Back in February, during our last lockdown, one cold morning, I found myself on the frozen surface of Lake Victoria, down the street from my home in Stratford, Ontario. What brought me out on the ice? First-hand research for my forthcoming novel, Much Ado About Corona.
Being that the story is set in a fictional town along the French River (on the border between Northern and Southern Ontario), I felt it would not be complete without at least one or two chapters involving ice hockey. So I grabbed my skates (purchased second hand in 1994) and (instead of going for my usual 7km morning run) I ran down the road to the lake.
For the past few winters the lake hasn’t frozen long enough for ice skating. This year we had about six or eight weeks of solid ice. Which worked out well, considering our tyrannical government locked down the skating rinks.
So why am I researching ice skating for a book about a fake coronavirus pandemic? Well, while the novel’s goal is to awaken people to the COVID-19 hoax that is being perpetrated upon humanity, it’s also critical the novel entertains. “Ice and Isolation” and “Free in the Frozen Now” ended up being two of the most fun chapters in the book, as they unfold around Canadians most loved sport.
I must admit, however, I’m not much of a hockey fan. I don’t watch sports. Watching other people have fun isn’t for me. Growing up, and being half-blind, I gravitated towards less visually-challenging sports like running, swimming, and skating (whether on two sharp pieces of metal or rollerblades). What I was never great at, however, was stopping on skates.
As I dived into hockey research for the novel, I ended up reading many different instructions for stopping. So I was eager to try them out with with my forty-year-old pair of ice skates. When I arrived at the lake, people had already cleared off several rectangular ice rinks.
Well, my ice skating research didn’t work out so well, but not for any lack of skill on my part. After about forty minutes on the ice, the elderly skates literally started to crack and fall apart while on my feet. I tightened the laces around the fractured plastic, but to no avail. In another ten minutes, the skates were declared deceased by a flock of honking geese overheard:
In the book, Save The Cat! Writes a Novel, by Jessica Brody, she talks about how 20-50% of a great novel, normally in the middle (or second act), is composed of “fun and games”:
This is where we see the hero in their new world. They’re either loving it or hating it. Succeeding or floundering. Also called the promise of the premise, this section represents the “hook” of the story (why the reader picked up the novel in the first place).
Much Ado About Corona plays true to that maxim. Its main characters are forced to rebel against the new normal world we were all thrown into last year. The ice hockey chapters are only but one example of the varied “fun and games” that unfold in its pages — including confrontations with the police, restaurant masking wars with the local mayor and “breaking into” a long-term care home.
Of course, such conflicts are only easily seen as “fun and games” for the reader. For those going through them it’s harder to see any fun or games.
Last year, for example, we had a situation in Calgary, where cops almost tasered a young man for skating on a local ice rink. More typical, thousands of restaurants owners have lost their livelihood. And the situation in nursing homes continues to be horrific. But, in many cases, such horror is because we aren’t playing the game. Most people are sitting back as spectators.
Pastor Coates, however, fought back when the Alberta government tried to ban people from attending his church services. He ended up spending 35 days inside Edmonton’s maximum security Remand facility. But, listening to an interview with him, after his release, it doesn’t sound like he’s beaten down. Instead, he states he would do it again if he had to. He’s surrendered to playing the game.
It’s odd how we want a movie or novel to be full of unexpected twists and turns, tension and conflict, but then flee from it in our own lives. Indeed, one of the bestselling dystopian novels of recent times has been The Hunger Games — a story about children transported to a wilderness arena and forced to fight to the death. Why don’t we see the COVID-19(84) arena we have been put into with the same kind of detached amusement a reader or moviegoer enjoys?
I always say: it looks like things are going crazy but… enjoy it. Have fun. Be happy. Because if you’re miserable and the world’s going to sh*t you might as well enjoy it and have fun.
So it is my hope that the Much Ado About Corona novel not only wakes people up to the hoax but also inspires them to action. If we are going to win these COVID Games, we need to play the game. Largely, I believe, at a local level. Not so much on the internet. In future posts, I’ll share more about the “fun and games” I have been having in my local community, as I try to do my part to find a happy ending to this dystopian novel we have all been forced to be characters in.