Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Quoth the Scotsman | G. Willow Wilson on The Good Old Days

Over the next week, we're going to be talking a bunch about Alif the Unseen here on The Speculative Scotsman. So much so that I bet you'll be sick of this pretty picture before we're through. In our innocence, then, look upon this lovely cover!

For today, I wanted to share with you a short excerpt, taken from a debate between an ancient sheikh and our young hacktivist hero. Between the old, in essence, and the new:
"I know it's common for old people to complain about the modern moment, and lament the passing of a golden age when children were polite and you could buy a kilo of meat for pennies, but in our case, my boy, I think I am not mistaken when I say that something fundamental has changed about the world in which we live. We have reached a state of constant reinvention. Revolutions have moved off the battlefield and on to home computers. Nothing shocks one anymore. We are living in a post-fictional era. Fictional governments are accepted without comment, and we can sit in a mosque and have a debate about the fictional pork a fictional character consumes in a video game, with every gravity we would accord something quite real. [...] It is all very strange indeed."

"I don't think what you're talking about is a modern issue," said NewQuarter. "I think we're going back to the way things used to be, before a bunch of European intellectuals in tights decided to draw a line between what's rational and what's not. I don't think our ancestors through the distinction was necessary."

The sheikh considered this for a moment.

"Perhaps you're right," he said. "I suppose every innovation started out as a fantasy. Once upon a time, students of Islamic law were encouraged to give free rein to their imaginations. For example, in the medieval era there was a great discussion about the point at which one is obligated to enter a state of ritual purity while traveling on the hajj. If you were on foot, when? If you went by boat, when? If by camel, when? And then one student, having exhausted all earthly possibilities, posed this question: what if one were to fly? The proposition was taken as a serious exercise in the adaptability of the law. As a result, we had rules governing air travel during hajj five hundred years before the invention of the commercial jet." (pp.366-7)
Just a tiny taste of what's to come!

Stay tuned to the site for a grand old giveaway, followed by my full review of G. Willow Wilson's wonderful first novel, and finally, an in-depth interview with the author.

I'm so excited to post all this it's silly.

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