NRA: You know who else was an evil, homicidal tyrant?

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 116-120

Buck Williams is studying — carefully reading through the notes and sermons from Bruce Barnes’ computer:

Late in the afternoon, Chicago time, Buck broke from the fascinating reading of Bruce Barnes’s writing and finally got through to Chaim Rosenzweig.

That word “finally” there confirms what we already suspected about Buck’s “reading” — that it just means he had Bruce’s papers in front of him while he dialed and redialed his phone.

Buck has been trying to reach Chaim in the hopes that he can help Buck find the born-again Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah. Chaim Rosenzweig is a high-level assistant to the Antichrist and Ben-Judah is the Antichrist’s Public Enemy No. 1, so it’s a bit strange to seek Chaim’s help with this. But since Chaim and Tsion are the only Jews Buck knows, he figures they must also know each other. And since that’s how these books work, they do.

“Cameron! I have finally talked live with our mutual friend. Let us not mention his name on the phone.”

Just in case anyone is listening in, it’s best to avoid drawing their suspicion by mentioning that you don’t want to draw their suspicion.

“It was a strange message, Cameron. He simply said that you would know whom to talk with about his whereabouts.”

“That I would know?”

“That’s what he said, Cameron. That you would know.”

Buck seems puzzled by this, but readers will be reminded that I was wrong above to say Buck only knows two Jews — he actually knows four, with the other two being Moses and Elijah. Yes, the actual patriarch Moses and the actual prophet Elijah from the Hebrew scriptures. Buck and Tsion met them in the last book at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where they have returned to act as evangelical Christian street preachers. This is Tim LaHaye’s idea of the “Two Witnesses” from the book of Revelation.

The evangelistic technique of these two witnesses doesn’t seem very promising. Mostly they’re just chanting “Jesus is Lord,” which is a succinct statement of what Christians believe, but not a particularly persuasive approach to winning converts. There’s also the problem that anyone who comes forward during their altar call tends to get burned to cinders by giant flames shooting out of their mouths.

The Two Witnesses have been out there for more than a year now and it seems that Buck and Tsion were the only two people who have been allowed to approach to speak to them. They confirmed to Buck and Tsion that they are, indeed, Moses and Elijah, returned to the Earth. That seems like a newsworthy bit of information, but Buck never reports it through his news organization. It also seems like a compelling piece of information that might serve as a persuasive attention-getter for Tsion’s own evangelistic ministry, but he seems to be keeping it a secret too.

All told, the Two Witnesses could use a refresher course in my Four Essential Rules for Street Preaching:

1. Speak clearly in a loud voice.

2. If you’ve returned from beyond the grave, lead with that.

3. Don’t kill everyone who tries to talk to you.

4. Give a clear, concise presentation of Christian belief.

They’ve got the first and the fourth one down, but still need practice on the other two.

Anyway, readers here on page 117 quickly realize that Buck will need to talk to Moses and Elijah to reconnect with his friend Tsion. Buck himself will figure that out in about another 30 pages.

We return to Rayford Steele. When last we saw him, we were slogging through an elaborate multi-page set-up in which it was arranged to have Nicolae Carpathia’s top-secret meeting with his 10 global princes on the airplane, where Rayford (and therefore readers) would be able to listen in.

But then Rayford got off the plane.

Fortunately, instead of a top-secret meeting, Nicolae will be making another global broadcast, and Rayford and readers will still be able to listen in by watching it on television in the Baghdad airport terminal. So it all works out. We don’t actually hear what Nicolae says in his broadcast anyway, just Rayford’s distracted impression of the gist of it:

It was clear Carpathia had completely effected his will and spin onto the news directors at every venue. While the stories carried the horrifying pictures of war, bloodshed, injury, and death, each also spoke glowingly of the swift and decisive action of the potentate in responding to the crisis and crushing the rebellion.

Rayford stops watching before Nicolae begins to speak:

Rayford shook his head and went to a desk in the corner, where he found stationery from a Middle Eastern airline and began composing a letter to Earl Halliday’s wife.

