Kolyma's Shadow: An Alternate Space Race

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by nixonshead, May 11, 2014.

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  1. TheBatafour Complete Anarchy

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    Nov 23, 2012
    Huzzah for peaceful coexistence! Unless you're planning some reverse Gorbachev to take hold of the USSR, I could see the Cold War ending without the fall of the USSR ITTL. While I didn't comment on it, I thought last week's update was excellent as well, but that goes without saying. I also appreciate the bonus image, really shows how 'alternate' this space race has gotten. Speaking of which, do you think the alternate historians of TTL would know what they're missing with the death of Korolev? Was he a known figure in rocket science before the PoD? If some ATL Nixonshead were to write 'Kolyma's Mercy', would they laugh at him for writing such a soviet spacewank? The 1969 moon landing itself could sound quite unrealistic as well. Nevertheless, keep up the good work!

    PS some space station imagery would be most welcome :p
     
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  2. Jape Seacombe Mod

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    Paradise 5
    Sorry that I've only been lurking, so I'd like to give my thumbs up. I'm quite ignorant on space travel but I've been enjoying the detail and the effects butterflied tech is having on the wider world. May we see a joint landing on the Moon at some point?
     
  3. Usili Carry On Wayward Son

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    Aug 9, 2012
    Very interesting so far with the work of cooperation here. I feel like this might eventually evolve into an early International Space Station between East and West with American crews (and possibly modules?) being sent up to the new Yedinstvo station in the 1980s. Hopefully the cooperation doesn't rapidly reverse in the 1980s. :eek:

    And a slight typo I noticed in the latest chapter:

    I believe you meant Jupiter and not Yupiter. :p
     
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  4. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

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    Yupiter is the transliteration of the Russian spelling of "Jupiter," so I'm pretty sure he did mean Yupiter, not Jupiter (whatever autocorrect has to say about it...). Just the same way that it was the "Venera" or "Luna" probes, not the "Venus" or "Moon" probes.
     
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  5. Archibald space jockey ! Banned

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    Jan 22, 2008
    Korolev was never recognized to his true value even in OTL (courtsey of the paranoid, secretive USSR government) . Here he will be even more unknown - only one within millions that died in the gulag.
     
  6. TheBatafour Complete Anarchy

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    Nov 23, 2012
    Makes you wonder what geniuses we might have missed out on ourselves! Not that I'm that big of a believer in the Great Man approach to history, but the history of space exploration is certainly filled with some interesting personalities.
     
  7. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

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    Yes, he was. He was a member of GIRD (a Soviet amateur rocket group similar to the German VfR that gave the German program its start) from its beginning, and in fact became its leader in 1932, then became deputy director of RNII (a military rocket research group stemming from the merger of GIRD and the rocket engine group GDL) when that was formed in 1933, though he was soon demoted due to conflicts with the director of RNII (and previous director of GDL). He continued working for RNII until the purge on a variety of designs, including long-range and winged missiles similar to the A4 and A9 of the Nazis.

    He'd probably be a semi-obscure figure that more knowledgable people would be aware of, but his survival probably wouldn't be thought of as a major PoD. Sure, he had been a senior figure in GIRD, RNII, and NII-3 (just a renaming of RNII), but there were plenty of senior figures in GIRD, RNII, and NII-3 (like Glushko, who was actually purged before Korolev) who survived, so there's no obvious reason that his survival would actually change anything. On the other hand, he would be a bit of a blank slate to anyone who wanted to play around, so that might attract some interest from writers.
     
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  8. Usili Carry On Wayward Son

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    Ah. Whoops. Didn't realize that. :eek:
     
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  9. Roger Redux The Revisionist

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    The Mother of all ASBs (a.k.a. "The Real World")
    Awesome update! I'd forgotten that Nelson Rockefeller was the President now, we haven't heard much (if anything) about him since the election.

    So does this mean that the first moon landing might actually be an international cooperative project? Interesting.
    I figured that 'Yupiter' was intentional, but I noticed a typo of my own:
    I believe there's an 'e' at the end of 'detente'. :D
     
  10. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

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    Jul 28, 2010
    Loving the images, have to say though, some of them are faintly recognisable to OTL designs - and some rather more alike. ;)

    Ah yes, Jupiter, with Radiation Belts whose strength surpasses the Earth's by a factor of about 20,000 IIRC. :eek: Small wonder that they have to be careful when they get close.

