He’s no leftist, and many CounterPunch readers will wince or groan at his more Randian soliloquies about the evils of government, but in The Black Arrow (Mountain Media, 2005), radical libertarian scribe Vin Suprynowicz has written a rollicking, only barely futuristic novel in the Jack London Iron Heel mold, that paints a picture both dire and optimistic.
In Suprynowicz’s 2030 America, government authorities-who trace their totalitarian lineage equally to Franklin Roosevelt and George Dubya Bush-have almost perfected the police state. Armed with both a fully functioning Total Information Awareness computer system that monitors the activities of all citizens, and a Sonic Net that detects, pinpoints and videotapes the slightest sound of gunfire anywhere in a city (and that includes the emplacement of police-run “portals” manned by police all over each city, through which residents must pass to be electronically frisked at no notice, on pain of arrest or worse), they have almost total control over the citizenry.
At the same time, freedom-loving Americans have risen up, both in the cities, where they operate underground resistance networks, and in the West, where they have begun an open rebellion and secession struggle.
Suprynowicz’s novel is set in Gotham-clearly New York City-where one group of underground rebels is lead by a billionaire former rock star named Andrew Fletcher. Andrew, who in his above-ground life openly funds legal challenges to state agencies like the IRS, in his alter-ego is a deadly archer of the night, firing lethal arrows into the necks not just of portal-operating Lightning Squad cops, but also of those Prof. Wade Churchill might properly call the “little Eichmans”-the judges, tax collectors and the like-who in their official role abuse ordinary citizens. The merry band behind this latter-day Robin Hood includes a group of randy Irish girls, some Asian swordmasters, and an assortment of aging veterans of the Iraq War and other U.S. imperial adventures yet to be.
This motley crew stirs up so much trouble among the city’s authorities that ordinary Gothamites gradually screw up the courage to start rebelling outright themselves. In one wonderful scene, a court case involving a noted tax resister erupts into a riot which in turn leads to a Bastille-like takeover of the courthouse and the attached jail by a surly mob, which then, like its French forebears, begins decapitating judges and impaling their heads on the court’s spiked security fence.
Suprynowicz, who in an earlier non-fiction book, The Ballad of Carl Drega, has celebrated those who violently resist the police state’s incursion into individual rights (usually at the cost of their own lives), spares us no gore in describing the almost saturnine slaughter of abusive and corrupt police and politicians by the Black Arrow and his legions. And while normally a non-violent sort myself, I have to admit that his accounts, while at times pornographic in their detail, do have a cathartic aspect (who among us hasn’t wanted to disembowel some gratuitously abusive motor vehicle clerk or Transportation Security Administration inspector now and then?). His sex scenes, most of which involve our hero, are also graphic in detail, which should guarantee the film at least an R rating.
What makes this first novel important, though, is its realistic portrayal of how a combination of Bush-style fascist efforts to terrorize the public into accepting increasing surrender of their Constitutional freedoms (including the freedom to bear arms), and a liberal Democratic obsession with enforcing government codes that undermine individual property rights in the name of the Greater Good (i.e. the State), could combine to bring us to a point where citizens would no longer have any real freedom left.
Particularly interesting was how this neo-fascist society might still have seemingly independent newspapers, TV stations and fast-food franchises-all the trappings of our present society-even as the people, sheep-like, shuffle through several random portal searches a day, watch calmly as resisters are shot down for running from search lines, and accept without question government lies that explain away Waco-like massacres of innocent women and children in unlicensed daycare institutions as botched efforts to prevent group suicides. Anyone who has shuffled through an airport security gate or watched Fox TV News today should have no trouble imagining such a world.
What I think also makes The Black Arrow prophetic is its portrayal of those who will inevitably rise up to resist such tyranny, though I suspect even Suprynowicz (an old high-school friend who with me co-edited a briefly circulated underground school newspaper in the mid-’60s), will concede that in real life, his rebels would find themselves sharing the barricades with those of a more Marxian, than Randian bent.
The Black Arrow, at 700 pages, is perhaps not ideal airport reading, and especially in the first half suffers from a tendency towards the didactic, but as all the threads of the densely woven plot begin to come together, it races to a dramatic and explosive conclusion. All in all a ripping good yarn.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” to be published this fall by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org