The Antichrist’s Global Community has consolidated all governments, all banks, all religions, all currencies and all languages. But the airlines apparently all continue as independent, private sector businesses.

Logic told Rayford he should not feel responsible. … Rayford didn’t even know yet how Earl had been killed. Perhaps everyone on his flight to Glenview had perished. All he knew was that the deed had been done, and Earl Halliday was no more.

If you’re thinking I skipped the scene where Earl died, that’s because the authors did too. There was a scene in which Earl feared Nicolae wanted him dead, and there was a scene in which Fortunato said they would need a replacement for Earl after he gets dealt with, but this is the closest we get to a scene confirming that any of that ever really happened.

As he sat trying to compose a letter with words that could never be right, he felt a huge, dark cloud of depression begin to settle on him. He missed his wife. He missed his daughter. He grieved over his pastor. He mourned the loss of friends and acquaintances, new and old.

Like, for instance, his old acquaintance Irene. Or whatsisname, the kid.

Rayford knew he was not responsible for what Nicolae Carpathia meted out against his enemies. The terrible, dark judgment on the earth rendered by this evil man would not stop if Rayford merely quit his job. Hundreds of pilots could fly this plane. He himself had learned it in half an hour. He didn’t need the job, didn’t want the job, didn’t ask for the job.

And yet here he is, doing the job. For the Antichrist.

Twice now in two pages Rayford has reminded himself that he is not “responsible” for the evil deeds he is facilitating by collaborating with the Antichrist. He’s working his way through many of the classic rationalizations: If he didn’t do it, someone else would; he’s only doing his job/following orders.

These rationalizations are familiar, so let’s step back and deal with that familiarity.

How does Godwin’s Law* apply to a story about the Antichrist?

In Tim LaHaye’s “Bible prophecy” mythos, the Antichrist will be a global dictator and tyrant and the epitome of evil. The Antichrist, LaHaye insists, will be the cruelest and most evil leader the world has ever known.

So I’m afraid we’re going to have to Godwin this thread, because, by definition, the Antichrist must be worse than Hitler.

That’s a difficult, in some ways offensive, idea to grasp in trying to read these books. We’ve already got an idea in our heads of what superlative evil looks like, and these books’ claim that the Antichrist will be even more evil than that can seem like disrespect to the gravity of the real, historical evils this Antichrist is supposed to surpass, and to seem like disrespect to the real, actual people who really suffered under such evil regimes.

It takes a bit of mental wrangling, then, to keep in mind that Nicolae Carpathia is supposed to be worse than Hitler, that the Global Community is supposed to be worse than the Third Reich.

But what does that mean for our hero, Rayford Steele, who is a personal assistant to the Antichrist and a high-ranking officer in his regime? The authors have stressed that Rayford has “Clearance level 2-A” — the highest level of security clearance, reserved for the highest ranking servants of the Antichrist who work personally and intimately with this worse-than-Hitler tyrant.

I suspect that the authors would cry foul if they heard us make the comparison this invites and demands, but how can we not ask? What makes Rayford Steele any different from a Nazi collaborator?

I think Jerry Jenkins is trying to address just that question here with all of Rayford’s soul-searching. The problem is that Rayford’s own justifications sound like he’s cribbing from Burt Lancaster in Judgment at Nuremberg.

And then Rayford’s justifications get even worse:

He didn’t need the job, didn’t want the job, didn’t ask for the job. Somehow, he knew God had placed him there.

That’s right, it’s God’s will that Rayford collaborate with Nazis.

On one level, this is just another appalling example of Piperism — the shallow, Panglossian theology that holds that everything that happens must be God’s will because if it wasn’t God’s will then it wouldn’t have happened. But even John Piper isn’t quite as enthusiastic as the authors are here in attributing evil directly to God.

Look again at that phrase above, “The terrible, dark judgment on the earth rendered by this evil man.” The Antichrist himself can say, along with his collaborator Rayford, that “Somehow, he knew God had placed him there.”

The “terrible, dark judgment on the earth rendered” by the Antichrist is always exceeded in these books by the even more terrible and darker judgment on the earth rendered by God. The authors constantly give what sounds like a perverse rendition of the people’s song in 1 Samuel: “Nicolae has slain his thousands, but Jesus his tens of thousands.”

