The Inevitable Apocalyptic Consequence of Time Travel

TIACOTT Cover 200x320 It’s time for another one of these things! Because time travel is a lot more dangerous than most SF has led you to believe. Four people stumble on the secret of time travel at four different points in history, and immediately begin to use it against their enemies – then swiftly discover that their enemies are just as willing to use it on them. The final escalation is inevitable…

Now all I need to do is invent time travel myself so I can get these things written faster. This one took long enough that I’m going to delay the next one for a bit, until I’ve made some substantial progress on Twenty Years Ago Today. That’s the thing about apocalypses: they tend to be a lot more complex than you first assume…

The Last Tour of Kelwort Castle

TLTOKC Cover 320x200Blimey. I’ve done something else new. And it’s something short! Well, okay, it was meant to be a short story and it ended up being a novella (just), but that’s what happens when you apply the historical lessons of castle sieges to survival techniques in a post-apocalyptic environment: it gets interesting!

The Last Tour of Kelwort Castle is an archaeological reconstruction of a tour group, taken largely from the video they recorded of the tour guide giving them useful lessons in the history of the castle. Nuclear war then interrupts the tour, and we discover what happened to them afterwards in a series of reports made by the archaeologists. Did they learn the lessons on how to survive in a castle? Or did they just end up repeating history?

Long-time readers will be happy to hear that it’s set in the multiverse of The Last Man on Earth Club (where else am I going to get interdimensional archaeologists?), though this isn’t relevant for much of the story and you don’t need to read anything else to understand what’s going on.

This is also the first (well, second, really) in a series of shorter pieces about apocalypses called Apocalyptic Tales. Moment of Extinction has been rebadged under this title, just because it fits. I’ll be adding new ones every month or so in an attempt to keep my name popping up in connection with my preferred genre, as well as building up material for an eventual collection.

All of which means I should really get back to working on Twenty Years Ago Today. Worlds don’t end all by themselves, you know…

 

 

Twenty Years Ago It’s Still Today

After many long months of toil, here it is at last! Part Two of this ongoing serialised novel depicting the mounting disaster that happens after one man’s dying wish comes true for the whole world: to go back in time by twenty years.

It’s $1.99 or the equivalent, higher than Part One because it ended up with a high enough word count to be classed as novel-length (62k in the end). Still pretty cheap, though. It can be found at the usual places: Amazon UK, Amazon US, Smashwords, Kobo and a few more still to come.

Also new is the cover! It took many long hours figuring out how not to embarrass myself in Blender, but in the end it seems to have come out pretty well. Part One has a similar update, and I hope to be able to use the same style throughout the rest of the series. Unless I have any more brilliant ideas along the way :-)

Part Three is now in the works, but will probably take as long as Part Two did. All that research takes time! Not to mention the editing. Argh, the editing…

In the meantime, I’ll be using some of my time to get on with a series of short stories about all the wonderful ways in which the world can end, to appear once a month. Yeah, I know, this slows things down, but it’s all to do with the way ebook publishing works: each new book falls off the radar after about a month, so you need to get stuff out as regularly as possible to give people a chance to find your work. More on this when I get the first one done in early January!

Still Writing

Yep. And I’m not dead! It may feel like it sometimes, but life is still stirring, and part 2 of Twenty Years Ago Today has finished its first draft at 56k words. It’s somewhat longer than I expected, but with rather more rioting and refugees and nooses hung from lamp-posts outside BBC Television Centre than I originally thought possible. So I think it’ll be worth the wait.

Right. Best get back to it. Lots to do…

Twenty Years Ago Today

Ebook Cover 1.1 var kobosizeIf you’re reading this, then you can be grateful that the events in Part One of my new novel have not come to pass. The world has not been sent back twenty years to May the 10th, 1994, and the attendant chaos has not been visited on you and everyone you know.

On the other hand, you can now buy Part One and find out for yourself what would happen if the favourite wish of the middle-aged ever came true for everyone. Going back twenty years wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as people assume it would be. Unless, of course, you like watching an apocalypse unfold…

(Sadly, I wasn’t able to continue my daily series of blog posts about events in 1994. Depressing life events got in the way, and I had to prioritise finishing the actual book instead. Sorry about that).

Part One is 99c if you’re in the US, and roughly equivalent amounts if you’re somewhere else. You can buy it at the following stores (with more to be added later):  Amazon UK – Amazon US - Smashwords – Kobo

Part Two will follow just as soon as I can get it done. I’m not sure when that will be, so if you’d like to be told when it happens, sign up for the newsletter and I’ll send you an email when it’s available.

Twenty Years Ago Today: Nyarubuye

nyarubuyeTwenty years ago today, the genocidaires of Rwanda were learning their trade with a sickening efficiency. They’d realised that going house to house was a slow way to kill people. But if you could get all your victims in one place and trap them there, then you could deal with hundreds or thousands all at once. That’s exactly what was happening, all over the country: Tutsis and moderate Hutus fled their homes and went to a place they hoped would be safe, only to be betrayed, penned in, and then massacred by the Interahamwe, working their way through screaming crowds with clubs, machetes, hoes, or whatever else came to hand.

