JULY 2020 - What Comes Next? Thinking about Scenarios.
Hannah stopped in her tracks a moment. ‘Oh God, I was going to tell you my dream. I was like going to see the future. I just knew it was up there, like a hole in the sky and I climbed up on this huge ladder and popped my head through the hole...’
Liz glanced at her. ‘And?’
‘It was like sticking my head into a raging sandstorm. I remember my face stinging – the sand – couldn’t see a thing. It was just a raging wind.’
Liz didn’t say anything for a moment. Then… ‘I guess the future’s hard to see. That’s what it means. We know there is one, but we just can’t see it.’
A moment from Another Place to Die: Endtime. Life in a time of pandemic
A writer's job is to understand trends and interpret them, hopefully well before they become overwhelmed by those events. In a fast moving world it gets harder all the time. Below is what is happening now. Thinking beyond that to 2025 is what I should be doing. But the crystal ball is cloudy right now.
There could be a risk of war this year with Trump wanting to be a ‘War President’ to deflect from his monumental failures with the pandemic in the USA. Then there's President for Life Xi in China seeing opportunities everywhere after removing all freedoms from Hong Kong, now setting his gaze on Taiwan this August. Don’t forget Putin also needs to deflect attention away from his callous disregard for the virus as he celebrates his coronation of becoming President for Life.
Scenario 1: As Trump ramps up pressure on China to admit to responsibility for Covid-19 and destroying the world economy, they react with ever increasing shrill rhetoric. By August the death toll in the USA from the virus could be in the 200,000 mark thanks to the Republican States prematurely breaking lockdown under Trump’s encouragement and mass protests to the George Floyd murder. The virus is out of control and Trump needs a distraction from his glaring shortcomings. China can see that the US Navy is suffering from the virus, as is the US Army. They take the opportunity to test Trump's resolve and attack Taiwan. What will Trump do as a ‘war president’ to get re-elected? *This is corroborated by The New York Times article 'Can the Democrats Avoid Trump's China Trap' by Rachel Esplin Odell and Stephen Wertheim May 10th: "Going abroad in search of monsters to destroy won't save Americans from pandemics ... but it does risk entangling the United States in a cold war ...'
Meanwhile 'Chinese see chance to take Taiwan back' by Didi Tang in The Times 12.05 says that debates in China about siezing Tailwan has attracted 750 million views on Social Media. 'Reunification by Force' would be a very popular move. President Xi has said 'China must prepare for war'. China is war gaming with sea going tanks to land them on Taiwan's beaches. (The Times 5th June) ** Not to mention causing trouble on India's border.
Scenario 2: As the virus rages out of control in Russia and Putin’s popularity sink ever lower as people die in their thousands in primitive hospitals and are actually starving in the countryside, too sick to harvest – Putin must act by August. He has a choice. Seize Ukraine or Estonia. Easy pickings and he knows he has a puppet in the White House who cares little for NATO. A few native Russians might be encouraged to riot in either country and get killed and he will ride in to save the rest from oppression. He will be a hero again. Europe is reeling from the virus and virtually bankrupt – ditto USA. They might choose to do nothing or risk a war they cannot afford.
Scenario 3: Unemployment in the USA already at 40 million struggles to come back and the virus sweeps through in a second wave and people refuse to go into a second lockdown. Trump has to act or lose the November election, even if his Democratic rival is quite possibly dead of old age and no one has seen him 'live' since March. He needs a war. China is obvious, he’s been ramping up hatred for months but their armies and navies are healthy and well equipped and his aren’t. However North Korea is ready to test their new nuclear missiles and despite his ‘love’ for Kim the dictator, a pre-emptive strike would be popular with his base. What will China do in response? (Alt scenario is to attack Iran and get the price of oil up again for his friends in 'Big Oil'.)
None of this might happen of course - but this is scenario thinking as I develop ideas for the next novel.
It’s kind of ironic for someone like me, who has spent a lifetime often writing dystopian fiction, to be living it – just like you are right now. On the whole people are behaving a lot better than they do in my stories, but it’s early days yet. People are scared but definitely maintaining a good distance when you walk by for your daily walk.
I’m no epidemiologist, but I did spend a year researching the effects of virus pandemics in modern society when writing my novel Another Place to Die: The Endtime Chronicles. I make no claims to be a virus guru. All the info was out there if you looked. Wash your hands, keep your distance, isolate and of course buy guns to guard your stash. (That bit wasn’t in the FEMA/ CDC manuals).
Imagining a post deadly virus world was interesting and a challenge. Everything you are used to is gone. No more Happy Meals. No meals at all. I mostly skipped the horror part where people fight over the last toilet roll and box of Cheerios. We know how that goes, just visit your local supermarket to see that play out. I wanted to show kids learning self-reliance, starting from basics and growing food, learning to support each other.
Of course, Covid-19 isn’t that virus. Ours was more deadly. Coronavirus is lethal for some, but not everyone and they are throwing trillions of dollars at it to make it go away. It will follow its course. An economy thrives on trade. Stop trade and you stop everything and make things even worse. As I write this over a 10.5 million have contracted the virus worldwide. It may get a worse before it peaks. And of course when writing the novel I never for once imagined that the world would be led by such a moron. We need leadership, imagination and compassion. None of those are available.
We have had a wake up call. Isolation will lead to resentment. Someone will have to be blamed and of course any Government is an easy target. But we have to look at ourselves and how we live, vacation, consume. Greta is right – just look at the photos of the clean air over Europe right now as industry melts down and traffic disappears. We are killing ourselves with consumerism and taking the climate with us. The Virus gives us an opportunity to glimpse what de-industrialisation looks like. We won’t like it all. Not one bit, and we’ll race to get back what we have lost once the virus dissipates. But the astute among us will ponder about the future a little more deeply after this and the kids will have had a scare that just might alter their own vision of the future.
What's it like to live in a deadly pandemic? (A little taste here) Read it now. There's still time to read it and plan your future...
© Sam Hawksmoor July 2020
You can download Girl with Cat (Blue) or order the print version here
*Shortlisted for the Rubery Book Award & 'Honorary Mention' in the 26th Writer's Digest Book Awards