Somehow, he knew God had placed him there. For what? Was this surprising bugging of the intercom system by Earl Halliday a gift directly from God that allowed Rayford to somehow protect a few from the wrath of Carpathia?

Already he believed it had saved his daughter and son-in-law from certain death in the Chicago bombings, and now, as he looked at television reports from America’s West Coast, he wished there had been something he could have done to have warned people in San Francisco and Los Angeles of their impending doom.

As we’ve already discussed, repeatedly, there was plenty he could have done to warn people. He chose not to.

He chose, instead, to send his wife back to Chicago to check on his daughter, and in order to ensure her safety he did nothing to warn anyone in San Francisco or to attempt to interfere in the slaughter that he, as Nicolae’s pilot, was helping to ensure.

Rayford Steele is charged with being a collaborator complicit in all the evil of the Antichrist’s wicked regime. Here is Jerry Jenkins’ three-part defense of Rayford:

If he didn’t do it, someone else would.

And he’s only doing his job.

And he has to protect his own family, first, before sticking his neck out for anyone else.

The prosecution rests.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

* For those not familiar with all Internet traditions, Wikipedia has a good summary of “Godwin’s Law.” The key points are the law itself:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.

And the customary corollary:

There is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    A fifth possibility is that King has a blind spot for a fellow “writer”‘s work and, willfully or not, simply refuses to see and/or critique just how abysmal Jenkins’ writing actually is. (Kind of like how some [insert high-paying profession here]s will refuse to critique a colleague because they feel that they have to protect each other in order to “protect” the profession, but end up doing neither.)

    I find that unlikely, considering he did not pull any punches when talking about Stephenie Meyer’s work on Twilight (respectfully identifying why Meyer and similar authors can sell well despite not being very good writers.)  

    [EDIT]: Damn, Turcano beat me to it by four minutes! :p

  • Trixie_Belden

    Has he ever met Meyer face-to-face, though?  I think that can actually make a lot of difference between feeling free to be brutally honest and working to find something positive to say.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    The mention of our Manic Street Preachers reminds me of the way I’d write a scene with holy prophets confronting an assassin, if I wasn’t confident in my ability to write brilliant theological arguments for them:

    Have the prophets start out with a sort of introductory resume in which they explain who they are and why that’s important, and then say, “But now we have been returned to our homeland to deliver to you a great message…”

    At this point they are cut off by the arrival of the would-be assassin.  This allows the prophets to say some impressive-sounding stuff, but lets the author off the hook for writing conversion-inducing dialogue, because just when they’re getting warmed up, they’re interrupted.  (And anyone who was thinking, “Oh no, here comes a sermon” goes, “Yay, an action scene instead!”)

    Prophet 1 holds up one hand, palm forward, and the bullets freeze in mid-air and then clatter to the ground, as though Prophet 1 were a kinder Magneto.

    Would-be Assassin rushes forward anyway, with the apparent intent of smashing the prophets with his machine gun butt.  Unhurriedly, Prophet 2 grasps the gun with his fingertips, and it freezes in place.

    As WBA is struggling with it, Prophet 2 leans forward and says something to him.  WBA’s eyes widen in astonishment.  There’s a brief exchange which no one, even those standing right there, can hear, but it ends with the would-be assassin breaking into sobs as Prophet 2 gently embraces him.

    (This Miracle of Privacy, of course, serves two purposes:  it implies a deity who cares enough to avoid airing deeply personal secrets in front of a crowd, and again it lets the author avoid writing dialogue for this instant conversion.)

    When we next return to our prophets, the man who had tried to kill them is now in the forefront of the crowd of listeners, and instead of an expression of desperate hatred, he now wears a beatific smile.

