Bierce by way of 1 WTC
January 4, 2016 8:04 PM   Subscribe

The Unsettling Arrival Of Speculative 9/11 Fiction

In the Shadow of the Towers: Speculative Fiction in a Post-9/11 World - table of contents

'I tried hard to dislike Richard Bowes's story "There's a Hole in the City".'


There's a Hole in the City
by Richard Bowes
"When I went to the door and lifted the spy hole, this figure stood there on the landing. Looking around like she was lost. She wore a dress, long and torn. And a blouse, what I realized was a shirtwaist. Turn-of-the-century clothes. When she turned toward my door, I saw her face. It was bloody, smashed. Like she had taken a big jump or fall. I gasped, and then she was gone."
BEAUTIFUL STUFF BY SUSAN PALWICK

Until Forgiveness Comes - By K. Tempest Bradford
Morning Edition, Akhet, Thuthi 19, 4511 The ceremony started at exactly six o'clock this morning when the clerics of Anpu, Iset, Seker, and Nebet-het stood at the four corners to create the sanctified square. Inside New Central Terminal, families and participants listened to the invocations and chants on loudspeakers while frankincense-infused smoke hovered over the still and silent mourners. Once the square was established, Sadana Manu, under-cleric of Iset, gave the sign for mourners to station themselves near the main blast sites for their glimpses of loved ones long gone.
‘The Goat Variations’ - Jeff VanderMeer
He would already be thinking past the event, to the next, and how to prop up sagging public approval ratings, due both to the conflict and what the press called his recent “indecision,” which he knew was more analogous to “sickness.” He would be thinking about, or around, the secret cavern beneath the Pentagon and the pale, almost grub-like face of the adept in his tank. He would already be thinking about the machine.
posted by the man of twists and turns (36 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's appropriate that VanderMeer writes about fungi so often, because reading one of his stories is very much what I imagine tripping on psilocybin is like.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:14 PM on January 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


I read that Bradford story a couple of weeks ago and it keeps coming back to me when I least expect it.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:26 PM on January 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Does Loose Change count as 9/11-related science fiction?
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:58 PM on January 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


I read that Bradford story a couple of weeks ago and it keeps coming back to me when I least expect it.


That story raises a really important question.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:14 PM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yay, Rick Bowes! Thanks for posting this.
posted by unknowncommand at 9:36 PM on January 4, 2016


Of course 9/11 will fade into history, how could it not? Pearl Harbor was "a date that will live in infamy", but I doubt that many people on the street could name the date of the attack.
posted by benzenedream at 9:44 PM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Now I want speculative fiction about how Roosevelt was told by a fortune teller when he was young "a date of yours will live in infamy" and he started searching for that legendary town, looking for his true love.
posted by hippybear at 9:51 PM on January 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


There will be 9/11 video games

It took days for the first flash games to come about. In extraordinary poor taste and not commercially, yet still.
posted by adept256 at 10:15 PM on January 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


In one of the older Gibson novels, there's a glass cube which shows a looping holographic simulation of an RAF / Luftwaffe dogfight over London. Ever since 9/11, I've thought there would eventually be a similar desk toy of the Towers getting hit and falling. Over and over again. A comforting nostalgia piece for the well-off who are facing much more serious problems in climate change and whatever else goes wrong this century.

Within 5 years there will be an escape-from-the-tower section of a CoD-esque game. The whole event will be a cheap way to establish motivations and character to whatever faceless mostly-immortal grunt the player is controlling. It will piss off enough old people to get wall-to-wall news and linkbait coverage. Which will ensure the game sells at least moderately well.
posted by honestcoyote at 11:02 PM on January 4, 2016 [15 favorites]


Pearl Harbor was "a date that will live in infamy", but I doubt that many people on the street could name the date of the attack.

Sure I can. 13 September, 1999.

