Stoic Decay

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Dan Simmons

A question: How conservative is the author of Drood and Hyperion? Short answer - he apparently believes Fox News is one or two notches to the left of the political average in this country. Longer answer below.

From his books you'd think Dan Simmons was a pretty smart guy. A more than cursory look at his website will disillusion you of that notion rather quick. Given the number of times he approvingly posts their articles in his forum, he still thinks the idiot chicken-hawks that helped push the country into the Iraq War, men like David Brooks, John Bolton, Charles Krauthammer, and Bill "Iraq is going to be a two-month war" Kristol are sage dispensers of wisdom. Which gives lie to his explanation here that his Time Traveller's Tale was simply a speculative-fiction essay/book report about some interesting books he'd recently read, when in fact it was a full-bore polemic trying to scare people and convince them that (among other things) it really is good and honorable and necessary to kill thirty innocent civilians as long as you kill one suspected terrorist in the process.

In homage to his Time Traveller's Tale I wrote my own little speculative-fiction essay/book report based on some interesting things I've recently read on his website.

A grizzled, scarred, one-eyed Time Traveler appeared in my living room last week and told me the following story:
Along the Front Range of Colorado, in his cabin just south of the Rocky Mountain National Park, noted author Dan Simmons ponders the problems of the world and how easily they could be solved if only his fellow Americans were allowed to see reason. But the liberal elite would never let that happen. They controlled the media and the colleges, continuously spouting the need for tolerance and diversity, tolerance and diversity. Why couldn't they see that Western civilization was on the brink of destruction.
“Naive fools,” he mutters.
A sudden loud thump from just outside the cabin snaps him from his reverie. He drops below his desk and pulls a Ruger .40 S&W semi-automatic from a quick-draw holster at his waist. Crawling across the floor on his knees, he peeks out the window. A squirrel runs along the deck and jumps to a nearby tree. “You're lucky you're not a muslim or an illegal,” he says, standing and brushing off his clothes. The squirrel watches him curiously. He lifts the S&W and places the tip against the glass of the window. “Pow,” he says. “Pow, Pow. You fucking socialist cocksucker.”
In response the squirrel chatters in a way that sounds like mocking laughter.
“Goddamn you liberal eco-terrorist!” Pushing open the window, he aims and fires. One shot hits the deck, another buries itself in the dirt, the last goes straight into the engine of his brand new Land Cruiser. Running to the front door of the cabin he unbolts the long row of locks and then surveys the damage to the SUV. Oil is pouring out the front grill down over the TOM TANCREDO FOR PRESIDENT bumper-sticker. “I'm sorry Tom,” he says, wiping a tear from his eye. “Fucking... fucking Iranians.”
He looks up where the squirrel is perched at the top of a pine tree. “You've got nowhere to run now, you weak-kneed traitor.” He goes to his shed and grabs a can of gasoline and then pours it over the trunk of the pine tree. He lights a match and sets it on fire. “Not even the ACLU can save you now,” he says. The squirrel watches him for a moment and then jumps to a nearby tree. “Hey, get back here, you coward.” The squirrel jumps to another tree and then another. Simmons follows it from the ground.
Eventually he hears an odd sound behind him. He turns and sees the burning pine tree fall over onto his cabin. The fire grows.
“No, NO, NO!” he screams, running down the dirt road, shouting at the top of his lungs: “Fucking liberal muslim mexican illegal terrorists burned down my cabin!”

“So that's going to happen in the future?” I asked the Time Traveller sceptically.
“Yes,” he said. “In about ten years when his paranoia and conservatism grows uncontrollable.”
“But you yourself made that paranoia grow.”
“Definitely,” he said, tugging fake prosthetic scars off his face and removing his eyepatch.
“So muslims don't take over the world then?”
He laughed. “Surprised?”
“But then why tell Simmons all that stuff?”
“Well, you see, the future is awful dull. Just about the only fun thing left to do is travel back in time and wind-up conservatives and watch them gibber.”