  • Becca_Smash

    About the King/Jenkins quote — it just sounds to me like they hit it off when they met. Every writer and artist I know has friends in the same field who they want to do well, some of whom are at a lower skill level. Pretty much none of them would badmouth a friend (or even a friendly acquaintance) on the record — sometimes it’s not wanting to ruin the friendship or create drama (which will definitely happen if you tear apart a friend’s work to a reporter), sometimes it’s getting their opinion of the work mixed up with their opinion of the person, and sometimes it’s that they’ve heard the person speak about their work, which can give a different perspective and smooth over problems in the execution. I worked at a comic store for 5 years and ran a ton of signings, and almost everybody in the industry — retail, editors, creators — does this. Myself included.
    Also, I don’t know if I’d consider “sturdy prose” and “plots well” a rousing endorsement  – those sound like pretty weak praise to me. Same with “there’s a lot to like” — that’s the kind of thing you say when there’s also a lot you don’t like. And the rest of the quote could just as easily be talking about Jenkins himself, instead of his writing.

    As for his quote about Stephanie Meyer, well…Twilight is the world’s easiest target. There is almost no risk to anyone who wants to tear it down — as long as they aren’t a friend of Meyer’s or anything.

  • Kadh2000

    When I read Rayford’s internal crisis, all I could think about was Matthew 25: 41-46.

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I
    was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you
    did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after
    me.’
    44 “They
    also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a
    stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
    45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
    46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

  • arcseconds

    ‘clearance 2a’ is yet further evidence of L&J’s obsession with status, no matter who is giving it out.

    If I woke up one morning and found I was living in the Third Reich with clearance 2A granted to me by Hitler, I would regard this as something going seriously awry with my life.

    (Clearance 1a, maybe that’s Carpathia himself and no others?) 

  • Ima Pseudonym

     What if God held an apocalypse and nobody came?

  • Makabit

    OK, if we’re going down the Godwin’s Law road … it’s hard for most of us (I hope!) to imagine but some of the men who staffed the concentration camps believed that yes, what they were doing was beyond vile. But it was necessary, and someday the world would understand the terrible sacrifice they had made.

    And portraits of that kind of mind and reality can and have been made. But Rayford isn’t a true believer in Nicolae’s empire. Rayford is, theoretically, a true believer in GOD’S empire.

    This is more like a story in which Sophie Scholl takes a job as Hitler’s right-hand girl, and the reader is assured right up to the very end that she’s far more important than Eisenhower in terms of the war effort. These are the Partisans Who Don’t Do Anything.

  • Makabit

    Or that guy who didn’t wash his damned hands and as a result spread the first case of influenza that managed to jump the species gap to humans?

    Did he do it on purpose?

  • christopher_y

    Actually, we HAVE seen dictators who are most probably “worse than Hitler”.

    Stalin and Mao have bigger body counts than Hitler principally because they started with a bigger base population; most of the deaths under their rule can arguably be ascribed to carelessness, which doesn’t make it any better. Pol Pot probably only (!) killed three or four million, but he was ruling a tiny country. I’d put him up there with the worst. Stephen Jay Gould pointed out that there were probably thousands of people throughout history who were as bad as Hitler or Stalin, but we don’t remember them because they didn’t have the technology available to the twentieth century monsters, so they couldn’t do as much harm, try as they might.

  • Taneli Huuskonen

     The clearance levels, in descending order: 2-A, 2-N, 2-T, 2-I, 2-C, 1-H, 1-R, 1-I, 1-S, 1-T.

  • Carstonio

    Also, the body count metric assumes that evil is quantitative only. I would consider qualitative metrics as well.

  • christopher_y

    Agreed. I think that’s what I was trying to say.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    The reader was Frank Muller…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Muller

    …and he read the entire LB series, doing a really great job (and probably 30+ different accents). 

    I imagine, as you do, that the personal element plays a strong role–in this case, their affection for their mutual friend.

    http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/improve-my-writing/writing-advice-from-stephen-king-and-jerry-jenkins

  • GeniusLemur

     Which makes them a good match for every RTC force in these books.

  • Ken

     Much better.  The “witness” of L&J’s prophets reminds me more of the priests near the end of Terry Pratchett’s Feet of Clay.  They are arguing with Dorfl, a golem (he’s the one who Speaks Like This, and he’s baked clay):

    “But the gods plainly do exist,” said a priest.

    “It Is Not Evident.”

