April 11, 2005 - Iceland: Threat or Menace?

© 2005 by John Varley; all rights reserved


Map of Iceland


The whole damn island is basically one big volcano.














Bring on your red rooks, your commie queens, your nuclear-tipped bishops.














A majority of Icelanders polled wanted to Kill Keiko!















I’ve always been careful to buy good old Alaskan ice rather than the cheaper ice available from Third World countries...














You don’t even have to change out of your bikini to hit the slopes.














Bobby Fischer soon determined that Iceland can be moved!






Now that the business in Iraq is pretty much settled—a puppet government installed, embassies and bases well on their way to completion, an acceptable level of casualties—I think it’s time to start considering America’s next target for liberation and/or suppression. There has been a lot of loose talk about Iran and North Korea, but in my opinion those places should be allowed to simmer awhile. North Korea doesn’t have anything worth taking, and Iran ... well, what can you say about Iran?

The New York Times has suggested that we turn our attention northward, to that hulking frozen giant of the north: Canada. They have it on good authority that it is a nest of terrorists, and we haven’t invaded the bastards since 1812 or thereabouts, so the idea is tempting, in a way. Those canucks are quiet, but tricky. Just when you think they know their place, they up and do something stupid like refusing to get involved in our anti-ballistic-missile defense program. What’s the deal with that, eh?

However, I have identified a much more immediate threat to our national security, so dire and in such an unexpected place that I think those Molson-chuckers will just have to get in line and wait their turn. I’m talking about ...


Iceland, that deceptively quiet little nation that hovers annoyingly off America’s Northeastern coast like a really big snowball with rocks in it ready to be tossed over the sacred walls of Fortress America should any of those tricky Norsemen take the notion.

You probably think I’m crazy. Well, they called Napoleon crazy, too, and look what happened to those people! Now I’ll bet they wish they’d have listened! Here’s how it goes, so judge for yourself:

You remember Bobby Fischer. In 1972 he went to Reykjavik, Iceland, and played a chess match against Boris Spassky, the Russian champion. The media went wild. It was the Cold War, and Bobby was the first American contender ever for the world title. Bobby blew the Russian away, 12.5 to 8.5.

Hooray! We’re number one! Bring on your red rooks, your commie queens, your nuclear-tipped bishops. We’ll sic Bobby on those suckers and, after months and months of arguing about every detail of the arena, and about television coverage, and mind-numbing psych-out games, we’ll hand you your dead Marxist-Leninist kings on a platter!

But it quickly became apparent that, though Bobby was maybe the best chess player that ever lived, he was a few pawns short of a Ruy-Lopez in other departments. He never defended his title, was stripped of it by the World Chess Federation, and vanished into a paranoid hell, muttering about Jews and international conspiracies. One of the world’s few Jewish anti-Semites.

Then he popped up again in 1992, in the country formerly known as Yugoslavia, for a re-match with Spassky. Trouble was, this was in defiance of UN sanctions and, more importantly, US law. A warrant was issued for his arrest. He played Spassky and beat him again, then vanished into hiding. A worldwide search was organized but the clever chess master managed to stay one step ahead of our best agents.

Then last year he surfaced in Japan, where he was put in jail. The US filed extradition papers. It looked like the damn scofflaw was about to get his comeuppance ...

... and then Iceland stepped in. They granted him citizenship in absentia, and the next thing we knew he was being hustled onto an airplane on his way to Reykjavik. That’s where he is now, thumbing his nose at American justice.

Ha! Starting to make sense now, aren’t I? What? You’re still not following me? All right, I’ll explain. First, a few facts about Iceland.

Iceland is a big rock in the North Atlantic, hanging from the Arctic Circle, tucked treacherously up under the shadow of Greenland as if trying not to be noticed. The inhabitants eke out a meager living by exporting four things: 1) Ice, 2) Sardines, 3) Boring movies of empty lives full of existential despair, and 4) Björk. Just number 4 is enough, in my book, to justify international sanctions.

They will always be able to export boring movies of empty lives full of existential despair as long as critics like Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times continue to encourage them, and I don’t know what anybody can do about Björk. But overfishing has greatly reduced the sardine catch, and the Icelanders are worried. (They used to be a big whaling nation—a majority of Icelanders polled wanted to Kill Keiko!—but new regulations limit them to a few dozen whales per year.) As for ice ...

I’m an iced tea drinker, I use a lot of ice. I’ve always been careful to buy good old Alaskan ice rather than the cheaper ice available from Third World countries like Sweden and Norway where the World Trade Organization has allowed regressive labor practices and abuses to go on to increase the profits of the big Russian Ice Cartel. I just couldn’t enjoy my tea if I had to think of those little blonde 8-year-olds chipping their chapped fingers to the bone to cool my refreshing beverage.

Imagine my surprise and horror when I discovered that the Icelanders were busy smuggling cheap Icelandic ice into Alaska, dumping it on the market, and passing if off as American ice! That’s when I started to get really angry at Iceland!