Note 1: The above is of course an exaggerated caricature of Simmons. He is a complex person. As I read more of the stuff on his website, I actually for a brief moment entertained the wild notion that he was in fact playing a game with his readers pretending—like Stephen Colbert—to be a right-wing asshole as an elaborate joke, but that idea quickly faded as humor and irony are rare in his fiction. He is a serious man.

And just to be clear I do not think the future will be a dull place, in fact I'm fairly certain the future will make the present look like a utopia. I'm guessing one of the main causes of this downfall will be a vicious cycle of conservatives in one part of the world strengthening the hand of conservatives in another part of the world who in turn strengthen the hand of conservatives in another part of the world with a predictable outcome.

Note 2:

Note 3: I'm honestly curious, how many gay men can an author portray more often than not in a bad light before it becomes clear that, at least subconsciously, gay men make him uncomfortable.

  • October 2008 Message from Dan
    • Jim Harlen: a gay-bisexual HIV positive senator who regularly rapes young children.
  • Hardcase
    • Leonard Miles: a gay mob lawyer that likes young boys.
    • Carl: a large gay mob bodyguard that is painted as vain and very stupid.
  • Hard Freeze
    • James B. Hansen: a horrific serial killer-rapist who often changes his identity but draws the line at adopting a gay persona because he is no pervert.
    • Johnny Norse: a bisexual mafia button man that is dying of AIDS.
    • Dr. Howard K. Conway: an elderly gay dentist that knowingly helps James B. Hansen cover his tracks by providing dental records.
    • Timmy: Dr. Howard K. Conway's muscled pretty-boy gay lover.
  • Hard as Nails
    • A questionable scene in a gay club called Knob Gobbler's.
    • Toma Gonzaga: a gay mob boss (actually a somewhat sympathetic character, at least for a drug dealing murderer).
    • A homicide detective, explaining why she smells like death, tells about two gay lovers killing each other in a pretty little house in Allentown.
  • Lovedeath
    • The second story Dying in Bangkok has as its protagonist a gay man with AIDS named John Merrick, which is ?coincidentally? also the name of The Elephant Man in the movie by David Lynch. To me, being named after John Merrick would be a noble thing, perhaps Simmons thought so as well. But maybe it went more like this in his mind: What shall I call the main character who is gay? His subconscious makes connections and spits out John Merrick. The connections under the surface of his mind being: gay men = freaks of nature. The story also has a Thai police inspector standing over the corpse of a man with his genitals removed telling of how he has seen this before and that it is always a queer thing, a fight between faggots.
    • In the third story Sleeping with Teeth Women the main character Lame Badger reacts with great anger at the suggestion that he is winkte; and the narator tells that though the Lakota Sioux considered winkte to be wakan (holy) that no self-respecting Lakota brave would want to be one, an attitude that a few google searches suggests might be an exaggeration by Simmons.
    • 4th story - Flashback: A teenager at a crowded mall trying to pick someone to shoot in a thrill killing settles on two gay dudes strolling arm in arm laughing and hugging each other, until he sees their yapping little poodles following on leashes. As he searches for a different victim, another teenager thrill-kills an old woman and is then killed by the two gay men who happen to be off-duty police officers.
    • 5th (and last) story - The Great Lover: Simmons creates a World-War I poet named James Edwin Rooke that Simmons states in the foreword is a composite of the real World-War I poets A.G. West, Siegfried Sassoon, Rupert Brooke, Charles Sorley, and Wilfred Owen. Most of the story is spent detailing the horror and stupidity of trench warfare, with the remaining being used to paint Rooke as a great lover and seducer of women. Sassoon (who seems to be the main basis for Rooke) and Owen were gay, Brooke was bi-sexual. I guess that is one of the great lures of fiction: to take what you like and excise what you do not.
  • The All-White Elephant in the Room
    • In this lengthy forum post the user ScottSA argues against gay marriage by comparing it to necrophilia and states "I disagree vehemently with attempts to endorse or normalize homosexuality in our society." Another user Peter, a gay man, takes offense and (perhaps unwisely) asks Simmons as the site moderator if ScottSA's comments aren't beyond the pale. Simmons ignores him, and then eventually berates Peter for not "leaving him out of what has been largely a 'problem' of his own manufacture," because apparently while Simmons will ban comments he views as racist or personal attacks, he doesn't seem to think being compared to a necrophiliac is a personal attack. The discussion between ScottSA and Peter and other users continues. Simmons makes a couple of arguments for tradition as to why gay marriage is a bad idea. Then on the last page Simmons ends the discussion by stating "this personal argument" between ScottSA and Peter had better end or they will have to leave the forum, finishing with: "I don't give a good goddamn about anyone's sexual proclivities or anyone's problems with other people's proclivities. If you're tempted to drag either of those things in here again, where others don't want to hear it and are trying to discuss ideas outside the sphere of who chooses to fuck who or what and how and why, remember and follow this simple rule: KEEP ... IT ... TO ... YOURSELF."
  • The Terror
    • I haven't read this novel by Simmons, but this review has some interesting comments attached to it. One reader states: "There were some homophobic elements to the novel that bothered me." With a response by Jeff VanderMeer: "It wasn't homophobic." And one from Adam Roberts: "… homophobic? You think? I'm not so sure. A couple of the bad guys are gay, true; but then so are a couple of the good guys. I'd say that the treatment of same-sex desire (in a book set, after all, in the British navy in the 1840s) was stilted and rather earnest rather than homophobic; not terribly convincing or well handled, but not advancing an agenda of hatred or fear of gay men, surely."