    A bolt of lightning lanced through the clouds and hit Dorfl’s helmet. There was a sheet of flame and then a trickling noise. Dorfl’s molten armor formed puddles around his white-hot feet.

    “I Don’t Call That Much Of An Argument,” said Dorfl calmly, from somewhere in the clouds of smoke.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Not convincing, either. The priest could have magic.

  • Damanoid

    Dear Mrs. Halliday,

    Your husband Earl is dead.  I don’t know how it happened, but  I hope you will agree that, logically, I was not responsible.  I want you to know that I feel just as bad about this as you do yourself, if not worse.  As a woman, you will probably not understand the importance of your husband’s job, but I want you to know that Earl Halliday was a great pilot, almost as good as I am myself. 

    Earl once built an electronic listening device for me, which is practically a phone.  And he built it with his own hands.  I cannot possibly find the words to express what this means to me.

    As a widower myself, I understand the grief you must be going through.  It may take days or even weeks, but eventually, the grief will pass.  Someday soon I’ll look you up and we’ll share a few laughs about old Earl (that is, if my boss doesn’t nuke your city off the map first, ha ha!   Just kidding).

    Well, looks like I’m running out of room, so I’ll wind this up.  Best wishes to you and any kids you two may have had.  Earl probably told me if he had any, but there’s a lot going on in my life right now and I honestly cannot remember.

    Sincerely,

    Captain Rayford Steele

    Pilot, Global Community One
    (Official Aircraft of Supreme Potentate Nicolae Carpathia)

    PS. Sorry about the Middle Eastern stationery.

  • patter

     And ones who could, y’know, actually write.   Like Geds, for example.

  • patter

     Delicious!  I was hoping somebody would take that one and run with it.

  • Ken

    Yes, and on the Discworld they do.  But the Discworld gods do exist, and (although they’re usually found in Dunmanifestin, their abode atop the peak at the center of the world) they do sometimes wander around and chuck bricks through atheists’ windows.  Also, since they’re the sort of gods that exist only because of human belief, it’s good to get out sometimes and awe the public.

    (I think I once mentioned on this blog that Pratchett says more about the nature of faith in a few short Discworld scenes that L&J do in their entire series.)

  • Water_Bear

    Whenever we need a fictional mass murderer, why does it always have to be a 20th century totalitarian? It’s overdone, and there are plenty of equally terrifying examples who didn’t use the same sorts of “marching and big banners” visual style.

    [Trigger Warning: Ludicrous Brutality]

    The Congo Free State under it’s primary shareholder King Leopold II was the well-known atrocity of the nineteenth century; the abuses there done by a private corporation without any government involvement motivated the European powers to take a more active hand in African colonization to ensure that nothing like it ever happened again.
    Highlights: ~10-15 million deaths (at least 20% of estimate total pop), bushels of human hands used as currency, wars with slave traders over ownership of the locals, the invention of the “Free Trade Zone” in Africa, Leo is currently remembered as the “Builder King” and has a commemorative 12.5 Euro coin.

    Emir/Khan Timur the Lame (Tamerlane) is a great example of a charismatic and brilliant conqueror/mass murderer, way more anti-christ-y than some Brand-X Hitler clone. A military genius with severe childhood injuries which left him unable to hold a sword or ride a horse, who rose from the peasantry to command a vast empire and destroy cities from Baghdad to Dehli.
    Highlights: ~17 million deaths, pyramids of skulls, enslaving tens of thousands of skilled people and bringing them back to Samarkand to renovate the place.
    Quotes: 
    “I am not a man of blood; and God is my witness that in all my wars I have never been the aggressor, and that my enemies have always been the authors of their own calamity.”
    “When I rise from the dead, the world shall tremble.”

    Vlad Dracul AKA Vlad the Impaler. If you don’t know the story, look it up; he was one of history’s most colorful monsters, inspired the modern vampire myth, and is currently celebrated as a national hero in Romania. 
    Highlights: Made a forest of 20,000 impaled bodies outside his capital to scare away Ottoman invaders (it worked), massacred all of the beggars and noblemen of Wallachia, ate bread soaked in human blood, inspired Count Dracula.

