Storm Warnings: Science Fiction Confronts the Future

By George E. Slusser; Colin Greenland et al. | Go to book overview

O'Brien's Interim Report

George Hay

Nineteen eighty-four is also the year of timestop. In that sense, all years are the year of timestop, 31 December of that year being followed by 1 January 1984, like Fabre's caterpillars. (There was, of course, no such person as Fabre, though caterpillars, for reasons pertaining to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fish, still remain, pending further investigation.) Still remain, similarly, Goldstein and his loathesome followers, whom we have simultaneously to persecute and preserve. Thus, our security forces have to occupy themselves with the regulation of those years outside of 1984 which still exist for us in the Party, though not for those we govern. An intricate system of timetravel policing allows us to vet each of those years. To avoid the temptation of our police by overlarge amounts of dangerous knowledge, only I, O'Brien, am allowed the total overview of all these years: each police unit reports back on one complete year, no more--thus extending into time our normal cell-system.

Limiting police units to policing of one year only of Oldspeak time has, of course, its drawbacks. Notably, it is difficult for these officers, when preparing their reports, to write with an integrated understanding of the errors and confusions they confront. For this reason, I have ensured that, as each officer enters a given year, he is issued a briefing prepared by me. The paper I now read to you constitutes the briefing for 1984 itself--that is, not the real, immutable, and eternal 1984, but the illusory and dangerous 1984 of the Oldspeak calendar. As a further limitation, this particular briefing refers only to science fiction, that being your own area of operation.

Let me start by referring you to page 214 of the Penguin edition of my Handbook for Timestop Police Officers, more popularly entitled Nineteen Eighty-Four. This work, in the guise of a work of fiction

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