Bonsai in the national botanical garden of Tokyo

When traveling to foreign countries I always attempt to find a few attractions off the beaten track. Botanical gardens are such a spot; as a biologist by I have visited gardens in places such as Paris, London, New Mexico, Hawaii … and now in Kyoto.

In a corner of the Kyoto Garden is an absolutely impressive collection of bonsais. In fact, it has inspired me to start growing a bonsai myself. I’m still in the information stage, so very little progress to report except that growing a bonsai  doesn’t seem to be trivial. I will keep you posted!

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Originally posted 2019-11-16 20:12:00.

The Corona Pandemic and How it Affects All of Us.

(Originally posted in April 2020). Back in 2011, I published my pandemic adventure novel TWO JOURNEYS (soon followed by its sequel FIELDS OF FIRE). Both books deal with the dramatic effects of a Corona virus pandemic. The inspiration for these books came from the SARS epidemic that occurred a few years earlier, in 2003.

Both novels continue to gain a lot of attention. This pleases me; first of all as an author and artist, but also as a scientist that has been active in biomedical research and healthcare for many years, also in virology. My books are pure fantasy and adventure, yet they have a scientific basis and contain a few warnings that are worth highlighting in this post.

Without doubt, the 2020 Corona pandemic has a big impact on society. I blogged some words of advice already. Part of that impact we cannot even start to fathom today. The great Flu epidemic of 1918-1920 provides some insights, although corona now, and h1n1 then, as well as the healthcare, economic and social situation, are not completely comparable. This pandemic will cost all of us a lot of money, that’s for certain. It may lead to political instability and a shift in the global powerplay; early examples include the apparent Russian disinformation campaign or Chinese attempts to lay the blame elsewhere. However, most of all, the Corona virus has the potential to create a lot of sorrow and pain.

Surprisingly, crises like these also highlight the strength and good in us humans (listen to these Italians singing; perhaps not completely on tune :-)).

Alan, the hero of TWO JOURNEYS, soon notices that in pandemic times, several forces start to kick in:

  • Facts and truth start to suffer. Today, it seems that a majority of people have difficulty to understand exponential growth-curves, or aren’t interested to build up that knowledge, or even to listen to experts that can interpret exponential growth. Yet, suddenly everybody is an amateur virologist, and every bit if information is (mis-)used for own purposes. This forces some of these individuals to make a 180 degree turn in opinion within mere days – damage done.
  • People start blaming experts, either for not warning early enough, or for being too pessimistic: “they were wrong about the SARS epidemic, weren’t they?” This reveals a deep misunderstanding of how science works; which is an education issue. If you have no clue how science works, get involved and read up on it… but NOT in the National Enquirer, the Sun or on Facebook or other social media. Don’t develop opinions about things that you do not understand; certainly don’t start spreading those opinions. Read this interview with the prominent virologist David Ho to understand the Corona pandemic mechanisms and the right measures. The pertinent information is out there: for instance at the CDC, at your local government website, but also from multiple doctors reporting directly from Italy‘s Bergamo.
  • Downplaying the crisis or (even worse) creating panic about it. Putting on your blinders for the issue as it develops never helps, especially since you as a layperson do not have all the relevant data at your disposal. Read my other post The Corona Pandemic. A View from the Edge. At the same time, IF all the advice from the authorities is followed by ALL of us, any emergency can ultimately be contained. And once that tipping point is achieved, not only will the exponential growth curve of a viral infection be broken, but also the growth-curve of all the associated concerns – health, financial, societal. Stay realistic, don’t panic, and always realize that a pandemic is a moving target, where even the best experts and politicians will need to constantly adjust their policies and advice (if you think you can do a better job, I urge you to apply for a job at your local health authority – don’t waste time writing about it on social media ;-).
  • People start to use the pandemic for their own populist agendas. In TWO JOURNEYS this is embodied in the character of the wannabee dictator Somerset, who believes that with a decimated population world-power is within his grasp. Populists play with their citizens’ lives, as they only have their own objectives in mind: to get re-elected, for financial gain, to strengthen their power, or whatever sick idea they follow. Populists, in contrast to sincere politicians, experts or the members of the healthcare staff in the ICU of your local hospital, do not regard helping you as primary objective. They simply can’t, it simply isn’t in their DNA. Populists have a goal, and will filter and (mis)use data that seems to substantiate that goal. Science and common sense do the opposite: collect data first, then define a theory and finally a goal. Needless to say, populists will impact their own citizens’ lives dramatically – and your life too. A pandemic (the word implies the ‘global’ impact of an epidemic) will not stop at a national border… or your doorstep for that matter.

