Do you remember 2019?
You could leave your back door open. In fact, you could let members of another household through that back door and into your garden without the neighbours thinking you were a monster. Masks were something you wore to scare people at Halloween, as opposed to a political statement/ IQ test. The entire planet wasn’t one Netflix outage away from mass rioting.
What I’m saying is, it was a simpler, happier time. Well, way back then I wrote a book called The Stranger Times, centred around a struggling Manchester-based newspaper dedicated to reporting the weird and wonderful from around the world. Think The Fortean Times’ low-brow cousin that’s just woken up hungover in a skip with Liam Gallagher. It was a lot of fun to write for many reasons, not least was making up the bizarre news stories. The trick was, you had to come up with something outlandish but it needed to sound like it was something someone, somewhere, might believe. So, the landlord in a pub claiming that its loos are possessed, someone building an intergalactic tourist information centre to encourage extra-terrestrial visitations to Yorkshire or a man claiming he discovered the Loch Ness monster being intimate with his VW Beetle – all of that was close enough to the believable/unbelievable line that they worked well.
Then 2020 happened. The believable/unbelievable line has been fundamentally re-drawn. I mean, I assume it has. It disappeared over the horizon and hasn’t been seen since February. It might well lap itself, assuming of course you’re not one of the increasing number of people who believe the Earth is flat. (The truly scary word in that sentence for me is ‘increasing’. Apparently, we’re losing that argument.)
Quick recap: The world caught a deadly virus because of bats. Lots of people believed it was being spread by a thing designed to give you better mobile phone reception. Then the Microsoft paperclip guy was trying to insert microchips into the world’s population to track where they were. When they were was locked in their houses – see above. A British government advisor went for a drive in a car to test his eyesight. The world’s rat population is apparently getting more aggressive because we’re throwing away less food. Don’t hug granny – you’ll kill her. The US President speculated it’d all be fine if we just drank bleach and swallowed the right kind of lightbulb. He is currently threatening to barricade himself inside his office as he doesn’t accept he lost an election. Large chunks of North America seem to be permanently on fire. There’s something out there called a Murder Hornet – you’ll have to Google that one (I just decided to give it a miss as some things you just don’t want to know). America has its first QAnon supporting senator. How is that even going to work? “I strongly disagree with the Senator from California’s position on eating babies, but I’m willing to work with him on agricultural subsidies.” The POTUS crack legal team screwed up a booking and ended up briefing the world’s press between a crematorium and a sex shop.
In short, we are living through Marilyn Manson’s fever-dream cover version of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire. Go ahead, see if you can make up something weirder than what has actually happened – I DARE you. Reality has jumped the shark.
If the US Government came out and confirmed the existence of extra-terrestrials, which – spoiler alert, a couple of senior American politicians floated as a possibility a few months ago – it would not even make the top five weird things that happened this year. Hell, if they landed in the middle of New York our first questions would be: ‘Do you have a vaccine? Have you got proof of voter fraud? And do any of the wackadoodle theories the guy from The Corrs keeps spouting have any truth to them, or is that just what happens to a man when he’s spent too much time being told his sisters are the three hottest women in Ireland?’ (Again – have a Google but don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
I guess, what I’m trying to say is, I have a book coming out on the 14 January 2021 – assuming 2020 ever actually ends. It has already been twenty-seven years long. My dog has taken up smoking and now runs out of the room when he hears the theme tune for the Nine O’Clock News. Currently, the book is listed as fiction but watch this space, it becoming reality would frankly be a welcome return to sanity.
In the meantime, watch the skies, wash your hands, and don’t believe anything Clippy the Microsoft paperclip tells you.
The Stranger Times by C.K. McDonnell will be released in January 2021 (if 2020 ever ends).