About Clemens P. Suter

Clemens P. Suter is the author of post-apocalyptic and dystopian adventure novels. Visit this site to learn about his novels, paintings and travel.

Does the 2010 novel TWO JOURNEYS really predict the 2020 CORONA PANDEMIC?

As far back as 2015, Bill Gates gave a now famous TED talk in which he predicted the occurrence of a pandemic “in the nearby future”. Mr. Gates is getting quite some flack for that prediction, which is quite unfair. Tin-foil-hat-wearers think that Bill Gates has some darker motives, whereas it is my guess that the truth is far more benign: Bill Gates simply reads a lot of books and articles; which are actually freely available to all of us. And if you start reading those, you will quickly realize that it isn’t such a surprise that Bill Gates arrived at his conclusion.

Over the years, a number of people, including many scientists and authors (fiction and non-fiction) have predicted the occurrence of a pandemic. Over-population, the massacre of the environment, climate change… all of these are factors in a dramatically changing playing field for pathogens.

Still not convinced? As a biologist and author, I published a novel on this topic back in 2010: TWO JOURNEYS (available e.g. on iTunes or amazon.com) describes the devastating impact of a CORONA VIRUS pandemic – see TWO JOURNEYS, pages 122/123 – photo below.

I must admit that there was no magic or clairvoyance involved; the SARS and MERS epidemics convinced me (as a scientist) that such a scenario was bound to happen. Sure, my prediction that the pandemic was the result of a CORONA VIRUS was surprisingly spot-on. The main reason for my selection of CORONA (and not e.g. H1N1) was that I needed a culprit that could spread at top speed across the globe – CORONA viruses have a prominent ability to do so through droplet and surface infection. In addition, it is challenging to develop vaccines against CORONA viruses, which at the time of writing the book also passed my mind as a suitable characteristic; I recall toying with the idea of introducing that aspect further on in the series.

What makes TWO JOURNEYS truly special is the analysis of the psychological effects of such an occurrence on the hero; and how populists will misuse the narrative for their own purposes. Quite a few story lines in the book have now (alas) become reality. That is where the novel has its true predictive strenght.

So, TWO JOURNEYS (and its sequel FIELDS OF FIRE) indeed describe the aftermath of a CORONA pandemic. The rest is high speed, adventure fiction – but you will recognize several characters and occurrences again, e.g. the misuse of the pandemic by the villainous dictator Somerset may well remind you of some of our current political leaders – those that put fiction before fact, and self-interest before empathy. I recently addressed this in a (yet again!) predictive blogpost, first published back in March 2020: The Corona Pandemic and How it Affects All of Us.

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There it is, on page 122/123. Corona is the culprit of the pandemic that left Alan (hero of TWO JOURNEYS) stranded in Tokyo. Note the line “Corona viruses spread by droplets or surfaces” – better keep your distance, wear a mask and wash your hands.

www.clemenssuter.com/books.

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Top 5 impressions from Cairo

I had about two hours off, so I grabbed the opportunity for a walk through the city center of Cairo. Very few tourists about, but many Egyptians who used the day for shopping – this was a religious holiday, and most Egyptians had a day off.

Below: a beautiful old mosque hidden deep in the narrow streets drew many local visitors. I tried to enter as well, but the doorman shouted “tomorrow!” And banged the door shut in my face. I presume they were just calling it a day. I checked my watch and it was almost five.

Below: in the absence of a guide or guidebook, neither purpose, name or history of the sites that I passed could easily be determined – yet their beauty was unchallenged. There is satisfaction in letting a town work on you, without constantly studying facts or staring into a smartphone.

Below: a boy selling bread in the street. He had a devastatingly loud whistle to get attention – this didn’t work too well, as he wasn’t selling much.

People out for a stroll and shopping. Merchants of the same trade share the same street: one street is full with dealers of carpets, another street for electric appliances, and yet another alley for shops that focus on metal pots and pans.
The city is overflowing with people, millions and millions. The pictures do not bring this across, but Cairo is all about people, people and people.

Qatar – three days immersed in the Middle East

Below the lobby of the hotel where I was staying. The room was freezing cold, air ongoing full blast, but the hotel was pleasant enough. Although: the breakfast buffet had a price tag of $30 – how much can a man eat for breakfast? I discovered that Qatari cheese is very salty and rubbery, takes gettin used to.
I learned a lot from my colleagues how the state of Qatar ticks and functions. It is intriguing how this society differs so much from ours, with strict Islam implemented.

Below: the skyline of Doha. Skyscrapers ate being built at rocket speed (like all over the world, seems to be the new pastime) but the country itself is mainly desert. With 300,000 Qataris and 2.5 million expats, the demographics are exceptional. There are a few additional cities, but they are in the desert, close to the natural gas fields and intended for the laborers. Here’s a tourist secret:… Doha is the most mind-numbing boring city that I have ever visited (and I have visited a few). My impression is that the Qataris hide and party (?) with their families behind the walls of their country estates; the migrants forlornly wander the boring streets trying not to think about alcohol: there isn’t any / much. I neither drink nor miss alcohol, but even for me Doha offered a new perspective on boredom.

Below: to defy the Saudi boycott, which kicked in 2018, the Qataris have put up portraits of the Emir all over to show their  solidarity. The Arabs had hoped that the Qataris would topple their Emir, but no way, Jose.

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Impressions from Cairo, a surprising city.

