Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Vingt mille lieues sous les mers: Tour du monde sous-marin cover

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, or Vingt mille lieues sous les mers: Tour du monde sous-marin, as it is titled in the original French, is probably the book Jules Verne is best known for.

First published in 1870, it remains a timeless classic. It has been inspiration for countless other works, be they graphic novels, books, movies, art or even theme-park rides, such as those in Disneyland Paris and Tokyo DisneySea.

The Nautilus and to a lesser extend the kraken have become some of the most recognizable symbols of steampunk. Verne himself is not only commonly seen as a visionary but as one of the grandfathers of the genre; a founding father, so to speak.

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Murder on the Titania and Wireless

Murder on the Titania

If you’re an avid reader of steampunk books and haven’t read any of the Alex Acks’ yet — get them!

These collections of steam-powered short stories are fresh, fun and star a merry band of colorful (literally) characters you’ll come to love in no time. (Bar a few, the villains are properly loathsome.)

I recommend reading Murder on the Titania first. It introduces several characters that will continue to play a major role throughout and it will give you a proper sense of chronology. You can read the stories in any order, but from start to (a hopefully temporary) finish is still best. You may be left with a lot of questions if you delve into Wireless first.

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Nikolai Kolchitsky artwork

The Soviet Union in Space

For a while, the Soviet Union was ahead in the Space Race. It launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, in 1957. Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space in 1961. Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space two years later.

These early victories spurred the United States into action. President John F. Kennedy set a goal of putting an American on the Moon before 1970. NASA, created by his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, received massive funding. The Apollo program succeeded while the Soviet space program languished. Following the 1969 Moon landing, both sides returned their attention to Earth.

What if they hadn’t? What if the American program had failed and the Soviet Union had continued its exploration of — and expansion into — space?

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