Berkeley CSUA MOTD:Entry 42699
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2021/10/24 [General] UID:1000 Activity:popular
10/24   

2006/4/6-7 [Reference/History/WW2/Japan, Politics/Foreign/MiddleEast/Iraq] UID:42699 Activity:nil
4/5     Amusing little short story by Dan Simmons
        http://www.dansimmons.com/news/message.htm
        \_ After having slogged through Illium let me just say, wow
           he can write crappy short stories as well!
        \_ I prefer the smooth stylings of Don "No Soul" Simmons.
2021/10/24 [General] UID:1000 Activity:popular
10/24   

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2010/3/5-30 [Reference/Tax] UID:53741 Activity:nil
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Cache (8192 bytes)
www.dansimmons.com/news/message.htm
Greetings Readers, Friends, and Other Visitors: 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. 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. Past Messages Being a sometimes science-fiction writer but not a fool, I said, "Prove it." The stranger - Time Traveler, psychotic, home invader, whatever he was - nodded. 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 . 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. "What does that book have to do with you illegally entering my home and study?" "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?" 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. "Do you remember Three Mile Island, Challenger, Watergate, Reaganomics? " 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." I said, scrambling for a pen and then scrambling even faster to write. "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." I looked up from the book I was fitfully reading and he was standing in the shadows again. I waved him to the leather wingchair and said, "Would you like something to drink?" Our conversation ran over two hours, but the following is the gist of it. But the gray cord trousers and blue-gray wool tunic top he was wearing didn't look very far-future science-fictiony or military, no Star Trekky boots or insignia, just wellworn clothes that looked like something a guy who worked with his hands a lot would wear. "I know you can't tell me details about the future because of time travel paradoxes," I began. I hadn't spent a lifetime reading and then writing SF for nothing. "Oh, bugger time travel paradoxes," said the Time Traveler. I could tell you anything I want to and it won't change anything. But surely if I go back in time and kill my grandfather before he meets my grandmother . "But surely anything you tell me now about the future will change the future," I said. "I gave you a raft of facts about your future a year ago as my bona fides," said the Time Traveler. "I won $50 betting on the White Sox in October," I admitted. "I could tell you that the Mississippi River flows generally south. Would your knowing about it change its course or flow or flooding?" "I came back for my own purposes," said the Time Traveler, looking around my booklined study. 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 mean the Century War with Islam," interrupted the Time Traveler. 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." The vast majority of Muslims in the world are peaceloving people who wish us no harm. His voice was very low but there was a strange and almost frightening edge to it. 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 . "You were a philosophy major or minor at that podunk little college you went to long ago," said the Time Traveler. But I was too irritated at hearing my alma mater being called a "podunk little college" to be able to concentrate fully. "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." Finally I said firmly, "You can't go to war with a religion. "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." "The American battleships, cruisers, harbor installations, Army barracks, and airfields at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere in Hawaii were all struck by Japanese aircraft. Imagine if the next day Roosevelt had declared war on aviation . Committing all the resources of the United States of America to defeating aviation, so help us God." If I'd ever been afraid of this Time Traveler, I wasn't now. "The planes, the Japanese planes," I said, "were just a method of attack . it wasn't aviation that attacked us at Pearl Harbor, but the Empire of Japan. We declared war on Japan and a few days later its ally, Germany, lived up to its treaty with the Japanese and declared war on us. If we'd declared war on aviation, on goddamned airplanes rather than the empire and ideology that launched them, we'd never have . Making the problem unsolvable through your inability - or fear - of defining it correctly. It was a small, thin, cold smile - holding no humor in it, I was sure -- but still a smile of sorts. It seemed more sad than gloating as my sudden silence stretched on. Still, I felt that I should have been able to tell him,or at least remember, why Syracuse was important in the Peloponnesian War or why they fought there or who fought exactly or who had won or . I hated feeling like a dull student around this scarred old man. "The war between Athens and its allies and Sparta and its allies - a war for nothing less than hegemony over the entire known world at that time - began in 431 BC," said the Time Traveler. "After seventeen years of almost constant fighting, with no clear or permanent advantage for either side, Athens - under the leadership of Alcibiades at the time - decided to widen the war by conquering Sicily, the Great Greece' they called it, an area full of colonies and the key to maritime commerce at the time the way the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf is today." I hate being lectured to at the best of times, but something about the tone and timber of the Time Traveler's voice - soft, deep, rasping, perhaps thickened a bit by the whiskey - made this sound more like a story being told around a campfire. Or perhaps a bit like one of Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon stories on "Prairie Home Companion." "Syracuse wasn't a direct enemy of the Athenians," continued the Time Traveler, "but it was quarreling with a local Athenian colony and the democracy of Athens used that as an excuse to launch a major expedition against it. It was a big deal - Athen...