Never fear! Science Fiction Will Save You!

Has it ever seemed to you like the folks over at Homeland Security think they live in a science fiction universe, where water can be made to explode and a nut with a home made shoe bomb is a credible threat? This is the reason why:

Looking to prevent the next terrorist attack, the Homeland Security Department is tapping into the wild imaginations of a group of self-described “deviant” thinkers: science-fiction writers.

“We spend our entire careers living in the future,” says author Arlan Andrews, one of a handful of writers the government brought to Washington this month to attend a Homeland Security conference on science and technology.

Those responsible for keeping the nation safe from devastating attacks realize that in addition to border agents, police and airport screeners, they “need people to think of crazy ideas,” Andrews says.

The writers make up a group called Sigma, which Andrews put together 15 years ago to advise government officials. The last time the group gathered was in the late 1990s, when members met with government scientists to discuss what a post-nuclear age might look like, says group member Greg Bear. He has written 30 sci-fi books, including the best seller Darwin’s Radio.

Now, the Homeland Security Department is calling on the group to help with the government’s latest top mission of combating terrorism.

I’m as much a fan of Science Fiction as the next geek, but these guys write futuristic war porn. Plug any one of their names into Amazon and you’ll find a bibliography of wingnuttery. These are the guys who think worldwide wars with tactical nukes are a good idea. And now the TSA and OHS want them coming up with fantasy scenarios that they think terrorists will use against us. Because we don’t have enough of those.

Terrorists will not be stealing a super secret experimental rail gun that fires sub light speed pellets of Einsteinium. They will not be hijacking the MIT Centrifuge in order to try and create a rogue black hole. Any would-be terrorist is going to use the easiest, dirtiest and most effective way to cause a Black Swan Event. That means hijacking airplanes to use as missiles (which, now that it’s been done is predictable and therefore, a worthless tactic). They’ll build homemade explosives, stuff them in a backpack and then blow themselves up on the New York Subway. Maybe. More than likely though, as we recently discovered, they’ll be so scared by an undercover FBI agent trying to get them to preform an ill-advised raid on Fort Dix, that they’ll call the police on themselves.

It’s this sort of sci-fi nonsensical thinking that has got US citizens afraid, and willing to turn over their rights, in the hopes that Jack Bauer will save them from terrorists with fantasy super weapons. Perhaps we’ve seen too many James Bond films but so long as we’re distracting ourselves looking for Dr. Evil and his sharks with laser beams, we’ll overlook the real threat, which of course is the point of all this terror theater: keep people distracted with elaborate scenarios and maybe they won’t notice that there’s nothing practical we can do to predict who the next disgruntled guy with a grudge and an IED or a cache of weapons will be.

Link via Boing Boing.

Why Does Burning Books Always Seems To Be the Solution?

Because no one was buying his remainders, a Kansas City bookseller decided to torch his back catalog:

In the 10 years Tom Wayne has operated Prospero’s Books, a used bookstore in midtown Kansas City, he has amassed thousands of books in a warehouse.Ranging from best sellers such as Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October and Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, to obscure titles such as a bound report from the Fourth Pan-American Conference held in Buenos Aires in 1910 and a textbook on beginning Polish, the books won’t sell. Wayne said even local libraries and thrift stores have told him they were full.

On Sunday, Wayne began putting them to the torch, tossing scores of books into a burning cauldron to protest what he sees as society’s diminishing support for the printed word.

I wonder why thrift stores and libraries (always in competition to see who gets to take people’s unwanted crap) didn’t want a twenty year old spy thriller about the Soviets or a hundred year old technical report in Spanish? Every day, someone comes into my office demanding twenty year old best sellers and hundred year old lists of things on display at a minor world expo, in Spanish. If only he had our number!

One of the most frustrating aspects of working in a library is the donations. Instead of gently used, current items that might be of some use to others, we typically get whatever crap was sitting on someone’s grandmother’s shelf when they shipped the old lady off to a nursing home and sold her house. It’s either a toss up as to send that box of moldy French cookbooks to the Art school Library or take them to Goodwill. Reycling them never occurs to anyone.

It’s nice that you’re concerned about the declining interest in the printed word (a concern greatly unfounded and wildly exaggerated but hay maybe if you read a book now and again, you’d know that). But for the love of Harry, don’t set your books on fire! Then no one can read them.