Edmonton Journal

Canada, U.S. at war


What if 9/11 had hap­pened in Ed­mon­ton, not New York, novel asks.

Imag­ine the Sept. 11, 2001 de­struc­tion in New York hap­pened to our own down­town World Trade Cen­tre and ad­ja­cent Westin Ho­tel, black­en­ing Ed­mon­ton skies. That the Cana­dian government de­manded ex­tra­di­tion of the Amer­i­can bomber, and was ig­nored by our neigh­bours. That a re­sult­ing re­venge cy­cle of petty mur­ders within the two for­merly friendly na­tions es­ca­lated into the “Novem­ber Bomb­ings” of Que­bec Hy­dro, re­sult­ing in the win­ter deaths of 2,500 east coast Amer­i­cans. Imag­ine, then, Pres­i­dent Bush hav­ing the easy ex­cuse to send troops across our bor­der — es­pe­cially into Al­berta — to pro­tect Amer­ica’s en­ergy se­cu­rity, de­fy­ing U.N. res­o­lu­tions as eas­ily as pub­lic opin­ion. And thus, step by step, a Can-Amer­i­can War erupted.

Of course, this hor­rific and un­be­liev­able chain of events never hap­pened here. But it does in a strangely real­is­tic new novel by Toronto writer Joseph MacKin­non. The ge­nius of Fault­line 49 (Guy Faux Books) is ex­actly this: the 250-page thought ex­er­cise swaps Ed­mon­ton with New York, and also Canada with Iraq, Afghanista­n and other na­tions in a buildup of vi­o­lence, fab­ri­ca­tion and barely con­cealed geopo­lit­i­cal oil in­ter­ests. It’s a story one would never swal­low, had it not ac­tu­ally gone down be­tween the U.S. and the Mid­dle East, in­clud­ing the on­go­ing Iraq oc­cu­pa­tion. MacKin­non, who wrote his book un­der the name of fic­tional jour­nal­ist David Dan­son, trans­plants count­less foot­noted real-life quotes from Bush, Don­ald Rums­feld and po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors such as Pat Buchanan, declar­ing Canada “Soviet Canuck­istan,” and Ann Coul­ter’s belch.

“They are lucky we al­low them to ex­ist on the same con­ti­nent.”

Yes, she ac­tu­ally said that, in our re­al­ity, in 2004. But it’s ex­tra sin­is­ter with U.S. troops blockad­ing the High Level Bridge.

MacKin­non, 24, was born in Cal­gary, grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Al­berta with a master’s of English and Film Stud­ies and now lives in Toronto. He has a fab­u­lous and elas­tic in­tel­li­gence be­hind play­ing havoc with North Amer­i­can re­la­tions. Though he’s quick to sternly stress the tragedy of the real 9/11, talk­ing to MacKin­non it’s easy to be­lieve H.G. Wells had a lit­tle fun with War of the Worlds, his com­men­tary on the per­ils of Bri­tish Im­pe­ri­al­ism. Germ-vul­ner­a­ble Mar­tians aside, there’s cer­tainly a long tra­di­tion of “else­worlds,” coun­ter­fac­tual fic­tion stretch­ing back through the Vic­to­rian Age.

But MacKin­non’s use of ex­ist­ing sound bytes sud­denly aimed Canada’s way both grounds his nar­ra­tive in re­al­ity and makes his con­struc­tion all the more un­nerv­ing. And, dare I say, ex­cit­ing. “Em­ploy­ing ex­ist­ing quotes to build this world,” he ex­plains from Toronto, “they really lent them­selves to the fic­tion and the fic­tion to them. In re­con­tex­tu­al­iz­ing 9/11, there was al­ready so much about it that you couldn’t avoid if you wanted to un­der­stand it. There’s this the­atre of para­noia and this rhetoric of fear that I had to en­gage with and em­ploy in the novel. Tucker Carl­son, Ann Coul­ter, even Bush — they were per­fect.

“Of course,” he laughs, “there are lit­tle ma­nip­u­la­tions here and there. We’re not at war with the United States, for ex­am­ple.” Some­times the real world ac­tu­ally went too far. “Tucker Carl­son. I didn’t in­clude his be­cause it was too scathing when he said Cana­dian sol­diers were cow­ardly. My hands started to trem­ble.”

With­out spoil­ing too much, in Fault­line 49, Dan­son chases down Bruce Ka­lynchuk, the Amer­i­can-born leader of a frac­tur­ing re­sis­tance group called the Yukon Sprites, for an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view. Things spi­ral badly as Dan­son can no longer jus­tify his ideals and pre­con­cep­tions and is em­bed­ded too close to a doomed and semi-sym­pa­thetic rev­o­lu­tion­ary. Scenes of to­tal war, tor­ture and des­per­ate stands in dec­i­mated down­town Toronto en­sue.

The numer­ous characters and re­ac­tions MacKin­non cre­ated — re­porters, moles, even a con­dem­na­tion of pro­test­ers by Mayor Bill Smith and a curse-laden pro­tec­tion­ist fe­roc­ity against Ot­tawa by Pre­mier Ralph Klein — co­a­lesced as MacKin­non twisted a strange lit­tle fact of Ed­mon­ton ar­chi­tec­ture into his novel. “I was new to Ed­mon­ton, walking down the road with my dad and a fam­ily friend and he pointed out the World Trade Cen­tre and made an offhanded re­mark, ‘No one’s ever go­ing to tar­get it.’ That got me think­ing. Al­ready in­ter­ested in Can-Amer­i­can re­la­tions I thought, ‘This is in­ter­est­ing. Who would want to blow this up and why?’ A bunch of es­says I was work­ing on be­gan to morph and cre­ate this world.

“Ed­mon­ton was per­fect, be­cause be­sides be­ing ‘oil city’ — and I can’t imag­ine any war or proxy war go­ing on that doesn’t have some­thing to do with oil — I was be­gin­ning to adapt to the city. I was be­gin­ning to love it, love the peo­ple, love CAA be­cause I didn’t have a garage,” he smiles.

The novel — which he’s now ex­panded into a film trailer and the start of a graphic novel — is di­vided be­tween ac­counts of Dan­son’s in­creas­ing im­mer­sion in the re­sis­tance and set­ting up, in a se­ries of es­says, the his­tory of a world where Cana­dian tenac­ity found us as a half-com­plicit oc­cu­pied ter­ri­tory with a pup­pet prime min­is­ter.

“Once you bring th­ese con­flicts — the is­sues of in­ter­ven­tion, the con­se­quences of im­pe­ri­al­ism and oc­cu­pa­tion to Canada — it seems not just un­ac­cept­able, but sud­denly shock­ing and fright­en­ing. And once you have that threat to Canada, you be­gin to re­flect and pri­or­i­tize what is im­por­tant to us, po­lit­i­cally, legally and so­cially.

“We have to ad­mit it would be very dif­fer­ent if it hap­pened to us.”

 ??  ??
 ?? PHO­TOS: SUP­PLIED ?? David Dan­son is the fic­tional au­thor of Fault­line 49, a book where 9/11 was a re­sult of an at­tack on Ed­mon­ton’s World Trade Cen­tre.
PHO­TOS: SUP­PLIED David Dan­son is the fic­tional au­thor of Fault­line 49, a book where 9/11 was a re­sult of an at­tack on Ed­mon­ton’s World Trade Cen­tre.
 ??  ?? Fault­line 49 is about the fic­tional in­va­sion of Canada by the United States.
Fault­line 49 is about the fic­tional in­va­sion of Canada by the United States.

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