The Writer as Prophet


It’s an uncomfortable thought that what we write may come true.  A child asked me recently how the story within a story in the junior novel Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll came true. I told him he could decide if it truly did. But I’ve wondered what our sci-fi authors from times past would feel if they could see some of their projected fantasies and ideas in use within homes and communities: robots, computer operated cars, flights into space …

We have an amazing imagination and often ideas are not exclusive. They can be shared by others on different sides of the planet. A few years ago two manuscripts came at different times to my desk for comment. They had the same theme and setting, plus it was obvious the authors had undertaken similar research as certain plot elements were evident in both. Yet these two authors did not know each other. They just had similar interests.

I once wrote an unpublished novel about a terrorist attack on a school in Pakistan. The school I used for inspiration was the one my children attended in the Himalayan Mountains. At the time I thought I was writing adventure/fantasy. There was no organised terrorist activity within Pakistan, only the mujahedeen groups fighting it out in Afghanistan and on the border. So imagine my shock when that very school was attacked by terrorists ten years later. When the school became my host for my Asialink Fellowship in 2006 I found the students quiet, watchful, but spiritually and emotionally mature. When lockdown happens in that school no one mucks around.

I am enjoying the privilege of revisiting this story, now called Liana’s Dance, Book 3 of the Beyond Borders series to be released in 2017 (Rhiza Press). It does not depict the true event of what happened in 2002 when a Christian school was attacked by a terrorist group, but I did gain insight and inspiration from eye witness accounts from students and staff to restructure and rewrite the whole book. Nor is the story only about a terrorist attack, but the attack becomes the catalyst for the rest of the plot where sixteen-year-old Liana discovers her inner strength and uses her gift of dancing to save lives.

So my imagination conjured a terrorist attack on a school. Some years later it actually happened. Am I a prophet? No. While living in Pakistan I wrote what could possibly happen, not what would certainly happen. There is a difference, I hope.



3 thoughts on “The Writer as Prophet

  1. From what I can tell “sci-fi” enthusiasts of the past have a lack of enthusiasm for the 21st century. SF was not just about dreaming up devices, but exploring what these would mean in the life of societies and individuals. I recall a magazine story told from the point of view of a buyer in a larger department store. Someone has just invented a device which duplicated small objects. The buyer immediately cancelled all the bulk orders for his store and set about collecting a range of different objects. We are going to see this work out through 3D printing devices, but we still haven’t go there yet.

    The main difference between the future then and the future now it was once the domain of epic battles between good and evil. No one really envisaged a future which was dominated by petty everyday meanness at all levels of society.

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  2. Sorry to have 2 bites of the cherry here, but you hit on something. You made me think about what the future looked like back from the 1950s. We weren’t so much looking forward to the 21st century, as to the Year 2000. It was like we were on a train to this fabulous destination. And we did get there, but the train didn’t stop. It just kept on going into the blank space beyond and then we had to get off. So here we are in a place which is strange to us, peopled by those who are speaking a strange language. It was only a couple of years into the noughties that I realised I had no plan for living in the 21st century. I had no vision or expectation of life beyond the Year 2000.
    I tried to think of the SF that I read in the 1950s. I was a bit wrong about the good and evil stuff. That was more the domain of fantasy. Hard SF was about the new possibilities of like because of scientific advances and expanding horizons. One example was Farmer in the Sky by Robert Heinlein. It’s about a young teenage boy going with his family as colonists to Ganymede. What do boys do on a spaceship going to another planet? They form the Baden Powell Scout troop. A meteor smashes a hole in the ship and our hero has to stuff his precious scout uniform into the hole to save the ship. Because it is Heinlein, space is seen as an expanding version of the American frontier. You get up there and have to use DIY technology to survive and prosper. (I obviously went and found a copy of this and read it again.)
    Here in the 20-teens nobody is going to Ganymede. It’s like we just pulled back from the promise of the future and are just spending the rest of our lives sitting around distracted by trivia.

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