Note 4: Scary/Amusing Forum Posts by the Noted Author

  • "Fox News is one or two notches to the left of the political average in this country," claims Simmons, apparently truly believing some study he doesn't have the time to cite.
  • Inability to See Evil for What It Is A. Progressives have no soul, no core, and no values of their own. B. Kids from various city schools are being foully transported to a huge city auditorium to hear a dance, song, narration celebration of Mayan and Aztec cultures. "The educators have lost their minds." C. "Where was the City of New York and the families of those murdered on 9-11-01 when that obscenity of a mosque was granted the right to build anywhere near Ground Zero?" the Noted Author screams, false Glenn Beck tears in his eyes. As counterpoint here is a mother whose Muslim son, a New York Police Department cadet, died at Ground Zero trying to help people.
  • "I've thrown enough right-wingers off this particular site to stock a thousand circles of Dante's Hell for Right-wingers." It is amazing how, even as he slides further and further to the right, the Noted Author truly believes he occupies a place in the exact center of the political spectrum.
  • October 2005 Message from Dan -- A long rambling (even for Simmons) piece that talks about Hurricane Katrina, in one part comparing it to floods in the Midwest in the early 90's, where he makes the subtle insinuation: "White people react to a flood like heroes. Black people react to a flood like animals." He also parrots the rather common conservative talking point: They (black people) ignored a mandatory evacuation order and then immediately after the flood began looting plasma TVs. Perhaps Simmons (the very wealthy man that he is) is unaware of poverty and how difficult it is to flee a city when you don't own a car, and that most of the people who were "looting" were trying to find water and food for themselves and their family.
  • An Imperial Power: Dan explains why the United States must accept its role as the World's Policeman, and in the process further erodes (is there anything left to erode?) his claims that the Time Traveller's Tale & Flashback do not represent his actual views. DS: Until the West -- meaning the United States, because it's not going to come from any of the "allies" or from Obama's mythical unicorn-filled "international community" -- realizes that we're in a serious war with militant Islam, we'll either continue to waste our young men and women and national treasury on clusterfucks such as Afghanistan or we'll pull a Ron Paul and pull back within our national borders, abandon American exceptionalism and responsibility in the world forever, and just keep apologizing and appeasing daily in the hopes that the vicious motherfuckers currently running loose out there in more than half the world won't kill us. At least not right away.
  • Notice Who's Missing: DS says I know it means nothing to anyone with opposing political views -- they consider it just more partisan-driven fault-finding - but in all my years of observing politics and presidencies, I confess that I've never seen any president who alters facts and histories in the way President Obama does with such stunning frequency. John F. Kennedy hid things from the public. Richard M. Nixon looked into the cameras and lied -- but his upper lip got especially rigid and sweaty when he did so. Bill Clinton dissembled... Postmodernist or not, Obama's style is a new low-water mark for presidential politics (at least in living memory). At least Victor Davis Hanson, a man who once called Donald Rumsfeld a proud and honest-speaking visionary, knew it would be beyond laughable to not even mention George W. Bush.