    Those three are my favorites, but there are plenty more if you’re willing to look for them. There’s no excuse to keep leaning on Hitler/Stalin clones when history is so full of much more interesting mass murderers.

  • fraser

     It’s possible he does like Jenkins and therefore wants to say nice things about him. Or that like (obviously) lots of other people, he really does enjoy the books. Reading some of his nonfiction about writing, I’ve never particularly felt that King’s taste was that good.

  • fraser

     However I’ve heard multiple accounts of writers giving their friends glowing blurbs for book jackets, or giving them because the publisher will be really, really appreciative.

  • Splitting Image

    > It seems sort of banal to measure evil purely in terms of body count.

    Oh, I agree. But if someone told me to make a list of exactly four people who were the most evil of all time, I would probably pick four of the worst mass murderers. 
    Including Peterson just made me wonder why they stopped at four, since there are a lot of killers like him. Charles Manson has still has family out there, for example. Henri Landru had children as well.

    It’s not that any of the people on the list aren’t evil in their own ways, it’s that having just those four together seemed odd to me.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I imagine this would go double for Carpathia vs Stalin: After all, most of the people Stalin killed were subjects of the Evil Soviet Empire. They were “his”, and surely that means that it was his right to dispose of them as he wished, just like how TurboJesus has the perfect right to set unbelievers on fire.

    (There’s a question. Is it more evil to kill X of your own people or X of someone else’s?)

  • P J Evans

     Bingo?

  • Water_Bear

    Well, historically, killing millions of foreigners is usually part of a big conquest which leaves behind a gorgeous empire which future people want to claim as their enlightened ancestors. Killing millions of your own citizens doesn’t often do that, although Shi Huangdi and Peter the Great are pretty compelling exceptions.

    Not sure if either one is more or less evil, but they leave very different sorts of impressions.

  • EllieMurasaki

    No, no. Sunk aircraft carrier, submarine, and patrol boat.

  • Rakka

    Bertolt Brecht would want a word with our “heroes”:

    When the Regime commanded that books with harmful knowledge
    Should be publicly burned and on all sides
    Oxen were forced to drag cartloads of books
    To the bonfires, a banished
    Writer, one of the best, scanning the list of the Burned, was shocked to find that his
    Books had been passed over. He rushed to his desk
    On wings of wrath, and wrote a letter to those in power ,
    Burn me! he wrote with flying pen, burn me! Haven’t my books
    Always reported the truth ? And here you are
    Treating me like a liar! I command you!
    Burn me!

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    Whenever we need a fictional mass murderer, why does it always have to be a 20th century totalitarian?

    That’s the twist in “Wikihistory” – a time traveller is complaining about how all the newbies rush off to try to kill Hitler, which is pointless because it gets reverted immediately:

    What gives is everyone’s repeated insistence on a course of action which, even if successful, would only save a few million Europeans. It would be no more trouble to travel to Fuyuanshui, China, in 1814 and kill Hong Xiuquan, thus preventing the Taiping Rebellion of the mid–nineteenth century and saving fifty million lives in the process. 

    http://www.tor.com/stories/2011/08/wikihistory

  • Water_Bear

    Ah, the Taiping Rebellion. After the late-end of the Crusades it has to be the weirdest Christian democide (do people still use democide?) ever. And of course I completely forgot it on my “interesting mass murderers” list… :(

    On the subject of time travel, my main objection with the “let’s kill Hitler” thing is a bit of a selfish one; I (and probably quite a few other people) wouldn’t exist without WWII. My Fraternal Grandmother was a German woman who was impregnated by an American GI, and my Maternal Grandparents only met because my Grandfather got kicked out of the army for psych problems. Killing Hitler doesn’t just mean a dead Hitler and a ton of live Jews, because there are a lot of us today who can’t exist without that specific chain of events.

  • EllieMurasaki

    That’s an overcomable objection given the right premises. For instance, if one subscribes to the belief that there’s souls already in existence before whenever souls are assigned to bodies, and the follow-up that if two people meant to have sex and make baby don’t in fact have sex then the soul meant for that baby goes to the next baby in line, then you’d still exist, you’d just have different genetics and personal history.

