I rarely post these, but what the heck. I can't write right now, and maybe some of you are suffering too. Word of caution here, this evolved from a conversation I had with Amie Evans at Saints and Sinners late at night and after my whateverth glass of wine, so this isn't meant to be serious.
If you write speculative fiction, you're in the business of asking, "What if" and then coming up with an answer. Even if you're a genre snob, come play along. "What if," bird flu makes the 1918 influenza pandemic pale in comparison? Your first thought might be big picture stuff, like the sweeping societal, political, and religious changes in Europe following the plague years. But your assignment is to think of the small ways things might change.
Let me give you a hint - this comes directly from my conversation with Amie- what are the two easiest ways to transmit a viral infection? By hand and by respiratory tract (mouth and nose). What's the easiest way to protect yourself from picking up a viral infection? Cover your hands, mouth, and nose while in public. Get the picture? Here's the question: What happens to fashion? Are we in for gloves and veils? And to what degree?
If fashion changes, manners will too. Don't think so? You might know the rules for removing your hat indoors, not that it comes up often nowadays, but do you know glove etiquette? Are you supposed to eat a formal meal with your opera gloves on or off? I bet you have no idea. Does peeling off your glove become a sign of aggression? Trust? Or great intimacy? Would staying covered offer you so much protection that people who loved you would insist that you remain covered, no matter how much you hated it? Would being covered imply cleanliness? Moral or physical? How about purity?
I know. I think about these things too much. But maybe you should too. Take an idea, push it to the point of absurdity, and then ask yourself "What If." And just as important - look at what exists around you, and ask, "How did it get to be that way?"