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19 February 2006

Islam in alternative futures

Islam as a religion and as a cultural force has long received short shrift in the study of history and contemporary international relations. That it is rarely featured in futures studies is therefore unsurprising.

We direct the reader's attention to several speculative fiction authors which have attempted to remedy this, at least in narrative.

The first is Robert Ferrigno's Prayers for the Assassin. We were not familiar with this author, and are now giving serious consideration to his writings on the subject. An interview with him by radio host Hugh Hewitt can be found here.

The second is another very eclectic speculative fiction writer who has combined alternative history with post-cyberpunk science fiction in a trilogy consisting of the books Pashazade, Effendi, and Felaheen. Jon Courtney Grimwood has a quite unique background and extensive living experience in the region, and his perspectives on Islam are shaped very much by these experiences. Being a British author, his works are sometimes difficult to locate here in the US, but it is possible.

The final author we seek to highlight focuses more on the contemporary world, but again in fictional treatment. Norman Lang's Last Ramadan is worth the time, although it is "lighter" in new concepts than some of the others mentioned here - being more of a thriller than a thought piece, it nonetheless addresses from experience Middle Eastern issues.

Again, one might ask why we pursue fiction in search of the future. We can offer no better retort than former DCI Woolsey's dictum that "9/11 was a failure of imagination" on the part of our intelligence services, and there is no more certain place to find imagination than in fiction unbounded by the constraints of the real world. Consider it, if you will, a form a divergence for futures analysis. We have found it fundamentally changes the behavior and thinking of analysts around us for the better when they are exposed to these kinds of authors and concepts; and for this reason we will continue to advocate such works on an occasional basis.