    This Yedinstvo Station though, to me it's clearly an analogue to OTL's Mir, but how it comes about and operates looks set to be quite, quite different, assuming that this latest thaw is able to continue of course.
     
  11. nixonshead Well-Known Member

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    Apr 1, 2013
    All part of my evil plan to realise the CoDominium timeline! (Joking!! :D)

    He’d probably be just slightly more well known ITTL than Sinilshchikov is IOTL, or characters like Johannes Winkler and Max Valier (founders of the German VfR of which Willey Ley and von Braun were prominent members). Korolev will probably get mentioned in biographies of Tsander and Glushko (though Glushko’s memoirs will probably gloss over the whole denouncement thing…) and books like Chertok’s Rockets and People - assuming such books are allowed to be published ITTL - but as little more than a footnote. His greatest achievements will probably be considered his contribution to rocket propelled aeroplanes, so expect a TTL “Kolyma’s Mercy” (nice title!) to focus on his exploits building a Soviet X-15 rather than ICBMs - maybe if Korolev had lived, the Soviets would have fielded an effective reusable Shuttlecraft by 1970. There might also be the odd timeline focussing on Korolev developing rocket-propelled super-fighters during the war, allowing the USSR to smash the Nazis then wipe out the USAAF and RAF on their way to Global Domination - moah-ha-ha!!

    Incidentally, if anyone feels like developing this idea (or any other aspects of the world of Kolyma’s Shadow) in a vignette (such as the excellent contributions from tonyq), feel free to drop me a line.

    Stay tuned ;)

    Hi Jape, glad you’ve been enjoying the story! A moon landing remains an “Horizon Goal” for the US, and though the Soviet government has put their own lunar plans on hold, it is still an ambition of Chelomei at least, so who knows… ;)

    As for wider impacts, be sure to tune in next week for a look at some cultural changes in a new guest post from Brainbin!

    Fortunately for the future of East-West relations, First Secretary Kirilenko is in perfect health and fully expects to lead the peace-loving peoples of the Soviet Union and its Fraternal Socialist allies into the 1990s and beyond, with any rumours to the contrary being imperialist propaganda...

    This is indeed intentional - the Soviet mission is called “Yupiter”. Incidentally, I was inspired to include this mission by some excellent artwork I found on the Realistic Spaceship Illustrations blog, originally posted on Space That Never Was.


    You’ll be hearing more from him, don’t worry :)

    Well, talks are still at an early stage, so who knows what might happen...

    I recall the (almost certainly apocryphal) story of a British diplomat in Moscow unironically telling his American counterpart that “the problem with the Russians is they have no word for ‘Détente’...”

    As the French have been good enough to lend us one (or, more likely, English repeatedly kicked French in the shins until it handed it over), I should probably be gracious enough to use it correctly. Fixed! :)

    Yes, the inspiration for some designs is a little more… direct than for others ;)

    Incidentally, the Mayflower probe is based upon a JPL concept for a Thermoelectric Outer Planets Spacecraft (TOPS).

    Modular, permanently manned stations seems a logical way to go if you’re happy that stations have value. With the success of the Guest Cosmonaut programme, the Soviets are seeing that value, and the costs are quite reasonable compared to what was spent on Safir and Zarya-V, considering the recovery in the Soviet economy.
     
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  12. Archibald space jockey ! Banned

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    Jan 22, 2008
    Well, that was part of a pretty fascinating discussion (with Shevek) of DynaSoar synergistic orbital plane change.

    Do you allow me to cut-and-paste some part of this discussion for my own space TL ?
    (in my TL DynaSoar is long dead but the Air Force has an X-37-like space drone in the 70's - and they want to try that synergistic manoeuver again);)
     
  13. nixonshead Well-Known Member

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    Apr 1, 2013
    Please do! There was quite a bit of mental sweat expended over that discussion on all sides, so it's good to see it put to use :)
     
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  14. Archibald space jockey ! Banned

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    Jan 22, 2008
    Thank you. It was a pleasure to integrate that in my TL (although it won't show for some time - 1977 is still far ITTL future)
     
  15. dimovski Member

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    Zagreb, Croatia
    Just wish to say that I absolutely love this timeline!

