Charlie Stross: December 2021 Archives

Quantum of Nightmares cover

Enough with the pandemic and politics, the Scylla and Charybdis of 2021 on this blog: I've got a new book coming in less than three weeks, so let me tell you as much about it as I can without spoiling it for you!

Quantum of Nightmares is the second of the New Management books, a spin-off series set in the universe of the Laundry Files, and a direct follow-up to 2020's Dead Lies Dreaming. (The US edition comes out on the 11th of January, two days before the UK edition drops. If you dislike Amazon, here are links for US independent booksellers and UK independent booksellers.)

(NOTE: for some reason isn't showing the Kindle or audiobook editions yet, but it is showing the paperback available for preorder. Don't order it unless you're happy to wait until November! As for, no paperback edition is planned—my US publisher,, do not currently publish paperbacks: it's hardcover, audiobook, or ebook only.)

So what's going on?

I was supposed to be in Frankfurt by now, but my winter break—the first in three years—has been cancelled (thanks, Omicron!) and I'm still at home.

Probably very few of you track Nicola Sturgeon's weekly COVID briefings to the Scottish Parliament, but I find them very useful—unlike Boris Johnson there's zero bullshit and she seems to be listening to the scientists.

Today's briefing was palpably anxious. Some key points:

  • 99 confirmed Omicron cases in Scotland (pop. 5.6 million), up 28 from yesterday

  • Omicron confirmed in 9 out of 14 health districts, community transmission highly likely

  • Doubling time appears to be 2-3 days(!) with an R number significantly higher than 2 (!!)

  • Scope for vaccine immunity escape is not yet known, although hopefully it's not huge. However, Omicron is confirmed to be more able to evade acquired natural immunity after infection by other strains—if you didn't get jabbed and think having had Beta or Delta protects, you're in for a nasty surprise

  • It's not clear how deadly it is yet, but seems to be comparable to Delta. However, it's much more contagious

  • Scottish government is advising all businesses to go back to work-from-home, everyone should mask up and socially distance in public, and everyone should take a lateral flow test before going out in public for any purpose—work, pub, shopping, meeting people

  • moving to review the situation daily as of 8/12, rather than weekly (hitherto)

  • And get your booster shot (or first/second shot) the instant you're eligible for it

I'm bringing this up because this is the shit that the Johnson government should be doing, and on past form will probably copy badly in about 2 weeks (by which time it'll be 5-7 doublings down the line, i.e. utterly out of control).

It has not gone unnoticed that a strain that is twice as transmissible is much deadlier than a strain with twice the immediate mortality rate, because exponential growth in the number of cases means it ends up with many more people to kill.

My current expectation is that Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid will—have already—fucked up the response to Omicron and that the English NHS will come dangerously close to (or may actually) collapse by Christmas. Scotland handled successive waves better, but will probably still have a very bad winter (our border with England is porous, as in non-existent). And we may end up back in April 2020 levels of lockdown before this is over.



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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Charlie Stross in December 2021.

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