarian, irrational tribalism since the rise of Fascism in the 1930s. We must get it together, folks, while keeping six feet apart at the moment. That's why the good Lord - being us - created the worldwide Web. We're turning to the tools of electronic communication - of video chats, Skype and teleconferencing to keep calm and carry on. I'm used to using these tools to stay in touch with friends and my widespread family already. Now we're turning to them more and more for creative work and collaboration.
|Koontz, dog, and prescient book|
On a personal level, I received from a digital birthday party invitation a dear, longtime friend the other day, tailored for our sequestered situation. She was throwing an online cyber-party for herself and friends, using Zoom, the popular Web conferencing platform favored for remote team meetings and by online teachers to conducted lessons with "classrooms" of students in real-time.
She sent a link, passcode, and easy access instructions to her invitees, to pour themselves a glass of their favorite beverage and gather online at a specified time and date. I'm only used video conferencing once or twice in my life - the first time years ago when the reception was dicey, but it still seemed a wonder to me!. Now, seeing opportunities as well as wanting to attend the cyber party I hurried to brush up.
|My last pre-Covid-19 reading.|
Here I am an octogenarian scrambling to learn new software again and adapt it to the peculiar needs of the writing life! Web conferencing, is not new, of course. It's been widely used in business and in online teaching for decades. To this end, I hastened to get some tips from my eldest daughter, Alicia who lives in Mexico City and is a veteran English literature instructor adept at creating cyber-teaching courses. (We have kept in touch by video chat for years now.) I also talked to another of my daughters, Cristina, whose special needs son attends remote workshops via Zoom in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I realized a wealth of possibilities. It dawned on me that we writers here at Authors Electric could use Zoom (or similar platforms) to do literary readings - like those we've long done at bookstores - on the Internet. Over the past seven years, I've been reading at and helping organize live readings with Chicago Quarterly Review. But these won't be possible for the duration of the pandemic crisis - likewise for those sponsored by other publishers. Inspired by those Rotterdam musicians, I proposed using Zoom to present a series of online readings with my colleagues here at Authors Electric. Eight of our fine writers stepped forward immediately, ready to contribute. As I write this, we're planning programs, promotions and formats. Other groups apparently have similar ideas - a trend that could well continue well after the pandemic subsides. Zoom.us usage has jumped more than 500 percent as of this writing. This has some security experts shaking their heads about the platform's vulnerability to hackers - and indeed, prank attacks by Zoom trolls appear to be on the rise. This could lead to upgrades but probably won't stop the trend. The need to communicate is in our DNA after all. Stay tuned!
This post marks five years of monthly posts as a member of this imaginative and distinguished writer collective. I find the task remains as challenging and as gratifying as on day one. I thank my AE colleagues for their support, friendship, and inspiration, and bow to our many followers for their attention and fine comments. I hope to continue into the foreseeable future, as long as I am granted the time and strength and am not booed off the stage, which is always a possibility. Onward together now, people! Now perhaps we will take it to another level in the post-COVID-19 era once we manage to survive it.
|On a pre-COVID019 Chi lakefront stroll.|