Arthur C. Clarke, Pakistan, Terror and Science Fiction

I started reading Arthur C. Clarke's novel Time's Eye the day before he died. The novel is set in the NWFP, and it is a world where Lahore has been blown up by a nuclear bomb (ouch!). Here's a page from the novel's beginning that reminded me of the recent US missile strikes inside Pakistan:

He had been just four when he had first encountered the helicopters of the west. They had come at night, a pack of them. They flew very low over your head, black on black, like angry black crows. Their noise hammered at your ears while their wind plucked at you and tore at your clothing. Market stalls were blown over, cattle and goats were terrified, and tin roofs were torn right off the houses. Moallim heard, though he did not see it for himself, that one woman’s infant was torn right out of her arms and sent whirling up into the air, never to come down again.

And then the shooting had started.

Later, more choppers had come, dropping leaflets that explained the “purpose” of the raid: there had been an increase in arms smuggling in the area, there was some suspicion of uranium shipments passing through the village, and so on. The “necessary” strike had been “surgical,” applying “minimum force.” The leaflets had been torn up and used to wipe asses. Everybody hated the helicopters, for their remoteness and arrogance. At four, Moallim did not have a word to describe how he felt.

And still the choppers came. The latest UN helicopters were supposed to be here to enforce peace, but everybody knew that this was somebody else’s peace, and these “surveillance” ships carried plenty of weaponry.

These problems had a single solution, so Moallim had been taught.

The elders had trained Moallim to handle the rocket-propelled grenade launcher. It was always hard to hit a moving target. So the detonators had been replaced with timing devices, so that they would explode in midair. As long as you fired close enough, you didn’t even need a hit to bring down an aircraft-especially a chopper, and especially if you aimed for the tail rotor, which was its most vulnerable element.

Time's Eye – Clarke & Baxter

Science fiction is not always fiction.