The Art of Yakov Chernikhov

Yakov Chernikhov

Yakov Chernikhov (1889-1951) was a Russian constructivist architect and graphic designer, born in what is now Ukraine.

He set out his ideas in a number of books published in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but his (for the time) unconventional style did not win him many friends and favors under Joseph Stalin.

His later work, of which examples are shown below, was closer to the Stalinist Empire style — but they don’t exactly suggest he thought life in the Soviet Union was a happy one.

Continue reading “The Art of Yakov Chernikhov”

The Designs of Norman Bel Geddes

Norman Bel Geddes was an American industrial designer and futurist who had a major influence on the streamlined Art Deco design of the 1930s and 40s.

Geddes started out as a theater set designer before opening his own industrial design studio in 1927. His early work included such consumer products as cocktail shakers and radio cabinets. He quickly moved on to more ambitious projects, including a teardrop-shaped car and the amphibian Airliner Number 4.

Continue reading “The Designs of Norman Bel Geddes”

Airships of War

In the real world, airships weren’t successful weapons of war. Zeppelins were terrifying but inaccurate. Navigation, target selection and bomb aiming were difficult under the best of circumstances. In darkness, at high altitude and amid the English clouds, accuracy was too much to ask for.

British propaganda poster
1916 British propaganda poster depicts a German zeppelin being shot down

German zeppelins were initially immune to attack by aeroplane and anti-aircraft guns. As the pressure in their envelopes was only just higher than ambient, holes had little effect. But once incendiary bullets were developed and used against them, their flammable hydrogen lifting gas made them vulnerable at low altitudes. Several zeppelins were shot down in flames by British defenders. Others crashed on the way to England. The Germans started flying higher and higher, but this only made their airships even less effective.

The zeppelin campaign proved to be a disaster in terms of morale, men and material. Many pioneers of the German airship service were lost.

But why let such facts stand in the way of a good story?

Continue reading “Airships of War”

The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle, Season 1

We’re written about Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle here at Never Was, but we never reviewed the series. Now that it’s in its fourth and final season, it’s worth taking a look back on this dieselpunk drama.

Season 1 follows Philip K. Dick’s 1962 novel, on which the TV show is based, pretty closely. The Axis have won have the war and North America is divided in two. The Germans control the Western Hemisphere, including Africa and the bulk of the former United States. The Japanese hold the East, including Alaska and the former states of Washington, Oregon and California. An unruly Neutral Zone in the Rocky Mountains separates the two empires.

The main character is Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos), a resident of the Japanese Pacific States who is gradually immersed in an American Resistance movement led by Hawthorne Abendsen (Stephen Root), the eponymous “man in the high castle”. In the book, he is the author of an alternate-history novel in which the Allies won the Second World War. In the series, he produces films.

Their nemeses are American SS chief John Smith (Rufus Sewell) and his counterpart in the Pacific States, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido (Joel de la Fuente). Both want to get their hands on the films and the man in the high castle himself.

Continue reading “The Man in the High Castle”

Mapping the Second World War in Africa

Following the Nazi conquest of Europe, the focus of the Second World War in the West shifted to Africa. Commonwealth forces joined with the Free French under Charles de Gaulle to drive the Italians out of East Africa and Cyrenaica. The war went so poorly for the Italians that Adolf Hitler had to send in Erwin Rommel, who managed to push the British halfway into Egypt before he was stopped.

The front switched back and forth several times, and for a while it seemed that the Axis might reach the Suez Canal, which would have put the British Empire’s supply lines in serious jeopardy. A decisive victory for the British at the Second Battle of El Alamein and American reinforcements in 1942 turned things around. The Axis powers were cornered in Tunisia, which would serve as a springboard for the Allied invasion of Italy.

Continue reading “Mapping the Second World War in Africa”