At Nyarubuye, it happened in a church.

This was far from unusual. In fact, it was common. There were houses of worship all over Rwanda to which people fled, and where the priests often betrayed them to the killers. Nyarubuye is just one where we know a reasonable amount about what happened, thanks to a handful of survivors who fell under the bodies of their family members while they were being hacked to bits by their friends and neighbours.

Their money was taken from them first. Then grenades were thrown as the killers shouted that snakes must have their heads chopped off. Children and infants had their heads smashed in with stones and hammers. Pregnant women were hacked open so their unborn children could be finished off. It began at 3 in the afternoon, and went on until the next day.

The survivors were battered and wounded, and did not dare leave the church for weeks on end, even as the bodies of their loved ones rotted around them. They drank rainwater and helped the weaker ones to survive with what little food they had. Wild dogs came to feed on the corpses, and were made to leave by thrown stones. Eventually, they were rescued, and some even survived the infections in their wounds. Other survivors were less fortunate. Some women were taken away to be used as sex slaves and raped hundreds of times, enduring unwanted pregnancies and AIDS infections – if they weren’t killed later during the genocide.

Nyarubuye church still stands. The corpses have been removed to a mass grave. The buildings are used as a memorial and museum for those who perished: 1,500 victims who died in terror and agony.

Twenty Years Ago Today: The Presidential Debate

FW-de-Klerk-and-Nelson-Ma-001Twenty years ago today, two political titans clashed live on television. In the grand tradition of pre-election debates across the world, the two main candidates for the role of President of South Africa traded verbal blows and challenged each other’s policies, all so that voters could get a sense of what these two people were offering the nation should they take charge of the country.

Except that everyone already knew who was going to win. The next president would be Nelson Mandela. His rival, F.W. de Klerk, stood absolutely no chance. It was widely presumed that he would be offered a senior position in a coalition government following the election. So why even bother with the debate?

Because this was going to be a free and fair election, and having a debate is one of those things commonly done in a free and fair election. The fact that the outcome was already known was simply a function of just how popular Mandela was at that moment, now that the whole population was going to get a chance to vote. Mandela and de Klerk weren’t really rivals; they’d been partners ever since Mandela walked free in 1990, working together to build the post-apartheid South Africa. It didn’t make for the most enthralling of debates, although it swiftly became clearly that de Klerk had the greater skill, which he’d presumably honed during the 27 years that Mandela had been locked in a prison cell. It’s doubtful that anyone changed their mind as a result of the debate – but the simple fact that it was happening was an achievement in and of itself.

However, there was still one major problem, which you could spot from the list of parties that ran up the screen at the end. The list was meant to include every single group participating in the elections, but one was missing: the Inkatha Freedom Party, which was still clashing violently with the ANC and refusing to take part in the elections. One of Mandela and de Klerk’s more interesting clashes during the debate came as a result of this, as Mandela reminded his rival that Inkatha’s fighters had been trained and funded by the police in order to create divisions within the black population of South Africa.

Despite everything, the story of the first free elections in South Africa were not over yet; with Inkatha still refusing to take part, there was still a chance that it could all go horribly wrong.

Here’s a video of the debate if you’d like to watch.

Twenty Years Ago Today: Kigali in the Firing Line

rpf_buergerkrieg_ruanda_1994Twenty years ago today, RPF troops were consolidating their gains around the Rwandan capital of Kigali, even as killings of civilians outside their territory went on. The capital was not so very far from the territory in which the RPF was contained before the genocide began, and 600 of their soldiers had been trapped there in their barracks – but now they were breaking out and linking up with their comrades as key positions around the edge of the city were taken.

The government, meanwhile, were busy fleeing to Gitarama, understanding that it was hopeless to try and defend the capital. Even as the government fled, the killings of Tutsi civilians continued, and would only end when the RPF established themselves there. It would not be long before Kigali fell – but taking the whole nation would not be so easy. It would be July before the RPF was in control of the country and the genocide could be said to be over. Rwanda may be one of the smallest nations in Africa, but it still took time to conquer.

Even so, it begs the question: how did the instigators of the genocide think they could get away with it? Did they think the RPF could be easily beaten back? Did they want to exterminate the bulk of the Tutsis so that they would always be a tiny minority, even if the RPF took the country? Did they simply ignore the threat from the RPF? They certainly spent some time planning to neutralise the UN forces in the country, and provoke nations like Belgium into withdrawing their forces – why didn’t they take the same kind of trouble with the RPF?

As much as their actions were brutal beyond imagining, the Hutu leadership were not fools. They ran rings around the UN without too much trouble. The genocide itself was not a random, unplanned free-for-all of violence. There was a tactical and political approach to it that ensured that every member of the Hutu community would be implicated and unwilling to oppose it. Areas were sealed off with roadblocks first, and Hutus were sent in to search for Tutsis to kill. Rwanda had a tradition of obedience to authority, and most acquiesced. If they didn’t, then they too would be killed. It was diabolical but effective: until the RPF stormed through an area, local opposition to the genocide was all but impossible. And it was also swift: despite using only guns, grenades, machetes and clubs, the rate of killing was higher even than during the Nazi holocaust. This was not an act of brutal stupidity. This was the application of intelligence to brutality. So why did this intelligence fail when assessing the force that would end the genocide?