    Well, actually, I've got 2 questions!
    1)Has there been any work ITTL in refining nuclear thermal engines? IOTL both the Americans and the Soviets were testing them... (Well, the Soviets were apparently too busy playing around with a flourine filled Proton 4th stage, so testing only commenced in 1985 :D )

    2)Regarding OTRAG, does anyone know why N2O4/Kerosene has never been used on launch vehicles? N2O4 is easier to handle than LOX, has no boiloff, and, in fact, gives comparable performance! :eek:

    Apparently, you could use a 3.57 mixture ratio (for a miniscule loss of performance, 1,4% Isp in vacuum and 2% thrust in vacuum, compared to the optimal ratio of 4.04:1) to re-use the tankage of a 2.8 OF:F kerolox rocket! And if you had seperate pumps for fuel and oxidizer, you could increase the chamber pressure by 13,84% to use the same fuel pump, or atleast a modified version of it, due to the chamber pressure... I guess.

    Anyway, such a fuel combination would be perfect for 1st stages - 20% denser than kerolox, only 7,1% less Isp in Vacuum and 7,3% less at sea level, 4,3% less thrust with equal chamber pressure at sea level, 1,5% less in vacuum.


    If you feel that I might've derailed the thread with these questions, I'll gladly delete/edit out the post, just PM me.
     
  16. nixonshead Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2013
    Glad you're enjoying it, and welcome to the board!

    Nuclear thermal rocket research ITTL has advanced no further than IOTL, and in fact probably lags a bit. As IOTL, no real military need has been identified for such powerful but complex and controversial engines. The option has almost certainly been raised in NACAA's moon landing studies, but not as a leading candidate. Unless and until serious efforts on interplanetary missions are started, NTR is likely to remain an obscure '60s engineering experiment.

    Don't know, but I'd suspect it's down to the toxic nature combined with the fact that LOX handling is already a well understood technique quite early in the space race. I throw the floor open to speculation on this!
     
  17. Threadmarks: Part IV Post#8: Fantastic Fiction by Brainbin

    nixonshead Well-Known Member

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    Apr 1, 2013
    As promised, this week Brainbin takes us on an exploration of worlds of the imagination in...

    [​IMG]

    Part IV Post#8: Fantastic Fiction by Brainbin

    Where once the space program had seemed to hold such promise for the future of humanity, after the anticlimax of Columbia and the apparent cancellation of Safir, it now seemed that pursuing that avenue further would only be heading down the boulevard of broken dreams. Neither of the two superpowers pursued manned space exploration with nearly the fervour (nor, far more importantly, the budget) they had in years past, as more earthbound concerns asserted themselves in the political discourse, whilst those few who did leave the atmosphere did so under the veil of military secrecy. Some political commentators had come to regard space exploration initiatives as the “circuses” to distract the populace from the more unsavoury activities of their governments. As bright, shiny things went, one would be hard-pressed to find something much brighter or shinier than a rocket launching into orbit.

    The diminishing prominence of manned spaceflight in the everyday discourse was matched by the retreat of science-fiction from the mainstream. Where once multiple network television shows could (however loosely) be described as science-fiction, by the 1970s, these had largely vanished (though some remained popular in late-night syndication timeslots). Speculative fiction as a whole did not vanish from the mainstream, however - one genre was merely swapped out for another. Fantasy - the genre of swords and sorcerers - always tended to become more popular in times of economic or political uncertainty, and such was the case in the late-1970s. The rump science-fiction community that remained was thus allowed to incubate, and would eventually emerge from its dormancy by focusing on entirely new themes and philosophies than what had been previously dominant.

