Does Author Tom Clancy Use A Crystal Ball To See The Future?
Do these scenarios sound familiar? A commercial airliner crashes into a building killing thousands, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks are captured by a highly-trained team of operatives, and most recently, Chinese hackers launch a cyber attack against interests in the United States.
All of those events did happen in reality. But they happened first in the pages of novels by Tom Clancy. Nearly a decade before the tragic events of 9/11 in the novel Debt of Honor, a Japanese airline pilot crashes a Boeing 747 directly into the U.S. Capitol, killing nearly the entire presidential line of succession.
Clancy spoke to the media following the real-life 9/11 attacks and admitted that had he suggested that four planes could be hijacked simultaneously, that the story would have been rejected as not being believable.
Clancy reportedly stated:
“Four planes? That many people willing to die for the same cause at the same time? If any writer had turned in a story like this, the publisher would have just handed it back and said, ‘No way. Not believable.’”
And yet it is hard not to think of 9/11 when thinking of Debt of Honor. Albeit there are substantial differences — notably that in the book the villain is actually an embittered pilot, not terrorists. But this isn’t the only case of Clancy’s fiction become reality.
In his 2010 novel Dead or Alive, Clancy, who collaborated with Grant Blackwood, noted that the Amir (an Osama Bin Laden like character who is the mastermind of 9/11 style attacks on America) wasn’t hiding in a cave along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, but was hiding in an upscale house. The original name of this book was In Plain Sight.
It was about four months after the novel’s publication that the real Bin Laden was taken down by Navy SEALS in a relatively nice house, not a cave. There are again differences, for one the Amir had snuck into America, while Bin Laden snuck into Pakistan. But given that the Amir is captured after years on the run, and this comes just months before Bin Laden was killed is, in a word, ominous.
Most recently Clancy’s novel Threat Vector, co-authored with Mark Greaney and released in December, tells the story of Chinese hackers targeting U.S. interests. Given this past week’s news that The New York Times and Wall Street Journal were targets of attacks believe to originate in China is telling! But, moreover, this isn’t the first time Clancy has written about the role hackers might play in future cyber warfare.
While not connected to his Jack Ryan universe, which began with The Hunt for Red October and includes the aforementioned Debt of Honor, Dead or Alive and Threat Vector, Clancy has also penned numerous novels for his Net Force series. This series tells the story of an FBI special division that combats crime on the Internet.
Of course, the similarities to real events in both series are just mirrors of real life, and it is safe to say that Clancy is no prophet or is even trying to be prolific. In the 2011 novel Locked On, the follow up to Dead or Alive, several Pakistani military characters have ties to the Taliban. But is that much of a surprise? Not really.
Additionally, as his work is set in an “alternate reality” to our own, many events have occurred in his novels that we can be thankful didn’t happen in ours. Among these events is a brief war with Japan, a war between Russia and China and, most recently, a not-so-cold war with China. China will no doubt be a bad guy going forward for Clancy.
And yet sadly, there are events that we can hope weren’t mirrored by Clancy. While terrorists haven’t (yet and hopefully never will) shoot up a shopping mall, this event, which took place his 2003 novel The Teeth of the Tiger, sadly played out this past December. It wasn’t terrorists, but a lone gunman. Very ominous, indeed, given the other apparent prophecies from this master of the modern pot-boiler novel.
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