These observations could be the ingredients of a highly depressive story line. But every cloud has its silver lining. TWO JOURNEYS is very much a story of hope. It highlights the goodness of people, and their ability to persevere in the hardest of times, together. We can see the same happening in today’s situation: our strength is our willingness to help one another; to be sensible, to focus on facts, (blogpost) in a disturbing, shifting situation. And not to panic. Forget about hoarding toilet paper.

Stay healthy and let’s come out of this stronger, together.

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Our dog Buddy enjoys the outdoors and spots a stork during our self-isolation.

Www.Clemenssuter.Com/books

Originally posted 2020-03-21 16:45:28.

An author’s journey. Mindtravel is unrestricted

Progress in completing the manuscript of the new adventure novel REBOUNCE was disappointing these two past weeks. Other obligations took time and effort: the marketing of TWO JOURNEYS (available e.g. as eBook $2.99, you can find it for instance at Apple Books) and FIELDS OF FIRE (available e.g. as paperback $19.99, for instance at amazon.com), needed urgent attention. In addition, I have been looking at ways to identify a publishing house and a literary agent; both of which take time. And I had a lot of other things to do too… taken together, all these distraction didn’t help to focus on corrections of the manuscript’s storyline. It still needs work; the flow and the action have to be smooth like silk.

So I have set up a rigid schedule, with specific times each a day (also weekends) dedicated to finalizing the corrections. After all, the aim is to publish five books in considerably less than five years… and that, to say it bluntly, is a challenge.

In any case, below is another tasty snippet from the new manuscript. Enjoy!

++++++++++REBOUNCE+++Draft+++Copyright+Clemens P. Suter+++++++++

We crossed the Swiss border and passed into the town of Basel. The road was four-lane, but soon we came to a traffic jam that disappeared into a tunnel underneath the northern site of the city. Like so many other tunnels, it had flooded with water shortly after the power-stations had shut down; most tunnels depended on continuously running pumps to stay dry. We had no other option than to maneuver through the narrow streets of the town, across the Rhine bridge, past the old city hall with its characteristic red façade, and from there in the direction of the railway station and the highway beyond. Francois insisted on getting some quality Swiss chocolate, so I parked the truck in an alleyway leading up to the Munster cathedral, a landmark of the town. I stood guard with the dogs, machine gun in my hand, pistols in my belt. Although the city seemed to be deserted, I still felt edgy and listened for sounds constantly.

Finally, Francois appeared again. I couldn’t help smiling, as he was lugging a cardboard box so heavy that the sweat was running down his face. “If I had known you were such a Luculus, we should have stayed in France.” He looked at me vacantly, clearly oblivious of the Roman dignitary famous for organizing lavish banquets. We boarded and continued towards the main station.

The curvy street had allowed only a single file of cars and only in one direction. Parked cars stood on the sides, many blocking the view of the sidewalks and the shops. I was driving slowly and both of us were checking our surroundings intently.

Suddenly a man appeared in the middle of the road. He wore army gear and a machine gun and raised his hand. I saw a couple of other men crouching down behind the parked cars. Although we had been expecting this to happen, we were still surprised, and Francois cursed underneath his breath.

With the bored air of a commanding officer, the man stepped up to our car and signaled me to lower the window. Francois and I had gone over possible scenarios, so it came as no surprise to see Francois steadying his machine gun towards the window. I quickly glanced back at the three dogs.

Je dois vous demander de sortir de la voiture.” Get out of the car, the man said.

“We have important information for your boss,” I said in English, “tell us where we can find him so that we can speak to him.”

“First get out of ze car. Leave your gunze in ze car.”

“I am not going to discuss this. We are not getting out of this vehicle, and we won’t disarm.” I looked ahead, pretending disinterest.

He seemed slightly astonished and considered his options. After a few seconds he spoke again. “Wher’ ar’ you ‘eading?”

“To your boss. Show us the way and we will talk to him.”

Silence followed. Without speaking, he turned around.

