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A Mosque Among The Stars: Islam and Science Fiction

255 Pages · 2008 · 3.49 MB · English

  • A Mosque Among The Stars: Islam and Science Fiction

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    A MOSQUE AMONG


    THE STARS


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    Editedxa0by:xa0


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    Muhammadxa0Aurangzebxa0Ahmadxa0


    &xa0


    Ahmedxa0A.xa0Khanxa0


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    These are works of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events,


    places, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely


    coincidental.




    Cover art © Lee Kuruganti




    A ZC Books Presentation


    www.zcbooks.ca




    Copyright © 2008 by ZC Books




    ISBN 978-0-9783057-1-0




    First Edition November 2008




    Printed in Canada




    All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in


    any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case


    of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For


    information and permissions, please contact the publisher


    ([email protected]).







    TABLE OF CONTENTS




    Introduction


    Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmed



    A Brief Note on the Contents


    Ahmed A. Khan



    A Walk Through the Garden


    Lucius Shepard



    Squat


    Donna McMahon



    Organic Geometry


    Andrew Ferguson



    Synchronicity


    Ahmed A. Khan



    Cultural Clashes in Cadiz


    Jetse De Vries



    Servant of Iblis


    Howard Jones



    The Weight of Space and Metal


    Camille Alexa



    Miss Lonelygene’s Secret


    C. June Wolf



    Recompense


    Pamela Kenza Taylor



    A Straight Path Through the Stars


    Kevin James Miller



    Emissary


    G.W. Thomas



    For a Little Price


    Tom Ligon


    Introduction


    Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad



    The current anthology has its roots in the Islam and Science Fiction


    website.1 When one of us, Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad, first started the


    website a couple of years ago he had not anticipated that the overwhelming


    positive response that the website would get. The scope of the website was


    to explore and document the range of depictions of Islam and Muslims in


    the Science Fiction literature. The idea of Anthology was conceived by one


    of us, Ahmed A. Khan who is a Canadian Science Fiction author. We both


    immediately recognized the need and usefulness of this Endeavour. It is an


    opportunity to present Islam and Muslims in a different light. Islam is an


    often-misunderstood religion. The media often presents a somewhat


    caricatured picture of Muslims which cannot be further from the truth. At


    the same time there are people who do use Islam for their own deranged


    purposes. However the overwhelming majority of Muslims throughout the


    world are peace loving people and are as diverse as any other group of


    people.


    Science Fiction has sometimes been described as a quintessentially


    American genre of fiction. Although biased, the view however conveys


    some sense of how Science Fiction is perceived by many through out the


    world. From a historical point of view Science Fiction was the product of


    the times – a confluence of the industrial revolution and the socio-economic


    upheavals of the 19th century. While it was almost always focused on the


    future, Science Fiction was exploring the present through the lens of the


    future. These themes are especially relevant to the Muslim world as it makes


    it transition to modernity.


    Most Islamic cultures and languages traditionally associated with Islam


    have a rich history of fantasy epics – One Thousand and One Nights in


    Arabic, Shahnama in Farsi, and Dastan-Amir-Hamza in Urdu especially


    come to mind. However Science Fiction as a popular genre of fiction is not


    yet a phenomenon in the Muslim world despite the fact that the fans of


    Science Fiction amongst the younger generation of Muslims may be as


    widespread in the Muslim world as anywhere in the West. Indigenously


    produced Science Fiction, although not a rarity, is still less common.


    Western Muslims and non-Muslims who are interested in Islamic themes,


    have emerged as a distinct demographic in recent years. Consequently the


    number of Muslims depicted in Science Fiction has greatly increased in the


    last years and thus the need for the current anthology.



    1 http://islamscifi.com Outside the world of fiction, the Muslim world offers an interesting


    glimpse of the transformative power of science and technology. Thus Dubai


    looks like a city straight out of a classic science fiction story. Even the


    conservative interpretations of Islamic law are relatively open-minded


    towards many opportunities offered by bio-technology and genetic


    engineering. The current volume, which is also the first anthology on the


    topic of Islam and Science Fiction explores a whole range of topics related


    to Islam, paints Muslims in a different light and puts them in contexts which


    many people in the do not usually associated with Muslims. It is thus the


    hope of the editors that the current volume would be an important


    contribution to the expanding sub-genre of exploring Islamic or Muslim


    related themes in Science Fiction.



    August 1, 2008


    2 A Brief Note on the Contents


    Ahmed A. Khan



    When the final assembling of the anthology came about, the editors divided


    some tasks among ourselves. Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad would write


    the introduction, putting the stories into perspective and I would take care of


    the author bios and brief notes preceding each story.


    This happens to be the third anthology I have edited in the last two


    years (the other two being “Fall and Rise” and “SF Waxes Philosophical”)


    but this anthology differs from the other two in several respects. First, this is


    the first anthology where I am partnering with another editor. Second, this is


    the first anthology where we are paying the writers an honorarium in


    addition to providing contributor’s copy. Third, size-wise, this is the biggest


    anthology of the three. Fourth, content-wise, this has more original content


    (as opposed to reprints) ratio than the other two anthologies.


    The first two stories are the only ones that are out and out reprints. The


    next four stories, starting with “Organic Geometry” and ending with


    “Servent of Iblis” are reprints with revisions new to this anthology. All the


    rest of the stories are appearing in print for the first time here.


    I would like to take this opportunity to thank the writers for the


    excellent stories and to Lee Kuruganti for the exciting cover art.


