Proud Infidel ranting about the ongoing war against democratic and secular values (Don't fool yourselves)! Maybe a voice of sanity in a wide ocean of madness.

20080611

The time traveler

I have posted this short story (or rather just a link to it) before. Dan Simmons is an- hmmm- interresting author. Me being a Science Fiction Junkie, thinks his storys are... Well, thought worthy. I think that the Hyperion/Endymion series are well worth reading. He also have a website at dansimmons.com were you can read about him aswell as some short novellas.

The time traveller is one such story well worth reading. Here comes a short excerpt:

The Time Traveler appeared suddenly in my study on New Year’s Eve, 2004. He was a stolid, grizzled man in a gray tunic and looked to be in his late-sixties or older. He also appeared to be the veteran of wars or of some terrible accident since he had livid scars on his face and neck and hands, some even visible in his scalp beneath a fuzz of gray hair cropped short in a military cut. One eye was covered by a black eyepatch. Before I could finish dialing 911 he announced in a husky voice that he was a Time Traveler come back to talk to me about the future.

Being a sometimes science-fiction writer but not a fool, I said, “Prove it.”

“Do you remember Replay?” he said.

My finger hovered over the final “1” in my dialing. “The 1987 novel?” I said. “By Ken Grimwood?”

The stranger – Time Traveler, psychotic, home invader, whatever he was – nodded.

I hesitated. The novel by Grimwood had won the World Fantasy Award a year or two after my first-novel, Song of Kali, had. Grimwood’s book was about a guy who woke up one morning to find himself snapped back decades in his life, from the late 1980’s to himself as a college student in 1963, and thus getting the chance to relive – to replay – that life again, only this time acting upon what he’d already learned the hard way. In the book, the character, who was to experience – suffer – several Replays, learned that there were other people from his time who were also Replaying their lives in the past, their bodies younger but their memories intact. I’d greatly enjoyed the book, thought it deserved the award, and had been sad to hear that Grimwood had died . . . when? . . . in 2003.

So, I thought, I might have a grizzled nut case in my study this New Year’s Eve, but if he was a reader and a fan of Replay, he was probably just a sci-fi fan grizzled nut case, and therefore probably harmless. Possibly. Maybe.

I kept my finger poised over the final “1” in “911.”

“What does that book have to do with you illegally entering my home and study?” I asked.

The stranger smiled … almost sadly I thought. “You asked me to prove that I’m a Time Traveler,” he said softly. “Do you remember how Grimwood’s character in Replay went hunting for others in the 1960’s who had traveled back in time from the late 1980’s?”

I did remember now. I’d thought it clever at the time. The guy in Replay, once he suspected others were also replaying into the past, had taken out personal ads in major city newspapers around the country. The ads were concise. “Do you remember Three Mile Island, Challenger, Watergate, Reaganomics? If so, contact me at . . .”

Before I could say anything else on this New Year’s Eve of 2004, a few hours before 2005 began, the stranger said, “Terri Schiavo, Katrina, New Orleans under water, Ninth Ward, Ray Nagin, Superdome, Judge John Roberts, White Sox sweep the Astros in four to win the World Series, Pope Benedict XVI, Scooter Libby.”

“Wait, wait!” I said, scrambling for a pen and then scrambling even faster to write. “Ray who? Pope who? Scooter who?”

“You’ll recognize it all when you hear it all again,” said the stranger. “I’ll see you in a year and we’ll have our conversation.”

“Wait!” I repeated. “What was that middle apart . . . Ray Nugin? Judge who? John Roberts? Who is . . .” But when I looked up he was gone.

“White Sox win the Series?” I muttered into the silence. “Fat chance.”

[...]

"I came back for my own purposes,” said the Time Traveler, looking around my booklined study. “I chose you to talk to because it was . . . convenient. And I don’t want you to do a goddamned thing. There’s nothing you can do. But relax . . . we’re not going to be talking about personal things. Such as, say, the year, day, and hour of your death. I don’t even know that sort of trivial information, although I could look it up quickly enough. You can release that white-knuckled grip you have on the edge of your desk.”

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.

(Thanks Flanders Fields for pointing this out.)

Please read the rest here.

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