...No wait, that's when the moon was blasted out of orbit. Damn!
posted by happyroach at 11:29 PM on January 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


The moon was never blasted out of orbit. NASA faked that whole thing.
posted by flabdablet at 11:35 PM on January 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Of course 9/11 will fade into history, how could it not? Pearl Harbor was "a date that will live in infamy", but I doubt that many people on the street could name the date of the attack.

The difference is Pearl Harbour was named for its place (and, I'd be worried if most Americans didn't know which state Pearl Harbour was in. 9/11 was named for its date (sans the year, and I expect that bit will be forgotten for "2000 or so").

So, anyway, when does 9/11 fanfic and slashfic arrive?
posted by Mezentian at 11:38 PM on January 4, 2016


Did.

When did they arrive.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:47 PM on January 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Holy shit, that VanderMeer story. I have the Southern Reach trilogy, still unread, and I think I just bumped it to the top of my list.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:52 PM on January 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's already been at least two waves of literary fiction responding to that event, so why not speculative fiction?
posted by Dip Flash at 1:10 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


....in a way I find these healing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:12 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


When did they arrive.

My life has been missing Kat Denning/Steel Beam slash.

Because steel-framed buildings/ don't fall in seconds
but they will melt under the sultry gaze of Kat?
posted by Mezentian at 3:19 AM on January 5, 2016


The moon was never blasted out of orbit. NASA faked that whole thing.

Hogwash! It's still right there and has giant letters spelling "CHA"
posted by Fleebnork at 5:47 AM on January 5, 2016 [6 favorites]


Does Loose Change count as 9/11-related science fiction?

That would be closer to tabloid doc. For fiction you might want to go Mark Passio:

Mark Passio on the Chaos Sorcery of 9/11 - Kabbalah, Tarot & Freemasonry - Symbolism and Numerology
posted by bukvich at 5:50 AM on January 5, 2016


Ever since 9/11, I've thought there would eventually be a similar desk toy of the Towers getting hit and falling. Over and over again.

My son got this 3D puzzle thing for Christmas. It's of Manhattan, and you start out with a layer of how it was in the 1700s. Then you add another layer with modern day streets, then you add these plastic buildings in the order in which they were built. We added the twin towers in 1973 and then in then, as instructed, we removed them in 2001, leaving the recessed footprints as we added the newer buildings around them. It was kind of sad, yet fun for the whole family.
posted by bondcliff at 6:03 AM on January 5, 2016 [14 favorites]


It was kind of sad, yet fun for the whole family.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:48 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Bierce may well have written the story as a revenge fantasy, and his protagonist is certainly unsympathetic, but surely the true abiding horror of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" comes from its universally applicable truth. Each and every one of us is Peyton Farquhar, constructing elaborate and detailed imaginary lives in which our thoughts, actions and beliefs have meaning and value. We live out these dreams for decades, deluding ourselves that they are real, when all the while we are doing nothing at all but dying.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:18 AM on January 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


If you liked "The Goat Variations" (which I do, it's on the very short list of my favorite short stories EVER) you need to read The Goat Variations Redux.
posted by Lucinda at 7:18 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Having lived in NYC during 9/11 (and having watched the towers fall from my office window), I confess to being drawn to (good) 9/11 fiction, particularly the sort of stuff that captures how bizarre and surreal it was to be a New Yorker at that time.

The absolute best (not really speculative fiction, but certainly bizarre) is Jess Walter's The Zero, about a New York cop who wakes up in the aftermath of a huge terrorist attack to find that his memory is skipping, and he is jumping from event to event with no knowledge of what happened in between. He may or may not be part of a wide-reaching government conspiracy. The book is, believe it or not, very funny.

Honorable mention for Pete Hamill's Forever, which is not technically a book about 9/11, but is a speculative fiction book about New York that Hamill was in the middle of writing when 9/11 occurred, so he felt that he had to include it. It's about an Irish man who arrives in New York in 1740, and is granted immortality on the condition that he never leave the island of Manhattan. It's a great peek into the history of New York itself, and 9/11 provides a poignant and fitting close to the story.