    I don’t agree with anything I just said, but either way you make a valid objection that would make a marvelous (and, to my knowledge, unexplored*) complication to the time-travel-to-save-lives deal.

    * All the stories I can think of that deal with ‘time travel might make this person not born’ are attempts to ensure that that person will be born. Bar Supernatural 5×13 in which trying to make those people not born is a last-minute revision to the plan and doesn’t work anyway.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Hell, if I woke up in 1937 Germany with top secret Gestapo clearance? I’d be stealing as many files on all the top leaders as I could and absconding to the UK or USA to give their intelligence agencies a bit of a leg up.

  • Water_Bear

    Well, as an atheist with a decent understanding of genetics I’ve got to disagree on that one. Frankly, even a genetically identical person with the same name who grew up in another country or made different medical choices in another timeline would barely count as a twin, much less a version of myself.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, like I said, it’s not premises I agree with, but there are people who believe them.

  • HyperSpiral

    Outing myself as a manchild here, but I cannot help but read the title in the voice of Regular Show’s Muscleman.

    On a more serious note, I am continually disappointed and horrified that “Hitker wasn’t a Republican. Democrats aren’t Republicans. Therefore Democrats are Hitler,” is an actual opinion held by functioning adults who write best-selling books on the subject and are elected to be leaders of the most powerful country of the free world.

  • Kadh2000

    Maybe Rayford and Buick are like the two witnesses.  Different definition of witness though.

    To have the apocalypse independently verified,  God chose those two to observe it firsthand.  As it was presented in the Bible, they were to also follow the checklist and be able to say that it all happened as written.  Thus they were placed in positions close to the antichrist but were unable to interfere.

  • Ken

     (There’s a question. Is it more evil to kill X of your own people or X of someone else’s?)

    Is this one of those tricks where it turns out that the most evil act is actually to debate the question?

  • Tricksterson

    As I’ve said, each individual sentence in these books inhabits it’s own reality.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    He killed an American. Also why OBL made the list but not, say, Reagan’s buddy in the DRC.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    I’ve always kind of assumed that Steven King’s Friendship with Jenkins either prevented him from viewing Jerry’s work with anything resembling an objective eye or it prevented him from saying what he really thought.

  • aunursa

    That’s the twist in “Wikihistory” – a time traveller is complaining about how all the newbies rush off to try to kill Hitler, which is pointless because it gets reverted immediately

    I’ve noticed a fascination in time-travel stories with November 22, 1963.  From The Twilight Zone to Running Against Time (a 1990 film starring Robert Hays of Airplane! fame) to Quantum Leap to the the afore-mentioned Stephen King, several time-travel stories have focused on attempts to save President Kennedy (by stopping Oswald, who in most of these types of stories is presumed to have acted alone.)

    These “what if?” scenarios suggest that saving JFK would have resulted in more disasterous unintended consequences.* Thus it’s like the famous Star Trek episode The City on the Edge of Forever, in which — in order to prevent Nazi Germany from winning WWII, Kirk must prevent himself from allowing social worker Edith Keeler, with whom he has fallen in love, to die in an auto accident.

    It’s gotten to the point where I have a secret wish for one of these scenarios, (e.g. when I browsed through the day in 11/22/63): The time traveler finds himself on the Sixth Floor.  As he’s approaching the room where Oswald is lying in wait, he finds various other people appearing in the hallway.  It turns out that they are all time-travelers, from all of the other fictions that focus on that one event in history.

    * For example, in The Twilight Zone episode, Kennedy’s survival sets off a chain of events beginning with Khruschev’s assassination later that day, and results in an impending nuclear war.  In King’s 11/22/63, Kennedy’s survival also results in disasterous consequences for the United States, and King throws in catastrophic earthquakes caused by the time distortion.  You can read about these “what if?” scenarios at this Wikipedia page.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     I remember one *really* fun “Let’s Kill Hitler” story.