Note 5: A Couple of Speculative Jokes

  • Why did Dan Simmons cross the road?
  • To shoot the Muslim child playing on the other side.
  • Knock, knock.
  • Who's there?
  • Dan Simmons.
  • Dan Simmons who?
  • Dan Simmons is going to burn down your house with your entire family inside you bloodthirsty Muslims.

Note 6: Really?

Given the recent horrific events in Norway I thought I'd check in on Mr. Simmons and found this: What's Wrong in the Paradise of Political Correctness - an Op-Ed by Giulio Meotti posted by Simmons, which explains how all the young Norwegians on the island of Utoeya were killed by political correctness and not by a right-wing islamophobic terrorist. Interestingly, the argument put forward by Meotti, that the victims were killed because they were tolerant liberals, is also the reason Anders Breivik said he was forced to kill them. Meotti also gets as close as he can without actually saying it that the victims were cowards that allowed themselves to be slaughtered like sheep.

Of course, simply posting an execrable article doesn't mean you agree with it; but it seems to be something of a pattern for Simmons, a pattern that goes like this: 1. Post article by conservative. 2. Let the right-wingers who frequent the Hot-Button-Issues section of his forum declare why the article is correct. 3. Occasionally post a comment slightly disagreeing with the article, sometimes distancing himself from a comment by one of the far-right forum members in a manner that (perhaps in his own mind) establishes Dan Simmons as a bona-fide centrist.

But then in a later post he writes this: “Norway's self-perceived and much-touted 'utopia' is not the world's future. Nor should it be.” So I guess he really does agree with Meotti. This post is a humdinger and is quite revealing. He praises the National Review's Victor Davis Hanson. He indulges in a favorite pastime of the extremely wealthy (making it clear that poor people are poor because they are lazy): “the failure to thrive some people insist on showing despite richness of opportunities around them.” He explains, “the assumed near-infinite elasticity of 'human nature' has been such a central part of the modern liberal nation state's philosophical underpinning that -- with the exception of being 'gay', which all liberals accept as being genetic and except from their long, long list of all the things that can be altered by proper social programming -- any serious consideration of the possibility that something like 'poverty' can't be defeated by the proper finagling amounts to real blasphemy.”

Note 7: A Speculative Dan Simmons Quiz
Based on things he has written on his website.

Question: Name three things DS thinks will destroy western civilization.
Answer: Muslims, Liberals, & Gay Marriage.

Question: Who does DS see as as the victim? A). Trayvon Martin. B). George Zimmerman. C). Both of them.
Answer: C.

Question: What does DS think of global warming?
Answer: It is a scam.

Question: Has DS ever heard of a drone strike he didn't like?
Answer: No.

Question: What would DS call these brave soldiers who are trying to end the wars? A). Courageous. B). Heroes. C). Patriots. D). Traitors.
Answer: D.

Question: How would DS deal with Bradley Manning for helping expose the true brutal face of the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan and the bald-faced hypocrisy of the United States government? A). Give him a medal. B). Execute him.
Answer: B.

Final Note

I truly regret ever having stumbled upon Dan Simmons website. When I was younger "Summer of Night" was one of my favorite books. I haven't read it in fifteen years. I was looking forward to reading it again. Now I'll have to wait a few years until the Author fades enough into the background to not ruin the Book.

What I regret most of all are the hours I spent trying to figure out just how far to the right Dan Simmons leaned, especially when I could have just read this or waited until he wrote Flashback and removed what little doubt remained that a particularly virulent form of right-wing conservatism flows through his veins like poison.

Islamic behavior around the world continues to show them not only "not prepared for the obligations of citizenship in a free society," but not civilized enough to live in the modern world.
— Dan "I am most definitely not Islamophobic" Simmons