A piece I wrote for this blog (but never posted) about a year ago began like this:

Several weeks ago, at 7 am, as I drove to the training I do most weeks, it was light for the first time, a sign that Spring is in the air, a feeling reinforced by the appearance of snowdrops and healthy sprouts of daffodils. Well, snowdrops—poor sods—are going to have to think about a new name.

It was the middle of February and winter in Stockholm seemed to have passed without snow and as I write this at the end of March 2020, apart from a short-lived dusting, snow has remained absent. We’ve lived here over 20 years and always had snow every winter. One of the main Swedish newspapers (Dagens Nyheter) announced it was the warmest January since 1756. Is the climate changing? No, it has changed—drastically.

Is this a political comment? No, not at all, it’s a scientific one. William Gibson, the guy credited for coining the word, Cyberspace, returned to writing SF in one of his more recent novels, The Peripheral. In this book he described a calamitous event which he called the Jackpot. In fact, we learn that this isn’t one calamity but a convergence of several. I now learn that the Jackpot idea’s original source was probably from Robert Heinlein. This neatly leads me to the present day where something rather worse than the delay of winter is emerging in Wuhan, China: a new kind of corona virus.

And then 2020 disappeared into a pandemic that would put the best SF dystopia’s to shame. Like many things that take the human race by surprise and hit us over the head when we’re least expecting it, with hindsight, it could have been predicted. (Plastic, I’m looking at you!) The possibility of this event had been foreshadowed by previous coronavirus outbreaks and the crossover from the world of wildlife to the human population encroaching on it.

The personal fall-out has been devastating, not just among the elderly and other vulnerable groups, but the knock-on effect of losing intensive care beds (not to mention the carnage wrought on medical staff) has been predicted to kill as many people as the virus itself. Married to somebody working in the health services, I hear of the effects first hand. However, the full economic impact and the dissolution of people’s livelihoods have still to be fully felt. And it is a coronavirus, so thinking of the flu (which requires annual immunization), it looks like the so-called ‘new normal’ will be with us for some years to come.

Here in Sweden, we had lock-down lite, which worked here in the first wave due to the conformist culture where people generally carefully follow the recommendations (and probably the lower population density). However, I think by the time we got to the second wave, conformist fatigue reared its head.

On reflection, the feeling I got over this last year was not one of living in a SF Dystopia, but more like an Alternative Reality: familiar things still exist but everything is distorted in unimagined ways by the slight of some author’s hand. The better news in 2021 was we had more snow here than for many years. Whilst this is probably one of those dips that you see on the graphs of gradual temperature rises, at least the poor snowdrops got a temporary reprieve of their name.