Now, there are two other things you should know about Iceland before it will all become clear, why they are sheltering that international war criminal, Fischer. First, Iceland is volcanic. The whole damn island is basically one big volcano. Second ... it’s growing! Every few years a volcano erupts and spills lava into the sea and presto! Another couple square miles of Iceland! Accident? I don’t think so. As far as I know, Iceland is the only country in the world that’s actually growing. (Except the state of Hawaii.) They claim they have no further territorial ambitions, but that’s what Hitler said after Munich. We don’t allow nations to expand their boundaries, it’s an international no-no. Recently, when Iraq tried to expand into Kuwait ... well, we’re still sorting that out. Are we going to continue to let them get away with it? If we do, I can tell you what’s going to happen. One day the good, honest lobstermen of Maine will wake and look out to sea and see ... Iceland! A rocky, volcanic coast complete with new coastal waters. They’ll be poaching our lobsters before you know it.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

The Icelanders have seen the writing on the wall, and it spells GLOBAL WARMING. The Earth is heating up. Soon their vast deposits of ice will melt away, and they’ll have nothing to support themselves with but diminishing sardine runs and Björk. Their national pride won’t permit it. So they’ve come up with a plan. Several plans, actually, and that’s why they need Bobby Fischer. Any good chess master has several plans in mind depending on the shifting positions on the board. Here they are:

GAMBIT A: “Weapons of Massive Eruption.” Something that has rankled Icelanders for centuries is that they have a fifth resource in addition to the ones mentioned above, but have never found a way to profit from. That is, of course, volcanoes. Geothermal energy has been much discussed, but how do you make money from it? String power lines to New Brunswick and Norway? They got all this power and what can they do with it? Heat their miserable igloos and run CD players to listen to Björk.

Now they have their answer. Volcanoes can erupt with an energy to dwarf the biggest atomic bomb. They have been laboring for decades now on “Project Verne,” a sinister undertaking intended to hold the world hostage and force us to buy their ice and sardines.

Project Verne is headed by Dr. Agnes Oliversdottir, the great-great-great-great-granddottir of Oliver Lindenbrook, whose story was told so inaccurately in Journey to the Center of the Earth. James Mason played Dr. Lindenbrook, remember? It was dressed up by Disney to look like a silly little farce, but it’s true! For over a century now the Icelanders have been exploring the Earth’s interior, and they have learned to control volcanic eruptions. Mt. St. Helens? That was just a test! Expect more in the future, unless we do something about it now. And if we don’t do something, expect to eat a lot of iced sardines and listen to a lot of Björk. We have to stop these WMEs now, while we have the chance.

GAMBIT B: “Let It Melt.” Iceland sits on the edge of the Reykjanes Ridge, which connects to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which reaches all the way to the Puerto Rico Trench and hence the Caribbean Islands and ultimately, Florida. Studying the maps like a chessboard, Bobby Fischer soon determined that Iceland can be moved! Not just expanded, which they’re already doing. Moved!

What you do, see, is you set off volcanoes on both the north and south sides of the island. On the south, you open up the ridges, which are really zones of upwelling where the floor of the Atlantic is spreading out and the molten mantle is close to the surface. Use volcanic energy to split the ridges wider. Then use volcanoes on the north side like rocket exhausts to propel the island over the exposed hot magma like a surfer on a board. In no time at all you’re waving to the Canary Islands off your port bow, then Cape Verde, then Bermuda, and at the end you just find a parking place somewhere between the Bahamas and Florida.

Why go to all this trouble? Because global warming is inevitable. So heat the Earth even more with all those volcanoes, and at the same time move down to the sunny south. You think Icelanders liked living on a rocky snowball? Only reason anybody would live there is they were born there, they have jobs there, they have to visit relatives now and again. This way, they bring the family and jobs with them. And instead of ice and sardines etc. now they can cash in on the biggest industry in the world, outside of drugs ... tourism!

You can write off the Bahamas totally. Who’s going to fly all that way to a bunch of sandspits when they can hop a motorboat from Miami and in ten minutes be in a mountain paradise? Great beaches, now that they’re warm. Polite Nordic waitresses and hotel managers and ski instructors instead of all those surly, corrupt Bahamians.

Wait, I hear you protest. Did I hear you say ski instructors? Exactly! Finally they’d have a use for all that geothermal power. They could refrigerate the mountain slopes, keep all their ice and have sunny beaches. They’re already running pipes under the snow, building power plants, and soon they’ll be able to offer something no one else has: warm-air skiing! You don’t even have to change out of your bikini to hit the slopes. The thing about Florida, it’s too damn hot! Nobody goes there in the summer. Only way to get relief is to go to your air-conditioned hotel room. But in the new, improved Iceland, you can pick your climate. Hot and sunny on the beaches, pleasant in the mid altitudes, with plenty of powder. Florida tourism will be devastated! It’s a stroke of genius, and all due to Bobby Fischer and his ability to manipulate geography the same way he launches his mad attacks on the chessboard.

GAMBIT C: There’s a problem here, in that we don’t know exactly what Gambit C is. The veil of secrecy over A and B is nothing to the miasma that clouds C. All I can say for sure is, Icelandic agents have been spotted at Scrabble tournaments, Ken Jennings has been seen applying for a visa to Iceland, and the pickled brains of all the top chess champions of the last two centuries have vanished from their jars in the Chess Museum in Moscow. Steinitz, Capablanca, Botvinik, Petrosian, Tal, Lasker ... all gone. Neither Karpov nor Kasparov have been seen in months. Whatever they’re building up there in the labs of Reykjavik, it’s going to put Deep Blue to shame.

Wake up, America! We’ve protected ourselves from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, but we are totally defenseless again geological warfare! Put on your warm mittens and thermal underwear and BVDs and stand ready to protect our nation. Invade Iceland before it’s too late!

Back to VarleyYarns or Home