Why science fiction matters to life in the postcolony

Media Diversified

by Haris A. Durrani

I remember learning about the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, that moment when Britain and France drew lines on a map of what is now known as the Middle East. I was in high school in the U.S., and the so-called Arab Spring had just erupted on the other side of the world. The headlines about the uprisings felt as surreal and alive as Europe’s border-sketching pen seemed bizarre and artificial. They were as strange as the transformation of Ronald Reagan’s freedom-fighting, Commie-crushing Mujahidin into Osama Bin Laden’s nefarious Al-Qaeda. My immediate, geek-addled thought to the region’s unfolding events? This is something out of science fiction.

In fact, it was. The similarities between what’s been happening in the wider Middle East and Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel Dune (1965) are striking. In the novel, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, aristocratic houses and a futuristic emperor vied…

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