Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

There is a sense in which it is redundant to bitch and moan about Osama Bin Laden.

Yet it does irritate me that he is going on and on about the Crusades. I have all sorts of problems about the behaviour of the US and the UK and the EU towards the Middle East, which are, in general, a disgrace.

However - the Crusades have been over for a very very long time. Christendom managed to inconvenience the Islamic world for a century or so, and to kill a lot of Muslims, Jews and fellow Christians, but it ended. Islam won. Islam won comprehensively, and also managed to see off the Mongols, who were actually rather more of a threat. (And the battle of Ain Jalut probably saved more than the Islamic world from Hulagu Khan.)

The Crusades are something that people need to get over.

Losing Spain - well, the thing that happens when you invade places is that sometimes you don't get to keep them.

On the other hand, Christendom lost Byzantium and the shores of the Black Sea, and had lost the south coast of the Mediterranean a long time before that. Do we moan about that? No. Do we moan about centuries of Islamic occupation of the Balkans? No. Or the two sieges of Vienna? Or Malta?

It is all over. We got over it; he should too.

Much of the world is entitled to bitch and moan about imperialism; the Islamic world, not so much. If you were in the game of empires in a serious way, and got burned by losing, that is your own fault for not leaving other nations alone in the first place. This applies to us; it also applies to the Islamic world.

And if people are going to come along and blow me up at random, I would at least like it to be over stuff that I have been insufficiently active in dissuading my current government from doing.

Not over stuff some centuries old.

The other thing that annoys me about ObL is that his political morality goes very weird when it conflicts with his religious amour propre.

I can think of all sorts of reasons why it would be a bad thing to get involved in clearing up the Darfur mess, but the idea that there is anything in Darfur a sane person would want is ludicrous.

It is an intervention that is as much about stopping injustice as was Kossovo.

After Kossovo, and various things that were done in our names, I am not keen that we do this, because we won't do it well, probably, whereas African troops might, but the idea that it is part of a Crusader plot is David Icke stuff.

One of the ironies of the situation is that the Crusaders were even keener on killing Jews than they were Muslims, a point which seems to have escaped him.

I really must read my cousin Carole's book on Arab views of the Crusades - it sits on my shelf as reproachfully as Reading the Vampire Slayer probably does on hers.


A couple more days and I will have my own copies of 'Teen Dreams' at which point there will be much squeeing. So far, all I have booked is a radio interview the day after publication on the 18th.


I did a Mike Harrison profile for Eastercon.


It's partly the landscapes.

You know you are in a Mike Harrison world when the sky is slate gray and there is a biting wind creaking through the reeds in the patch of marsh on the other side of that rough-stone wall. Most of which has already fallen down.

It's partly the people.

Some of them are artists, some climbers, and all of them had tremendous promise and things went wrong. Sometimes it was absinthe and sometimes it was a fall that broke their nerve. And it has not ended badly yet, but friends are concerned.

And it is partly the magic.

Magic is not a good thing. It is a mirage and leads to devastatingly trivial humiliations. In Harrison's world, the reason there are things we are not meant to know is that they are not worth the price of knowing. When you get to the secrets of the universe, they are a few pieces of knotted string, or a soiled tissue, or an old man with his hands in his underpants, giggling.

Mike Harrison has, as we say, visited most of the standard tropes of sf and fantasy and they survived the experience, shaken and slightly bruised. Only in a Harrison novel could the discovery of interstellar travel be a by-product of serial killings ordered by a supernatural being, or a girl abandon lovers and life to have her bones hollowed out in an attempt to become like a bird.

Science fiction is all about the fulfilment of wishes and Harrison is all about the vanity of human wishing and the shabby consequences of answered prayers. He is one of our most intense moralists because he tells us the truths that we often read sf and fantasy to avoid. Where therre are victories in Harrison's work, they are moral victories and the cost is almost too much to bear. He is a poet of things ending and failing to be reborn.

Yet none of this is as dour as it sounds. Harrison snatches from our lips the genre cliches that are an easy opiate, but he gives more than he takes. He is one of the best writers we have about the glamour of swordsmen and poets and cyborgs and robot hawks and intelligent spaceships because he knows the cost of that glamour down to the last farthing, the last drop of sweat. His beggars wear velvet and it is stained and tattered, but the velvet glows, is thrilling to the touch.

Harrison is temperamentally a loner, but his work has always had consequences and connections. He was part of the New Worlds crew, in his day, but he has gone on being a living influence on other writers for three decades. There are so many good young writers out there and they are none of them like each other, but they all have, lodged in their hearts, some of the glittering truthful bitter mirror that Harrison shows to the genre he loves without cosy illusions.
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