Maybe the Hutu leaders really didn’t think that the RPF would be able to stop them. Maybe their arrogance went so far as to assume that the RPF would be brushed aside if they made any attempt at rescue. I can’t find any sources that really explain how on earth they thought they could get away with the genocide. They don’t seem stupid enough to commit such a crime when there was an army already within their territory that could do nothing else but oppose them. But maybe, just maybe, they were blinded by their hatred – and maybe we can hope that all those who hate will be just as blind to the cause of their downfall.

Twenty Years Ago Today: Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam

SpamScreenShotTwenty years ago today a potent force for evil was unleashed across the world. It was not the truly serious and horrifying evil of genocide, nor the manic theatrical evil of a moustache-twirling madman, but the humble, everyday evil that we all contend with on a daily basis. Today was the day that the nightmare of spam was set free to torment the inboxes, comment sections and newsgroups of the world.

It began on Usenet, the sprawling web of newsgroups that defined the communities of the internet before the World Wide Web. The newsgroups were essentially single-topic message boards like those on Reddit, arranged according to hierarchies. So the groups in Rec.* were all about recreation, Rec.Arts.* newsgroups were for arts, Rec.Arts.Movies.* were all for films, and Rec.Arts.Movies.Reviews was where you could find people pontificating on the latest cinema releases. Well, mostly a guy called James Berardinelli, but there were a few others. (There must have been. Surely?)

Twenty years ago, readers of 6,000 such groups witnessed a wildly off-topic posting: an advert, LARGELY IN ALL CAPS, that informed immigrants to the US that they could avail themselves of the attorneys Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel in their search for a green card. Heads were scratched and eyebrows raised, but it was not to be the last posting from the husband and wife team.

Strictly speaking, this was not the first piece of spam in the world: that title was won on the 18th of January by a post entitled ‘Global Alert for All: Jesus is Coming Soon’. It was soon joined by an automated screed on the Armenian genocide. But spam found its true calling with Canter and Siegel: marketing. While the two were wildly vilified for their actions (and Canter was even disbarred), the technology behind it was simple enough that we now need more technology to prevent it from overwhelming us. Even on such a little-seen blog as this, there are 4,472 spam comments caught in the filter as of the moment I write these words, and the vast majority of all email consists of unwanted messages.

Why should this be so? Because the cost of spam is so incredibly low. All it takes is a few suckers to click on the wrong link, and the spammers can make back their investment with ease. No matter how advanced our technology grows, there will always be humans gullible enough to fall for the spam.

Meanwhile, the nice people who make the tinned meat known as SPAM are not amused. But they do have a nice little museum you can visit! There’s even a Monty Python section…

Twenty Years Ago Today: Genocide, Day Five

Don Bosco Technical School. Note the flags on the flowerpots - this was once a Belgian barracks. The shooting started after they left.
Don Bosco Technical School. Note the flags on the flowerpots.

Twenty years ago today, the International Committee of the Red Cross estimated that 20,000 people had already been killed, though it was hard to say how bad things were outside the capital. Thousands of killings went unreported. That’s why so many of the horror stories of the genocide come from Kigali: there were outsiders there to witness them. Elsewhere, the witnesses either died or had good reason to keep their mouths shut.

Before the nightmare began, the UN commander Romeo Dallaire had predicted one part of the Hutu strategy to accomplish genocide. Belgian soldiers would be killed, forcing Belgium to withdraw its peacekeepers, leaving the Tutsi population with vastly less protection than it had. His predictions were ignored – and were now coming true. The killings had happened at the beginning of the genocide when 10 soldiers protecting Agathe Uwilingiyimana were killed, and Belgian forces were in the process of being withdrawn.

For the Tutsis sheltering at the Don Bosco Technical School, it could not have come at a worse time. The school had been used by Belgian soldiers as a barracks, and was still occupied – by them and 2,000 people sheltering there who thought that the soldiers from their former colonial master would protect them. Yet the Belgians weren’t allowed to do so. They could shoot dogs harrying corpses in the streets outside the school, but not the growing numbers of Interahamwe militiamen converging on the site.

The killers were well aware of how many people were huddling inside. All that stopped them was the risk that the soldiers might be provoked if they moved to take the barracks. As they waited, they drank beer and chanted Hutu slogans, leaving the Tutsis inside terrified and begging the soldiers to stay.

The soldiers were ordered to the airport during the afternoon. The Interahamwe moved in. And the killing began. Hours later, the majority of those who had looked to Belgium and the UN for safety were dead.

There was some hope, though. The forces of the Rwandan Patriotic Front were making swift gains towards Kigali, and shutting down the genocide as they went. But this did nothing to slow the killings in the capital. The slaughter went on.