The Visitor: A Short Story, by J.L. Pattison
Before I write a food words about the book, let me make a couple of notes: First, the book is available for free on Amazon for Kindle until tomorrow, September 6th. I’d encourage you to download it. Second, Mr. Pattison is a regular commentor on this blog, and has one of his own HERE.
The book itself is a short story set in the late 1800s through the mid 1900s. It blends science fiction with real history. I’m not always a fan of such, but he actually pulls it off quite well. It tells the story of how an American from some point in ‘the future’ attempts to travel back to warn the founding fathers of the United States of the future actions of the nation and the tragedies it will be involved in. The time traveler doesn’t quite make his destination of late 18th Century America, but he does manage to give his account to a former slave, now farmer, in late 19th Century Georgia. Leroy Jenkins, our Georgia farmer, has a hard time getting anyone, including a fairly well known journalist, to believe his story about the future of America. But by the end of the story, the assassination of a president makes at least one believer out of the long-dead Leroy’s story.
Pattison manages to weave some interesting themes and allusions into the story. I personally enjoyed this aspect of the narrative, though he is kind of scratching where I itch on these. I’m not sure if the Leroy Jenkins of the story is somehow a nod to the Leroy Jenkins of viral video-game clip fame (not linking it because of questionable language), but it made me giggle upon reading the first line of the story. The Leroy of the story is actually sort of opposite to the Leroy of the video game, since he doesn’t go storming into anything, but actually remains overly passive in some sense. [Edit: Mr. Pattison tells me this was no meant to be an allusion]. There is also an allusion to the tension between the sovereignty of God and the outworking of history in relation to time travel. I find that to be an interesting thought experiment. Finally, there’s a big nod given to Neil Postman and his vision of the American future given in Amusing Ourselves to Death; Pattison even manages to give a bit of a nod to Aldous Huxley, though I know he’s not a huge fan of Brave New World. The needle-in-the-arm-sedation ending is quite Huxlean, and I thought it was a brilliant ending.
I recommend the story. It’s a very short read, but quite intriguing. The weaving of an interesting fictional narrative with theology, history, political commentary, media ecology, science fiction, and pharmaceuticals in such a short space is impressive.