April 06, 2006

Dan Simmons - Must Read

Several years ago my older sister passed along a couple of Dan Simmons' books, Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion. She highly recommended them, but I had a lot of trouble enjoying them. Not really my kind of Sci Fi, at least at that point in time.

So I approached this speculative piece by Dan Simmons with a fair amount of skepticism. But I am really glad I took the 10 minutes to read this.

Premise: a time traveler from the future drops in on Dan and describes the world of the future, dominated by Islam. He compares the West of the present to the Athenians before Syracuse (and explains the analogy for those without a grounding in classical history). Here's an early excerpt to whet your appetite:

I tried to relax. "What do you want to talk about?" I said.

"The Century War," said the Time Traveler.

I blinked and tried to remember some history. "You mean the Hundred Year War? Fifteenth Century? Fourteenth? Sometime around there. Between . . . France and England? Henry V? Kenneth Branagh? Or was it . . ."

"I mean the Century War with Islam," interrupted the Time Traveler. "Your future. Everyone's." He was no longer smiling. Without asking, or offering to pour me any, he stood, refilled his Scotch glass, and sat again. He said, "It was important to me to come back to this time early on in the struggle. Even if only to remind myself of how unspeakably blind you all were."

"You mean the War on Terrorism," I said.

"I mean the Long War with Islam," he said. "The Century War. And it's not over yet where I come from. Not close to being over."

"You can't have a war with Islam," I said. "You can't go to war against a religion. Radical Islam, maybe. Jihadism. Some extremists. But not a . . . the . . . religion itself. The vast majority of Muslims in the world are peaceloving people who wish us no harm. I mean . . . I mean . . . the very word 'Islam' means 'Peace.'"

"So you kept telling yourselves," said the Time Traveler. His voice was very low but there was a strange and almost frightening edge to it. "But the 'peace' in 'Islam' means 'Submission.' You'll find that out soon enough"

Great, I was thinking. Of all the time travelers in all the gin joints in all the world, I get this racist, xenophobic, right-wing asshole.

"After Nine-eleven, we're fighting terrorism," I began, "not . . ."

He waved me into silence.

"You were a philosophy major or minor at that podunk little college you went to long ago," said the Time Traveler. "Do you remember what Category Error is?"

It rang a bell. But I was too irritated at hearing my alma mater being called a "podunk little college" to be able to concentrate fully.

"I'll tell you what it is," said the Time Traveler. "In philosophy and formal logic, and it has its equivalents in science and business management, Category Error is the term for having stated or defined a problem so poorly that it becomes impossible to solve that problem, through dialectic or any other means."

I waited. Finally I said firmly, "You can't go to war with a religion. Or, I mean . . . sure, you could . . . the Crusades and all that . . . but it would be wrong."

The Time Traveler sipped his Scotch and looked at me. He said, "Let me give you an analogy . . ."

God, I hated and distrusted analogies. I said nothing.

"Let's imagine," said the Time Traveler, "that on December eighth, Nineteen forty-one, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke before a joint session of Congress and asked them to declare war on aviation."

"That's absurd," I said.

It takes a few unpredictable turns after this. Query: what do you think the "three words" are?

Posted by JohnL at April 6, 2006 09:28 PM | TrackBack

New York City

Posted by: Billy Hollis at April 7, 2006 06:49 AM

God is great

I realize this is only two words in Arabic, but that was my first gut instinct. That this man, warning his Grandfather about a future of Islamic dominance, still cannot quell the urge to say these words in praise of Islam's God.

Posted by: Lyric Mezzo at April 7, 2006 11:30 AM

President Hillary Clinton. And may God have mercy on our souls.

Posted by: Mike in Austin at April 7, 2006 04:17 PM

"Islam delenda est"

That should seriously chill anyone with the liberal-left sensibilities of the narrator.

Posted by: warhorse at April 7, 2006 09:07 PM

"Kill them all."

It is the same solution presented by Kurtz in _Heart of Darkness_ and in _Apocalypse Now._

Posted by: Paul M. Jones at April 9, 2006 07:17 AM

I guessed the same as Billy- NYC.

Posted by: owlish at April 10, 2006 09:55 PM

"eat my Shorts"?
This is probably very good writing and all, but I don't think there are all that many people out there anymore with illusions about Islam. At least not in the red states. Maybe a lot who won't admit it.

Posted by: kyleN at April 11, 2006 04:45 PM

I would have to disagree; I think there are a lot of people who think there are a lot of more serious problems than the entire religion of Islam.

two other possibilities:
Jerusalem, Mecca, Medina [destroyed in that order, leading to a true uprising of the "arab street."

air borne rabies [a terrorist form of rabies might not lead to the predicted future- if anything, it would be significantly worse]

Posted by: owlish at April 11, 2006 09:38 PM

I think the three words are:

"It will happen."

Posted by: Anders at April 12, 2006 08:02 PM

"convert to Islam"

Posted by: Beth Atkins at April 13, 2006 07:36 AM

I'm your grandson

Posted by: will at April 17, 2006 01:01 AM

"Drink more Ovaltine."

Yes, that's right, the time traveller was a crummy commercial!

Posted by: IvyMike at April 29, 2006 01:45 AM

"Bush was right."

Would definitely disturb me for the rest of my life...

Posted by: drklameth at May 10, 2006 08:49 AM

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Posted by: eqxbh at February 24, 2010 03:32 PM
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