Birthday Reviews: Edo van Belkom’s “The October Crisis”

Birthday Reviews: Edo van Belkom’s “The October Crisis”

Cover by Barclay Shaw
Cover by Barclay Shaw

Edo van Belkom was born on July 14, 1962.

Van Belkom won the Bram Stoker Award for his short story “Rat Food,” co-written with David Nickle. He has won the Aurora Award three times, for the short story “Hockey’s Night in Canada,” for editing Be VERY Afraid!, and for his novel Wolf Pack. He has written erotica under the pseudonym Evan Hollander and has written at least two Deathlands novels using the James Axler house name.

In the 1990s Mike Resnick published several alternate history anthologies, including Alternate Tyrants, which took various world leaders and put them in a situation which allowed them to exercise their dictatorial desires. Edo van Belkom’s submission was “The October Crisis,” a Canadian alternate history which has never been reprinted.

“The October Crisis” of the title of Edo van Belkom’s alternate history was a period that lasted for most of October in 1970 when members of the Front de libération du Québec took hostages in Quebec in an attempt to forward their separatist movement. While Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau implemented the War Measures Act, permitting himself a wide range of powers, the measures expired in November in our own timeline. In the world of van Belkom’s story, Trudeau continued to use the powers to suppress any dissent, political or journalistic.

The story follows our own timeline pretty closely until Trudeau decides to use the acts powers against the kidnappers directly, and also orders the secretive murder of the released kidnapping victim in order to drum up further support for his policies. At this point in the story, van Belkom switches point of view to have the leader of the opposition, Robert Stanfield, describing Trudeau’s excessive actions to Richard Nixon to attempt to get the US to intervene in the growing tyranny in Canada. Van Belkom introduces some ambiguity at this point, leaving the question open as to whether Nixon will respond to Stanfield’s pleas to help, or give into his own tyrannical tendencies to model his own manner of leading the US after the policies instituted by Trudeau.

While “The October Crisis” suffers from a problem common to many alternate histories in that it doesn’t really follow the point of divergence to portray an altered world, van Belkom does get credit for writing about characters and a period of history which are likely not familiar to the majority of readers. He tried to do something new, and, if he wasn’t entirely successful, he didn’t fail in his attempt.

Reviewed in its original publication in the anthology Alternate Tyrants, edited by Mike Resnick, Tor Books 2000.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a sixteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Doing Business at Hodputt’s Emporium” in Galaxy’s Edge. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 6 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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Rich Horton

OK, I admit you surprised me here! One of the truly finest of contemporary writers was born today … I’d certainly have gone with Christopher Priest. “An Infinite Summer”, in particular, is a truly magnificent story.

Edo van Belkom seems primarily a horror writer, so not really in my wheelhouse.

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