Nexus Point - Meridian Series - John Schettler
Nexus Point - John Schettler



The Meridian series explores the ongoing conflict between the “West” and the Muslim world through the medium of inventive science fiction time travel stories. The recent “War on Terror” that spawned new invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq are but the latest in a round of conflicts that have been waged over a millennium. In Nexus Point, the adventure touches on a particularly pivotal moment in that struggle.

When the characters in Meridian used the “Arch,” their time travel device, to reverse the disastrous effects of a terrorist attack against the West, the struggle suddenly began to span the ages with the incredible power of this new technology. “Time War” was the result, and in Nexus Point the characters begin to understand the consequences of their actions  in light of this broad, ongoing conflict.

One of the most challenging things about time travel stories is the fact that they are all about change—about cause and effect, and the outcomes that result from alterations in the flow of that causality. History, as we know it, is the slow, sedate flow of those events, as written down and then eventually dug up again by a handful of writers, scholars and archeologists. But history, said Napoleon, is “only a collection of lies agreed upon.” Henry Ford was even more direct when he said “History is bunk”—it is really only a point of view, and a very limited one at that.

Take the history of the world as seen through the eyes of any given culture, and it will read quite differently. Each culture has its own moral and social systems, its own religious beliefs and creed, and a set of imperatives that drive it forward into the future. Inevitably, these cultures come into contact with one another, and conflict ensues. For us in the West our history has been, in fact, a succession of these encounters and conflicts, leading at last, (as we like to think) to the supremacy of the modern Western cultures that make up our  “First World.”

Yet we should not jump to too many conclusions about the surety of Western values and their eventual domination of the earth. The great cultures and peoples of the world have been grinding against one another for millennia, and the whole of U.S. history, for example, would not even span the length of the T’ang Dynasty, one of ten or more ruling dynasties that rose to supremacy in China over the centuries. While the West holds out its values as “inalienable rights” granted by God to a sea of equal men, it can be said that this claim bears as much weight, in history’s eyes, as that of the Pharos of Egypt, who thought themselves divine.

To be certain, there is gold in the ideas that have come from the West: democracy, freedom of expression, rights of privacy, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  They have been echoed in documents and charters since the time of the Greeks, through the Magna Carta and shouted on the voices of the French and American revolutions. (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!)

I finished the draft of Nexus Point over the July 4th weekend here in the United States, listening to the pop and sizzle of fireworks exploding in the night sky. I smiled to think that they were a symbol of rockets and bombs exploding during moments of great crisis in our own brief history, with the hope that our flag, symbol of our union and freedom, would still be there when the show ended.

Our nation has seen two quick wars in recent years, ostensibly fought to deliver those freedoms to an oppressed people—though I have my doubts about that. The Crusaders that came to Muslim lands before us had equally glowing  motives, sanctioned by the Pope himself who promised indulgences and heaven to any who fell in battle. (Sound familiar?) Today we are seeing a religious based fundamentalism in the Islamic world operating as a backlash to continued Western incursion, with the irregular warfare of the Fedayeen and suicide bombers becoming the norm. As you will see in Nexus Point, many of these fundamentalist groups seem modeled after the nefarious “Assassins” that held forth in castles like Masyaf, Alamut, Qadmus and others during the time of the Crusades. History, it seems, has an odd way of repeating itself.

While many cultures failed to survive their encounter with the West, (Aztecs, Incas, Mayans, and our own American Indians to name a few), others have retained their identity, such as China and India. The Muslim world remains engaged in that struggle. While we no longer launch crusades to free the holy shrines of Jerusalem, we do so with other, darker motives. The fact that the West consumes such a disproportionately  large share of the world’s resources leads us to seek them in every quarter of the globe. The Muslim world, once a great trade crossroads, still sits on most of the world’s oil reserves, and the conflict goes on for baser reasons.

Our modern Crusades, usually decorated with the word “freedom,” are really about securing vital resources and promoting the dominion of one “way of life” over another. Yet with every victory we lose something, as the subtle corrosive changes in our freedoms here have shown.  It could be that we are seeing the values we hold dearest slowly eroding with the weight of corruption like commercialism, profit motive, loss of privacy, the badgering or shutting out of opposition voices, the weakening of constitutional protections, imperialism and forced hegemony—quite the opposite of what our founding fathers intended. History will tell, at least in this Meridian.

Arabic Map

The differences of two cultures are mirrored in their view of the world. Even something as simple as their maps can be telling. Above, an Arab map of the world, oriented with the south at the top (to honor Mecca). Below the Western European view at the same time.

Saxon Map

In the West we view our intervention in the Middle East as justified, so we were told, for reasons of national security. The fear and vulnerability we experienced in the 9-11 attack has set us off on a new Crusade. Instead of mounted knights on armored chargers, we now send impregnable tanks and flak jacketed soldiers to Iraq to secure their “freedom.”

But how do they view our presence and motives there? Could it be that much of the Muslim world sees Operation Iraqi Freedom as just another modern Crusade, fought for economic reasons instead of religious ones?

Massiaf (Masyaf)

Modern day ruins of the Castle at Massiaf (Masyaf)

In Nexus Point we will take a look at yet one more crisis point in the long tectonic grind of the West against the Mulsim World.

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