    I have received moral support and encouragement from several of my


    writer friends – even those who are not included in this anthology – and I


    would like to thank them all: Ted Kosmatka, Paul Carlson, Berry, Marian


    Powell, to name a few.


    I would also like to thank the readers for buying this book and would


    love to receive feedback.


    Ahmed A. Khan


    http://ahmedakhan.livejournal.com


    Email: [email protected]



    3 AAAA WWWWAAAALLLLKKKK TTTTHHHHRRRROOOOUUUUGGGGHHHH TTTTHHHHEEEE GGGGAAAARRRRDDDDEEEENNNN


    Lucius Shepard



    What can one say about Lucius Shepard that has not already been said? He


    is one of the most original writers of modern SF and has been writing since


    1981. His works have graced almost all the leading SF magazines and


    many non-genre magazines as well. He has won the John W. Campbell,


    Nebula, Hugo and the Rhysling awards. His stories are stylish and thought-


    provoking, and none more so than the present story.


    When the idea for this anthology started taking form in the minds of the


    editors, the first story I thought of was this one (originally published in Sci-


    Fiction, August 2003) and Lucius graciously let me have it. So here it is – a


    very strong start to the anthology.



    Paradise awaits.



    It begins at the foot of a mountain, a slice of which has been carved away by


    bombardment to expose a field of yellow flowers beneath—it looks as if the


    entire base is hollow, an immense cave utilized for this pretty purpose.


    Unreal. Like a puddle of yellow blood spilled from the side of a wounded


    rock, spread out over a patch of dead ground. To Wilson, who hails from


    Colorado, where the mountains have snow on their slopes, this mountain is


    just a big ugly hill. He's not sure, either, that he would classify the field of


    flowers as the gateway to Paradise. There seems to be a division of opinion


    as to what the field is. The bomb they used to open up the cave was


    something new. Nobody is clear about what happened. According to


    Wilson's buddy, Baxter Tisdale, a corporal who's friends with some of the


    tech specialists, the brainiacs are talking about paradigm shifts, changes on


    the quantum level. When Wilson asked what the fuck was all that, Baxter


    told him to do some IQ, he wasn't going to attempt an explanation that


    Wilson, his intellect unamplified, couldn't possibly comprehend. Wilson was


    tempted to do as Baxter said. He likes IQ, likes the rush of getting suddenly


    smart, the way the world fits around him differently. But he doesn't want to


    be too smart to do his job. In the morning they'll walk through the field of


    flowers and into the shadowy places beyond. Chances are he'll do IQ at


    some point before the mission, but right now he doesn't want to be thinking


    about that walk too deeply.


    Wilson is sitting cross-legged atop a boulder on the outskirts of a


    mountain village in northern Iraq, gazing west over a barren valley, a


    position directly across from the field of flowers. He's shirtless, wearing


    desert-camo fatigue pants and a helmet, the optics of its faceplate magnified,


    4 so it seems he's looking at the flowers from a distance of fifty feet and not,


    as is truly the case, more than a mile. Wilson loves his helmet forever and


    happily ever after. It looks dangerous-robot slick with the tiger stripes he


    painted on the sides. It has a TV mounted above the visor so he can watch


    his favorite shows. It feeds him, dopes him, keeps him cool, plays his tunes,


    tells him when to fire, where to hide. An hour before, it reminded him to


    record messages for family and friends. He sent love to his parents, talked


    dirty to his girlfriend, Laura Witherspoon, and to his best friend back in


    Greeley, he said, "Yo, Mackie! I am the magic! My boots store energy—I


    can jump twenty-five feet straight fucking up, dude! Tomorrow we're gonna


    kick some brutal ass! Talk to ya later!" Now he's in a more reflective mood.


    The thought of invading Paradise is fresh, but he's not too sure, you know.


    Intel is promoting the idea that the flowers are a terrorist hydroponics


    experiment. That sounds bullshit to Wilson. There's little doubt the ragheads


    believe it's Paradise. If the village wasn't cordoned off, the entire population


    would go running into the darkness under the mountain, even though the


    ones that did so before the Americans arrived never reappeared.


    Here and there among the flowers lie chunks of rock, some big as troop


    carriers. Wilson tells his helmet to go tight on one of the blossoms next to


    the big rock. It's long and fluted like a lily, its interior petals convulsed like


    those of a rose. He's never seen a flower resembling it. Not that he's an


    expert. The weird thing is, there are no bugs. He scans from blossom to


    blossom. Nary an ant, an aphid, or a bee. Maybe Intel isn't bullshitting,


    maybe the ragheads have developed a strain of flowers that don't need bugs


    to fertilize them. Maybe they're like a cool new drug source. Better than


    opium poppies. Wilson indulges a brief fantasy. He's back in Greeley, at a


    party, in a room with Mackie and a couple of girls, and they're about to twist


    one up when he produces a baggie filled with dried yellow petals and says,


    "Magic time." A few minutes later he and Laura Witherspoon are screwing


    on the ceiling, the walls have turned to greenish blue music, the carpet is the


    surface of a shaggy planet far below. He wishes for things he can't have.


    That Laura was with him, that he never re-upped. Most of all he wishes that


    he never volunteered for Special Ops. Depressed, he instructs his helmet to


    feed him a trippy level of downs via ocular mist. A minute drools off the lip


    of time. His head feels full of syrup, a warm sludge of thought. He's got


    Chinese eyes, he's nodding like the yellow flowers in the breeze … They're


    so close it looks as if he could reach out and snap off a blossom, lift it to his


    lips and drink secret nectar from the Garden of Allah.



    · · · · ·


    2018 hours



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