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Drifting Dragons

Drifting Dragons

I chose to watch Netflix’s Drifting Dragons practically on a whim. It had airships, and it would allow me to partially fulfill my desire to get more into anime, given how much it has influenced my social circles. I watched the whole thing in a single night, about four hours or so.

In terms of the ‘punk aspect, it is on the boundary between steam and diesel. The series is set in a fantasy world separate from our own, but the technology is familiar: you have the helium zeppelin and the small helicopter that it dispatches to fight dragons.

Given that it’s in the very title of the show, I feel I must comment on the dragons. These are not the dragons of European fairytales, nor are they the dragons of Chinese myth; these are more Lovecraftian monsters than anything else, with a sort of otherworldly horror to their design that made my skin crawl. They’re not just inhuman; they almost feel as if they were not designed by humans.

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Perry Mason

Perry Mason

HBO has brought back the hard-boiler defense lawyer Perry Mason in a drama series starring Matthew Rhys, of The Americans fame, in the title role.

I never saw the long-running CBS drama series starring Raymond Burr (1957-66), but I did read most of Erle Stanley Gardner’s novels on which the characters and stories are based. Matthew Rhys’ Mason isn’t as smooth as the one from the novels, but this is a prequel. Set in 1932 Los Angeles, at the depth of the Great Depression, is tells the story of how Mason became a lawyer and took over the practice of his mentor, E.B. Jonathan (John Lithgow).

Like the novels, which typically feature a (female) client falsely accused of murder, the HBO series stars Gayle Rankin as Emily Dodson, who is charged with kidnapping and murdering her baby son by a district attorney played brilliantly by Stephen Root (whom dieselpunk fans may recognize as Hawthorne Abendsen from Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle).

Juliet Rylance and Chris Chalk complete the cast as Mason’s loyal secretary, Della Street, and ally, detective Paul Drake.

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Everyday Fashions of the 1930s

Everyday Fashions of the Thirties as Pictured in Sears Catalogs

Everyday Fashions of the Thirties deserves its own review by merit of the decade’s sheer diversity in styles.

Where the 1930s start out looking very much like the 1920s, you can spy the beginning of that typical 1930s silhouette in the early years. This book really shows how, year by year, the fashion gradually stepped away from the flapper days of the Roaring Twenties and toward the defining look of the 30s.

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A Century Turns and Night Over the Bosporus

A Century Turns

Airships. The very word conjures images of luxurious views of the ocean or the mountains. They make us think of the romanticized interwar years and are the symbol of a future that never came to pass; one that was cremated in the ashes of the Hindenburg. And yet they endure in the imaginations of people whose parents were not alive to see the fiery death of that future.

That brings us to the subject of this review: a duology from Sea Lion Press about a crew of a cargo airship by Tabac Iberez, composed of A Century Turns and Night Over the Bosporus.

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Dennison’s Bogie Book

Dennison's Bogie Book

My colleagues and I of Never Was wish you all a Happy Halloween, and we hope you have had an enjoyable spooky season!

Today, I’m going to delve into the world of vintage Halloween with a little piece of diesel-era history.

We have seen many things canceled in 2020, including Halloween parties. This book, however, takes us back to bygone times when Halloween celebrations were new and hip, providing a window into the Halloween that was — and hopefully can be again.

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When the World Held its Breath: Altona

On June 14, 1941, German commanders amassing their forces on the Soviet border received the message “Dortmund”. The name of the city on the River Ruhr was the prearranged codeword that the final preparations for Operation Barbarossa were to begin as a prelude to the commencement of the invasion of the Soviet Union. From this moment on, there could be no turning back. This was the culmination of months of German planning and preparation, and more than a decade of ideological conditioning on behalf of the Nazi regime. It was to be the crucial step in the Nazi plans for European, and eventually global, dominance, yet in retrospect many have argued that it was Hitler’s greatest folly.

In this series, I’ve contemplated how changes in German and Soviet strategy could have altered history and the fortunes of each side, but now that we’re at its end I’d like to finally consider what might have happened if instead of the “Dortmund” message the German commanders at the front had instead been sent the codeword “Altona”, the signal indicating that Barbarossa had been canceled, or at least postponed.

It’s difficult to imagine such a scenario. Hitler had talked of invading the Soviet Union as early as 1922 and had been discussing it as a military reality since the summer of 1940. However, the actual planning for Barbarossa only began in December 1940 and prior to that it might have just been possible that Hitler could have been persuaded to pursue different goals, at least as a prelude to his eventual ambition.

To find out why this might have happened, we need to go back to a train journey undertaken in the autumn of the previous year, one that would shape the course of European history.

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How to Turn the Cold War Hot

Most World War III fiction wasn’t written as alternate history. During the Cold War, many authors and filmmakers imagined how East and West might end up in a (nuclear) war. Because the two sides never did, these stories have become counterfactual.

A Third World War was seldom portrayed as the outcome of outright American or Soviet aggression. More often, the war happened as a result of miscalculation, escalation of a proxy conflict or the Soviets feeling the West left them with no alternative. These were cautionary tales and reflected the fear, widespread at the time, that global thermonuclear war might occur, and kill billions, without either side wanting it.

Video games are an exception. Typically made in Europe or North America, they are more likely to make the Soviets simple villains and give the player the power to unleash nuclear catastrophe just for the heck of it.

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