Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Is there honey still for tea? A pessimist responds

Words written c32000
Stories completed 3
Rejections 59
Acceptances 1

As I may have said before, I don’t subscribe to a teleological viewpoint; in other words that we’re heading towards a better tomorrow, as opposed to just tomorrow.

Yes, you can’t unthink an idea or uninvent an invention, so in that sense we’re incrementally improving.  But, at the same time, you can run out of things forever like fresh water, dodos or human kindness.

Take ISIS or IS or ISIL or whatever they’re called this week.  There’s something mediaeval about them that makes the terrorists of my youth look positively gentlemanly.  No code words called in ten minutes in advance by this lot.

Regarding their defeat we seem to have a choice between repeating Vietnam - a lot of expensive military technology against an enemy that melts into the jungle (for jungle, read desert) - or World War One - throwing sufficient numbers of boots on the ground to take sufficient numbers of bullets in the chest.

In all honesty, I can’t see the former working, and I fear that we’ll end up with the latter.  The idea of armies fighting through shear weight of numbers is meant to be something we’ve moved on from.  Isn’t that the better tomorrow that the invention of nuclear weapons gave us?  The idea of conscription is meant to be up there with the barber-surgeon and phlogiston.  But then again, TB is back in vogue, so why not call-up papers?

I look at my eleven year old and sometimes think that, if these were the Edwardian years, he’d be a dead man walking.  It wouldn’t matter how clever and talented he was (and he is), if he were destined for Flanders he would be unilaterally entered into the most cruel of lotteries.  And, in those sunny early century summers, there’d be no way of suspecting.  All would seem well with the world.  How could we possibly end up there?

And who’s to say that we’re not there again?  Who’s to say that he won’t be fighting and dying in the Levant, one of tens of thousands?  Who’s to say that the drones and the smart bombs won’t work, and what will be required will be hand-to-hand combat?

I really hope that in ten years time this piece reads as paranoid rather than prescient.

Which leads me to the obligatory link back to the world of sci-fi, tenuous though it may be.  Dear reader, look back at the numbers which head this piece and you may observe that a third story has been completed; a near future military sci-fi yarn regarding the hubris of fighting the oncoming hordes of jihadists through the forests of Austria with technology.

Oh, and Clarkesworld, of course, have rejected it in less than twenty-four hours.  Business as usual, then…

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