"Two Dooms" by Kornbluth


Well-Known Member
May 15, 2020
Keywords: althist, desert, drug, losalamos, timetravel

Two Dooms originally appears in the July 1958 issue of Venture. My own source is His Share of Glory, The Complete Short Science Fiction of C M Kornbluth.

This alternate history story changes the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as does Robinson's The Lucky Strike. But Kornbluth's moral is the polar opposite of Robinson's.

The year is 1944 and a man named Royland is a scientist at Los Alamos. Qualms about the morality of the bomb make him reluctant to report a breakthrough to his superiors. Instead Royland heads off to clear his thoughts at the hut of a Hopi named Nahataspe.

Eventually they talk about break-the-sky medicine. Nahataspe echoes Carlos Castaneda's eponymous Don Juan and says that westerners can only "see" through clouded eyes.

"You people have your sight cleared just a little by the God Food, so it's safe for you."

Royland thought he knew what the old man was talking about. It was one of Nahataspe's biggest jokes that Hopi children understood Einstein's relativity as soon as they could talk - and there was some truth to it. The Hopi language - and thought - had no tenses and therefore no concept of time-as-an-entity; it had nothing like the Indo-European speech's subjects and predicates, and therefore no built-in metaphysics of cause and effect. In the Hopi language and mind all things were frozen together forever into one great relationship, a crystalline structure of space-time events that simply were because they were.

Such Hopi language and thought brings to mind Dune's Kwisatz Haderach. Royland ingests the God Food (psilocybin) that Nahataspe offers. Only too late does Nahataspe realize that Royland "sees" as well as any Hopi.

Royland's psilocybin enhanced "sight" catapults him a century and a half into the future. A future where he finds himself in an America that is occupied by Germany and Japan. An alt-hist America occupied by Germany and Japan brings to mind The Man in the High Castle (PKD).