Rapture BioShock concept art

BioShock Concept and Fan Art

If there is a perfect dieselpunk video game, it must be BioShock (our review here). It has several of the genre’s major influences (Art Deco, Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, dystopian fiction like Nineteen Eighty-Four, Hugh Ferriss, the Red Scare and Jazz) as well as tropes (the lone hero fighting the system, mind control).

It’s the BioShock aesthetic, though, that is the most evocative.

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The Fourth Protocol

The Fourth Protocol

Frederick Forsyth’s The Fourth Protocol (1984) was turned into a movie, starring Michael Caine and Pierce Brosnan, only three years after it was published. Given that the film largely follows the plot of the book, I’ll cover both in this review.

In the novel, it is the infamous British defector Kim Philby who helps draw up a Soviet plot to detonate a nuclear weapon in Britain and trigger a Labour victory. A left-wing government (Neil Kinnock had yet to defeat far-left Militant entryists at the time) would — the Russians hoped — withdraw the United Kingdom from NATO, kick the Americans out and give up the country’s nuclear deterrent.

To make it seem like an accident, the Soviets plan to smuggle in the nuclear weapon in stages, assemble it in Britain and detonate it near an American military base. This would violate the fictional Fourth Protocol to the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which supposedly banned the non-conventional delivery of nuclear weapons.

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Wolfenstein: The New Order artwork

How to Change World War II

Alternate World War II histories typically either kill Hitler, to end the war quickly or avoid it altogether, or correct one of his many strategic mistakes (invade Russia in winter, needlessly declare war on the United States), to enable an Axis victory.

There were many more inflection points, however, any one of which could have steered history in another direction. If you want to change World War II, here are 22 ways to do it.

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Who Killed Steampunk? A Response to My Critics

My last story, “Who Killed Steampunk?“, provoked a lot of comments, both here and on social media. I’ve tried to read all of them, but I couldn’t respond to everyone individually, so let me follow up here.

Most of the criticism fell into one of three categories:

  1. You’re ignoring the convention and music scene.
  2. You’re trying to force your view of steampunk on others.
  3. You’re blaming “social justice warriors” and providing a refuge to misogynists and racists.

Each of these arguments deserves a more thorough response than fits in a tweet.

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Barcelona Plaça de Catalunya design

Unbuilt Barcelona

By the middle of the nineteenth century, Barcelona was bursting at the seams. The city hadn’t expanded beyond its medieval walls, but its population had grown almost 50 percent between 1800 and 1850. The congestion was contributing to outbreaks of disease. There was clearly a need for expansion, but it wasn’t until 1853 that the central government in Madrid allowed Barcelona to tear down its walls.

Two expansion plans were introduced, one by Antoni Rovira i Trias, which was favored by the Barcelona city council, and another by Ildefonso Cerdá, which was favored by Madrid. Neither was implemented in full, but Cerdá’s, with its distinctive hexagonal blocks, proved by far the most influential.

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