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The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic changed the world and many people's lives in countries all over the world in 2020. Much has been written about how writers of fiction have needed to change or shelve their manuscripts to reflect the new state of the world, or to avoid the temporal setting of their stories being impossible to place.

Since so many of these changes have happened so quickly, in the future it may be very hard to pin down a timeline or to figure out who was the first person to get a book published which was really set during the Covid-19 pandemic. I'm hoping that, by asking this question now in 2021 when it should be easier to answer, I'm creating something which will be of value to future historians of literature.

What was the first-published fiction story, in any language, set during Covid-19 lockdown?

Clarifications (more may be added if necessary):

  • Any type of story counts, but it must be formally published, not just a blog post or the like which a good writer could do in a day. (For bonus points I'd also be interested in the first novel, or similarly lengthy piece of literature.)
  • Any Earth setting is OK, even fictional countries, but there must be a lockdown which affects the lives of the characters. A casual mention of a news story about a virus in far-off China doesn't qualify.
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  • By "story", are you including or excluding narrative poems? – bobble Feb 16 at 15:22
  • @bobble Sure, anything fictional, but see my first bullet point. – Rand al'Thor Feb 16 at 15:29
  • Specifically during a Covid-19 lockdown or just during the current pandemic? – Tsundoku Feb 16 at 15:37
  • @Tsundoku There are varying degrees of "lockdown", but anything which is significantly affecting the workings of society or the lives of the characters. – Rand al'Thor Feb 16 at 15:39
  • It's not written as a novel, but the Japanese TV drama "Remolove", which aired on NTV October-December 2020 works the Covid pandemic into its story line very cleverly. – kimchi lover Feb 17 at 1:20
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Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City by Fang Fang (translated by Michael Berry was published in e-book format by HarperCollins in 15 May 2020. (The hardcover edtion is dated 24 November 2020.) This is obviously set during a lockdown but is not fiction.

Several of the earliest novels that are explicitly set during a lockdown in Europe are self-published:

  • COVID-19: UN ROMAN GLOBAL DANS UN MONDE GLOBAL by Dr. Joseph Adrien Emmanuel DEMES M.D. M.P.H. Ph.D. (obviously a very serious author): published on 30 April 2020;
  • UN AMOUR DE CONFINEMENT by Hélène Tavelle: published on 17 June 2020 ("confinement" can mean quarantine or lockdown);
  • Lockdown: Liebe in Zeiten von Corona by Agnes Bonus is a short-story collection published on 29 September 2020;
  • Futur proche by François Morin: published on 30 September 2020 (set in a country after the Covid-19 pandemic and where liberty has been seriously reduced and the health system has failed);
  • Plandemic by John Reizer was published on 1 September 2020; the summary on Amazon.co.uk does not explicitly mention a lockdown but says "While most people in the world remain paralyzed by fear"; the novel capitalises on conspiracy myths;
    • (Plandemic by Matthew Burlington was published on 23 May 2020 but is about a "deadly plague epidemic", not Covid-19, and therefore does not count);
  • Covid-19-Roman [10.10.20] published on 19.10.2020 under the pseudonym Sars Al-Klausen; the cover says "An einem Tag geschrieben", i.e. written on a single day.

Not self-published but not explicitly set during a lockdown:

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The Staying Home series of picturebooks explaining the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions was published in New Zealand 21 May 2020, but may have been produced overseas earlier than this. Unfortunately I am unable to find any other information.

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