    It’s told from the perspective of the head of a special guard detail in the bunker, early 1945. Times look bad, but he is optimistic. Because of his job. For the past however many years, strange people have inexplicably appeared and attempted to kill Hitler, often wearing clothes and using weapons unlike anything the reich has ever seen. The special guard detail is assigned to capture or kill such intruders. A few times, the attackers were pursued by more time travelers, though mostly, it’s the dedication of Hitler’s personal guard who save the day. They’ve never managed to recover any usable technology due to boobytraps, but a few times they managed to inspect the travelers’ identity papers. They all seemed to come from a fairly narrow period of time in the 22nd century, and they all had signs of having had to break in somewhere and fight there way to something right before coming back in time. The guards assume that some time after that narrow window in the 22nd century, protection got better around the time machines. They’re not surprised to see some of the people look american, or –rarely — jewish, though it is a bit surprising that a lot of them appear to be japanese, since Japan is their ally.

    But even though the war looks bad now, and even though there’s been no practical advantage to studying these dead time travelers, he figures things have to get better soon. After all, no one would come back in time to assassinate the leader of the losing side.

  • arcseconds

     Well, I’m not saying it couldn’t be useful.  And if you had planned it all along to be some kind of deep agent (or were a committed Nazi but had a change of heart), then good!

    I’m just saying, if you unwittingly end up being one of Hitler’s trusted leutnants, and you’ve just cottoned on to the fact (“wait on a bit… the flags, the goose-stepping, the silly salutes, the bizarre racial theories, the disturbingly violent power-grabbing ‘contingency plans’…  we’re the Nazi Party!”), it’s probably time to have a serious think about how you wound up there (and, yes, what you should do next). 

    Not just go “oh, well, these things happen,  my dad wanted to be a musician and he wound up as an IT professional; I wanted to be a  photojournalist but I’ve ended up running the propaganda for a homicidal megalomaniac.  a job’s a job, and someone’s got to do it”.

  • http://willbikeforchange.wordpress.com/ storiteller

    The mention of our Manic Street Preachers reminds me of the way I’d
    write a scene with holy prophets confronting an assassin

    Man.  Now I’m going to associate my favorite band with these awful books.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I am reminded of the Red Dwarf episode where the crew travel through time, accidentally preventing the assassination of JFK by bumping into Oswald.  They then have to figure out how to re-assassinate JFK so that history takes its proper course.  

    Which they arrange in the most hilarious manner possible.  

  • EllieMurasaki

    in order to prevent Nazi Germany from winning WWII, Kirk must prevent himself from allowing social worker Edith Keeler, with whom he has fallen in love, to die in an auto accident.

    Is there a negative missing in there?

  • MaryKaye

    Nicolai starts with a difficult position in the Bad Guy championships as he has to compete with the one who snatched *every child on the planet* from their parents, without even offering the closure of a mangled body to help the parents grieve.

    I think he needs to use the mind control more.  Given the one language/currency/religion thing he must have more of it than we’ve seen so far.  So, God snatches babes from their parents’ arms?  Well, Nicolai has the parents kill their own children and thank him for the privilege.  God wants to be surrounded by praise-singers even though he’s murdered their families?  Nicolai can make them actually believe what they’re singing.  Whoops, I think God does that too. 

    No, I’m afraid God’s just going to win this one.  He has unfair advantages, plus he gets the first move (Rapture) *and* the last move.  It’s just too much.

    It occurs to me that Rayford is an allegory for the RTC God.  Each of them is, by any reasonable standard, responsible for enormous evil–apparently RTC God is responsible for *all* evil.  But somehow his hands have to be regarded as clean.  The in-text explanation for Rayford’s “innocence” is “he had to, he had no choice.”  This one is also used for God from time to time:  “sin is so offensive to the Pure One that he has no choice but to punish it.”  But the real explanation shines through, which is “If you’re the One, whatever you choose to do *defines* good.”  That is Rayford, and that is Rayford’s God. 

    I think L&J would deny, if asked, that anyone but God gets to say that.  But it’s enough a part of their worldview that any favored character tends to believe as if they get to say that.
     

  • Water_Bear

    Yes, he needs to let her die for the world to be safe but it’s very difficult to do. Stupid Bones and his butterfingers…


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