“There will shooting,” I said, “he seems to be in command, there is nobody he is going to ask for advice or commands. He will try to get us out of the truck.” Francois nodded. I checked the gas; the engine was still running. The officer withdrew behind the parked cars. We couldn’t see him or his companions. Somebody shouted. ”Get out of ze car, now!” To emphasize these words, one of the men fired a few shots at us, which cracked the windscreen. I would have been dead if the glass hadn’t been bulletproof. I opened the car door and grabbed Bo by the skin of his neck. “Show us what you can do, boy. Get them! Go! Go!” Enthusiastically, Bo clawed his way over my lap, his claws scratching my bare skin, and jumped to the ground. I didn’t have to say anything to the other two dogs, who immediately followed their leader. With their ears in their necks and low to the ground, the three dogs stormed forward and disappeared between the cars, silent and deadly like ghosts in the night. Francois and I jumped out of the vehicle too,  and staying low to the ground we quickly moved forward, one of us on one side of the street. A few shots were fired in our direction, but soon, shortly after a horrible growl, the shooting stopped.

Within seconds, we came upon the officer and two soldiers. The dogs had them pinned to the ground, snarling, holding their arms and necks. The officer tried to go for his pistol, but Lex released the man’s throat and went for his hand, his fangs closing on the man’s fingers. The officer’s face contorted from pain and panic. “Get him off, get him off!” he shrieked with an unnatural high-pitched voice.

Francois and I removed their guns and kicked them underneath the parked cars. I called the dogs back. Immediately they retreated and sat down beside me, liking their jowls. The officer held his bleeding hand close to his chest. “Wat ‘ave you dunn?” I kneeled next to him and took his hand. “You will need to get that hand taken care of, and your colleagues also need medical attention. Is there a doctor in your unit?”

He nodded.

“Get into your car and bring us to your medical staff.”

I helped him up, while Francois kept us covered with his gun. One of the men was still able to drive, and we put him in the driver’s seat of a small jeep they had parked around the corner. Francois got into the back with the officer. I took the dogs to our armored car.

A few minutes later we arrived at a hotel opposite of the central station. It was a stuffy, old fashioned place, with a guard just inside the door. He jumped to attention as I stepped in, and when he realized that I wasn’t a member of the staff, he attempted to raise his gun. I pulled the officer forward and the guard lowered his gun again, but he stared at the injuries of his comrades with considerable shock.

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Apple Books Reviews for TWO JOURNEYS

Tips to Survive the Apocalypse. Some highly ineffective recommendations. How to survive a pandemic.

John Harpsicord*), a follower of this blog, asked: “What about the name of this blog dude! Survive the Apocalypse – I can’t find any apocalyptic content and no survival tips. WTF is that all about? Confused, John.”

Well John, you do have a point. Let me try to explain why this blog may be ALL about surviving the apocalypse.

Once the apocalypse strikes – which may happen earlier than you think, through a deadly combination of global warming, over-population and some completely inept political leaders (so sad !) – there is very little that we can do.

In my novels Two Journeys and Fields of Fire, this shocking situation is caused by a global epidemic. Luckily, humanity has gone a long time without a major pandemic. But outbreaks of viruses such as SARS, corona or influenza (e.g. H2N2 or the Asian Flu H3N2; or bird flu) have occurred repeatedly in the last twenty years or so.

In my books, I try to show a different path than what some so-called “preppers” or the “prepper movement” appear to advocate. If catastrophe strikes, keeping the higher ground morally shows that we are human. Stocking up on emergency food, baseball bats, pepper spray and guns may sound like a sound strategy, but in reality you won’t know what has hit you, once the post-apocalypse arrives.

For me, the best survival strategy is… enjoy life while you can! Take life with a grain of salt and a lot of humor, because none of us know how long we or good ol’ Earth will be around.

The apocalypse does make for some great reading though – just think about the zombie hype a few years back. This is also reflected in my adventure novels (curious ? Look here at www.clemenssuter.com/books). You will find a lot of information about these books on this blog, which is another explanation for the name of this site.

And finally: aren’t we all, in one way or another, surviving our own personal apocalypse each and every day? Life can be tough as shit; and most confusingly, it is also absolutely beautiful. That’s what I try to bring across in my work and in the title of this blog: the negative of the Apocalypse and the beauty of Survival – they are like Yin and Yang. Life is complex and unpredictable: there are no easy explanations.

*) name (slightly) changed

Photo by Charles Deluvio

Survive the apocalypse with appropriate headwear. Life is a contradiction and can be confusing as hell, so better enjoy it while you can (Photo by Charles Deluvio)

 

 

Originally posted 2020-01-25 20:47:00.