With more than 25 million inhabitants, Cairo is considered to be one of the most densely populated cities in the world. it also seen by many as the cultural center of Islam. I had visited Cairo many years ago, and was curious to visit it after such a long time. In between work, I had a chance for two brief walks. It was pretty hot, so I tried to stay in the shade as much as possible, the intensity of the sun was pretty merciless.
Above: a long hot street in a new urban area, close to my hotel. Many of the houses were not ready, it looked as if work was progressing at a slow pace, many buildings in a half-finished state. Architecturally they looked very impressive. This view does have a certain postapocalyptic touch.
You don’t want to be a dog in Egypt. The dogs that I saw were very skinny and obviously living on waste. There were actually only few animals in the streets, very few birds.
Close to Al Moaz street. It was an official  day-off, but that didn’t stop the merchants from doing business. The Caironeans (?) are extremely hardworking. This was a national holiday, which was apparently organized spontaneously by the government.

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Above: a beautiful arcade; the sights are pretty and exotic; I really enjoyed to walk the streets. But I think that many people may find the town quite overwhelming; it is very noisy. Big surprise: the Egyptians ignored me for the most part; even though there aren’t that many tourists about, and I must have stuck out like a sore thumb. Naturally I got lured into some shops and was expected to enter into longer pricing negotiations.

Cairo has changed over the years. Progress hasn’t passed by unnoticed. But the city has managed to keep a lot of its deeply oriental atmosphere.

A short movie from Cairo, Egypt, one of the most populous cities in the world

Cairo is much busier than this movie suggests! Traffic is absolutely wild, with cars getting precariously close to one another – and as a result there is no car without a dent or scratch. Pedistrians fill the streets, voices, car horns, motors, music… it’s a cacophony, a wall of sound! The government is planning to move the parliament and consulates and all governmental offices to a new town 40 miles to the east of Cairo, so that the city traffic will get some release. I was surprised to learn that the subway in Cairo is one of the oldest in the world.

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More about Europe and the EU.

In a previous blogpost I expressed my frustration about a conversation that I had with a taxi driver in Kansas City. I received many reactions to this blogpost, which truly pleases me; it seems that I hit the right sentiment with many Europeans.

First, I was contacted by Göran Hansson from Sweden, who expressed his enthusiasm for the Union in a direct comment beneath the blogpost. Göran emphasized the tremendous achievements that the EU has made; in the areas of peace and prosperity, but he also expressed frustration at how indifferent fellow Europeans sometimes are towards the EU. In his posts (link above) Göran is also a vocal proponent of the Europe of Regions, which I find a thrilling idea. In my reply to Göran, I expressed my believe that his efforts (as an example) are crucial to drive the discussion about the EU forward:

The EU is not just about voting every four years and, from the sidelines, watch the thing develop. We need more people to talk and exchange ideas about the EU.

And this must be done NOW: in the UK, democrats waited too long to start this conversation and left the playing field to the populists… and now the lower and middle class can feed the bill of the referendum disaster.

You are the EU. The EU is what you make out of it.

In my original blogpost (which I also cross-posted to several EU groups on facebook, e.g. #EUsolidarity Now), I compared the EU to the USA. Several readers pointed out that this is not valid, as the USA was founded by emigrants that could start a brand new state, whereas the EU is a federation of states, each with unique cultural traditions and independent histories. I agree with that view. In fact, I believe that one of the major strengths of the EU is its diversity. However, the original point that I wanted to make is that many people are critical of the EU, because the EU makes decisions that seem to be the result of a malfunctioning EU – but which are not, on closer inspection. I want to illustrate this with a few examples.

During the Corona crisis, many nations within the EU closed their borders (by the way, the Schengen agreement which allows free travel within the EU is just celebrating its 35th birthday). Within 24 hours I received an email from a friend in the US, asking whether this was “The End Of The EU?” Interestingly, the borders between individual states in the USA cannot be closed that easily; I would venture that this may actually have increased the momentum of the pandemic (China, on the other hand, had no issue with closing down the Wuhan region – no questions asked in a dictatorship). But what few people know is that on the other side of the spectrum, the border between Bavaria and Baden-Würrtemberg in Germany was de facto also closed – and although some local residents (or “pandemic deniers”) may have disagreed with that decision, nobody would consider for a second that Germany was falling apart or that Germany was failing as a nation. I truly believe that putting free travel on hold along the national borders partially and temporarily was the right decision to slow the spread of the virus. Note: my two sons and I live in three separate European countries, and visiting each other was thus not possible (by the way, we can easily live in three separate countries as a direct result of the many advantages that the EU provides.There is no need for visas, or other unnecessary bureaucracy bullshit – now who said that the EU was overtly bureaucratic?).

There was also a call that the pandemic response should have been an EU-wide- and not a national-response, e.g. the same social distancing rules in Italy, Spain, Estland or Ireland. But why, I wonder, is this a must-have? The EU has a size of 4,233,255.3 km2 and an estimated total population of 447 million! Regions within this huge area are going to be affected in different ways by a pandemic. Again, even within Germany, individual Bundesländer (~states) had individual pandemic guidelines.

Several commentators on my original blogpost agreed that calling the EU a fascist state (as the Kansas City taxi driver did) was way over the top. Sure, as one person pointed out:

it is crucial that a federal Europe must have a sound balance in power distribution; otherwise the fascism argument will continue, or the EU may be incapable of making decisions.

The role of the parliament must be strengthened (and not just in the Brexit negotiations with the UK). But people should also know how to use phrases such as Fascism, which is a clearly defined term and should not be used in a inflationary manner (as, for that matter, socialism, which many Trump voters do not seem to be able to grasp the meaning of).

Find my novels here.