Better to be lucky than good?

When the current COVID-19 situation started to bite, I wasn’t one of the people scrambling for toilet rolls, cans of baked beans, and finding locating an in-stock facemask as hard as putting socks on a rooster. This is because I’d already done my panic buying in late December last year.

I’d spotted what was happening in China and teased the two main pertinent facts out of their unhappy experience. (A) an unrestricted R0 as high as seven (translation: you might as well try stopping the wind) and (B) an ICU rate of c. 20 percent of those who catch it (translation: no medical system in the first world will cope well if that sweeps through everybody all at once).

Was I wise, or super-informed, or possessed of an advanced Ph.D. in Epidemiology and decades of cutting-edge genetic science in the field?

Nope. I was just dumb lucky.

I spent a large part of 2019 writing a science fiction book, ‘The Pashtun Boy’s Paradise’, which involved a large amount of research into real pandemics, past and potential. Forewritten is forearmed, as it transpires.

In my novel, the initial big pandemic out of China is nicknamed, ‘The Shanghai Shakes’, which is a little too close to ‘the Wuhan Wobbles’ for comfort.

I certainly hope that I am not tapping into some unconscious premonition of our actual future, because, in my book (out later this year & coming soon to my Patreon readers to beta-read over at, the pandemic leads to a limited nuclear exchange as geopolitical tensions rise between competing nations, mostly as a result of the severe economic downturn which follows the plague.

Don’t worry, though, as the book’s plot is set in the solarpunk near-future utopia that follows later in the re-built nations of the Free West.

Everything is beautiful and bountiful. Just not for everyone.

Well, it’s always better to be lucky than good. I think I’m the surreal living proof of that.

The Pashtun Boy's Paradise
The Pashtun Boy’s Paradise



I am an author of various fantasy, science fiction, crime and other genre books from Gollancz, Hachette and HarperCollins. Some day I hope to grow up and be an astronaut. Exploring Mars would be nice.

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