On October 20, 1962 the Cuban missile crisis reached its peaceful conclusion. I was a child then, but I have vague memories of the event. Today when I watch kids walking to the nearby school in the mornings, I get happy by knowing that they are growing up in a world that has become less warlike and more tolerant than we imagined 50 years ago. I am convinced that their children will experience an even better future in 2062.
The Youtube clip shows the confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union in the UN Security Council during the crisis. It from a movie, but the two diplomats’ heated exchange is in the original wording.
When I was a boy around 1970, UFOs were a frequent subject in newspapers and magazines. Observations, abductions and speculations, most of them with little credibility. The UFO fad started just after World War Two and provided good income for many charlatans. Perhaps it was fueled by Cold War fears, what do I know, with the extraterrestials sometimes serving as ”enlightened saviors” and sometimes as ”vivisectionist bogeymen”.
Anyhow, now the fad is fortunately fading away, killed by the combination of space exploration and modern recording technology. When everyone has a camera in the pocket, it is hard to explain away the absence of good pictorial evidence of a UFO sighting. The skeptic agent Scully was right.
Read more in this newspaper article >>>>
Swedish painter Fredrik Alfredsson depicts the little-known Rosvalla UFO incident in 1961. Two J29F fighters intercept an alien spacecraft over southern Sweden. (You will view a much better version at Mr Alfredsson’s site if you click on the picture.)
The aircraft belong to the 3rd squadron of the F10 air wing in Ängelholm, a unit charged with guarding the airspace of southern-most Sweden.
How Stalin extended his tyranny to Central Europe in 1945-56 — an interesting book review reminding us of a terrible era: link >>>
Fifty years ago this week, a nuclear third world war was imminent. In mid-October 1962, a superpower confrontation began when the US military photo reconnaissance service discovered that the Soviet Union was installing nuclear missiles in Cuba. The crisis ended peacefully after 13 tense days and the event has since then been analyzed from one end to the other by historians and political scientists. (Today I leave that angle aside with the recommendation to to read the excellent book Essence of Decision by Graham Allison. Make sure that you get the revised version, updated with Soviet information that surfaced after the Cold War.)
The crisis involved common people in all sorts of professions. Here is a good article about the the photo interpreters who did some of the ”heavy footwork” on the American side: (Link >>>>)
Around 1970 several Tintin stories were published for the first time as proper albums in Swedish. Before that, they had only appeared in magazines. I found the albums in the school library and immediately fell in love with Objectif Lune and On a marché sur la Lune. The exciting adventures, the bulky pre-transistor technology, the mixture of drama and slapstick — what more could an 11-year’s old sf-fan ask for?
Forty years have passed and I still like the Tintin adventures a lot, particularly the thrills and joys of the protagonists’ traveling to remote places. Hergé was a stickler for technical details and I can see how he honed his skills with each album. The merchant ships in L’Étoile mystérieuse were not really up to the mark, but in Le Trésor de Rackham le Rouge a few years later the depictions of sea travels had improved notably.
The passing of time has made the content turn from ”contemporary” to ”retro”; the heroes’ comfortable journey to the moon is a piece of lovely 1950s tech-nostalgia. (The Apollo astronauts went to the moon inside a command module the size of small car and they drove a skeletal dune buggy on the lunar surface.)
I have subconsciously picked up one or two pieces of literary tactics from Hergé and put into to use in my own stories. The protagonists travel into the unknown aboard well-rendered vehicles/craft that are distinct ”localities” by themselves. When the heroes set out on a daring adventure, it is never clear what they really are going to face. Unpredictability and danger — and clever solutions to escape the hazards. (Even though I nowadays find the denouement of Le Temple du Soleil a bit too contrived.) When I wrote about Johnny’s and Linda’s first encounter in the cloudship Cassiopeia in Iskriget or Fox’s river journeys in Spiran och staven, the spirit of Hergé’s way of telling stories was present.
When I write my novels and shortstories, it is usually so that the main character appears and wants me to put her or his story into printed words. I write what they have experienced, even when it gets peculiar. Because ”that’s the way it was”.
Ursula LeGuin writes in Always Coming Home (one of her more philosophical books) about telling a story ”like it was” or ”as it was”. Different approaches to the closeness of reality and the nature of truth. I write only fiction about imaginary worlds because that opens the gates to the realms of ”like it was”. However, I always wonder how the readers will react to the tales I convey from the citizens of those never-never lands. Their life-stories fascinate me, otherwise they would not be able to keep my attention for all those months it takes to type a manuscript.
So far, I have gotten quite nice reviews from people in the sf/fantasy subculture, which is great because they are discerning readers well versed in the in’s and out’s of the genres. But the major book publishers have been reluctant, making me one of many self-published authors in the current PoD-revolution. One of the more interesting rejection slips I have received stated that my novel Spiran och Staven is written for hard-core fantasy readers, which are not a part of that company’s target audience. Well, that’s an honourable verdict indeed.
Currently I am handling Adèle von Rosen’s account for her dangerous attempt to reach the rugged interior of the arid Altimundo plateau in 1940 in the midst of the Republican Rebellion. Being a spy and a progressive republican, she is hunted by both the Imperial secret police (for what she knows about rebel activities) and a local aristocrat (whose anger she triggered by provocatively defying a gynophobic custom).
Four days later I stepped off a motor coach in Degauer Satna, soaked in sweat and with a rucksack on my back and trekker’s boots on my feet. Before leaving the Garða-rām I had also exchanged the old cap for a khaki slouch hat more suitable for a desert climate. To most native passengers I must have looked like a wealthy Erþayn youngster out to see the strange corners of the world. Some had tried to chat with me during boring hours on the road, but I knew none of the local languages and their knowledge of Mariþi had been too limited for meaningful conversations. The warm and stuffy nights that I had spent at roadside inns had been plagued by nightmares about strafing aircraft and pursuing dark-suited lithe men wielding gleaming knives.
I had now come to the end of the Road: it runs for almost seven hundred leagues up from Port Veronica at the coast and arrives here at one of its two inland termini, the other being next to Ariana more than a hundred leagues away. Degauer Satna is also at the edge of our world: east of the town the Central Escarpment rises steeply for thousands of feet. That dark mountain wall runs north and south as far as the eye can see. And up there, beyond a craggy rim that is half obscured by haze and dust, lies the Altimundo.
Deutsche Welle has produced a video with a CGI reconstruction of the Iron Curtain that divided Germany in two states 1949-89 (link to an English version >>>). Its ten minutes provide detailed studies of the vast manned barriers that the dictators in the East used to keep their citizens imprisoned.
An article about Project Corona, the first US spy satellite programme in the early years of the space age (link >>>). Its written from the perspective of the engineers and officers who designed and ran the devices.
This link (link >>>) goes to a set of photos of concept cars. Plenty of game design inspiration for futures that never were. I particularly recommend pics #2 (atompunk retro-futurism) and #6 (dieselpunk retro-futurism).