I'll have to check out some of these stories.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:25 AM on January 5, 2016


Of course 9/11 will fade into history, how could it not? Pearl Harbor was "a date that will live in infamy", but I doubt that many people on the street could name the date of the attack

-Over? Did you say over? Nothing is over until we decide it is! WAS IT OVER WHEN IRAQ BOMBED THE WORLD TRADE CENTER?
-Iraq?
-Forget it. He's a Republican.

But, yeah. As Mezentian said, people will forget the details - the year, who did it, even what was attacked. I mean, Giuliani and his like managed to turn "nine-eleven" into a catchphrase/joke in the following years trying to milk it. Alien visitors visiting the ruins of human civilization one day might stumble into a cache and think 9-11 was just a slogan to shill flag-themed trinkets.


There will be 9/11 video games
You mean Flight Simulator? /2001
posted by lmfsilva at 7:35 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I hate to be a pendant, but I feel that the author undercuts their argument with this line "They’re not, in the end, particularly “speculative”; they know exactly what they want to say." Speculative is the new term for SF/F, used to try to avoid the fact that the category is often, as Vonnegut pointed out "regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal." Bradford's story (the only one of these I have read before) looks at a counter reality, one where Egyptian mythology not only survives, but works. If that doesn't tick off a bunch of the fantasy check boxes, then the author is being deliberately obtuse or is very uninformed.

The job of speculative fiction (well, one of it's jobs) is to unsettle and upset. It sounds like this books does a good job with that.
posted by Hactar at 8:53 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd add the alternate-history novels _The Mirage_ by Matt Ruff and _Osama_ by Lavie Tidhar, and (the late lamented) Lucius Shepard's story "Only Partly Here" to the canon of post-9/11 sf (and maybe also Wm. Gibson's _Pattern Recognition_ though it's only borderline sf and more tangential to 9/11).
posted by aught at 8:59 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Do all the stores take place in NYC? How long before we all forget what happened in DC and Pensylvania?
posted by Brocktoon at 9:15 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


It took less than a century after the tragedy for the sinking of the Titanic to be made into a big, sprawling, special effects and cheesy love-story laden disaster blockbuster.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:54 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Typically, to start, only respectful, realistic stories make inroads. Then some border is crossed, and it becomes possible to make ... horror movies about Vietnam (“Jacob’s Ladder”). "

Correction: Deathdream was 1972.
posted by doctornemo at 11:50 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's a reason I refer to that day as 11-Sep-2001.

Because it is an important day, a day that changed the life of many (and ended the life of ~3200) and it shouldn't be known by a political slogan.

It's also why I do fun things that day. "But what about 9/11?" "I was drinking at a DisneyWorld bar! It was awesome!!!"
posted by eriko at 6:47 PM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Because if yore in crippling fear of ~3200 dying in 2001 and have no problem with the 50K killed in cars and the 10K killed by guns every single year? You are simply unable to understand risk and thus, either get professional help for that crippling phobia, or fuck you for using that politically.

There are no other options there. You either have a crippling mental illiness that I pray you can get help for, or you are a self severing asshole using the deaths of over 3000 people to further your political agenda.
posted by eriko at 6:51 PM on January 5, 2016


eriko, 999 times out of a thousand, at least, I agree with you. Recognizing that the attacks in 2001 were something out of the ordinary, and honouring that--and the victims who were so senselessly murdered--isn't always using it for a political agenda.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:09 PM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


good, it should catch up with the Katrina fiction
posted by eustatic at 7:55 PM on January 5, 2016


Welcome to 2002, The New Yorker.
posted by MikeKD at 12:57 AM on January 6, 2016


Lucinda: "If you liked "The Goat Variations" (which I do, it's on the very short list of my favorite short stories EVER) you need to read The Goat Variations Redux"

That was also very good, but the part with Obama squicked me the fuck out, I don't know if it was because of my fear of dying in fire, because I've seen a certain infamous ISIS video (and regretted it ever since), or just because torturing Obama to death is something so many people would love to do that I'm uncomfortable with it even in fiction.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:31 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


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