    The differences between how science was perceived in the 1950s and how it was perceived in the 1970s were perhaps best demonstrated by attitudes to nuclear power: in the earlier decade, there were proposals for nuclear-powered airplanes, cruise ships, even automobiles, before the inherent dangers of nuclear power became apparent. By the 1970s, the risk of a nuclear meltdown - remote, but potentially catastrophic - was well-known enough that environmentalists had been actively campaigning against nuclear power for some years, even though it was by far the most effective method of power generation that did not involve fossil fuels or other pollutants at that time. They would be vindicated in their prophetic warnings - at least, as far as they were concerned - with the Oyster Creek accident in November of 1975. During the SCRAM proceedings, one engineer, Bill Smith, was fatally injured in his attempt to evacuate the area, in an unfortunate accident which was ironically completely unrelated to the reactor; it was a fluke which could have happened in just about any large industrial facility (and indeed, often had). He was pronounced dead at hospital and was the only direct fatality as a result of the accident - though the media placed great emphasis on the radiation released into the atmosphere, scientists would estimate that the amount of radiation would cause an average of just one death over the next several decades due to radiation-related illnesses (primarily cancer). None of this mattered to the general public, especially since Smith had a pregnant widow (along with other orphaned children), who was more than willing to share her story on the evening news - and who would subsequently become a prominent anti-nuclear activist. It was not surprising, therefore, that thinly-veiled anti-nuclear allegories would become popular in this era.

    However, these would be forced to share space with escapist fantasy. George Lucas, charter member of the “New Hollywood” generation of filmmakers, had already established himself as a throwback director with his 1973 ode to his adolescence in American Graffiti - which followed his cult science-fiction film, THX-1138. For his next project, however, he decided to film an adaptation of the beloved Akira Kurosawa’s classic 1958 jidaigeki film, The Hidden Fortress. This was not without precedent: John Sturges had adapted the iconic Seven Samurai as a Western in 1960 as The Magnificent Seven, which was considered a great film in its own right, inferior to Seven Samurai only as a regression toward the mean, and not by any malice or infidelity on the part of the filmmakers. The setting of The Hidden Fortress - which was adapted as The Clan Wars - was changed to a generic European fantasy setting, with location filming done in Carcassonne, in the south of France, taking advantage of the plentiful castles and other locations conducive to a fantasy setting. (All on-set footage was shot at Pinewood Studios in England.) In addition to adapting from the rock-solid Hidden Fortress, The Clan Wars also borrowed themes and plot points extensively from Joseph Campbell, who had codified “the Hero’s Journey”, defining archetypes consistent to epic narratives the world over. Lucas believed very strongly that introducing these archetypes into his script would strengthen its universality and appeal. He was right. Released in 1977, The Clan Wars was a smash-hit, becoming the highest-grossing film in history. Over $400 million in tickets were sold in the film’s original release - annual re-releases would follow. Lucas was immediately pressured by the studio to start work on a sequel, but the original Hidden Fortress had been a standalone, and he had adapted The Clan Wars as one as well. Indeed, The Clan Wars had been a famously troubled production, which had burned Lucas out on big-budget filmmaking, and he announced his intention to work on “smaller, more personal pictures” going forward.

    [​IMG]

    Poster for “The Clan Wars”, 1977.

    The Clan Wars was far from the only adaptation of a beloved fantasy work to be released during this period. A remake of the iconic 1933 film King Kong was released in 1976, with the gimmick of the climax being set not atop the Empire State Building, but the much newer World Trade Center towers. Given that Kong literally hopped from one tower to another during this climax, the tone of the film was naturally given to camp - which was another way to contrast the adaptation of the cynical 1970s from the earnest 1930s. Critics, many of whom had grown up watching the original King Kong during its frequent television broadcasts of the 1950s and 1960s, hated the remake. Some sacred cows simply could not be deconsecrated, and King Kong, however improbable it might have seemed, was one of them. The poor reaction to King Kong might have helped to delay a theatrical reappearance by his great rival, Godzilla - as, no doubt, did the explicit nuclear origins of the great kaiju in the wake of the Oyster Creek incident. It was not until the early-1980s that the American Godzilla film would finally emerge. A much more serious film than the campy King Kong, it eventually decided to ride the nuclear connection for all it was worth, playing as a parable of the dangers of nuclear power. It claimed continuity with the original Godzilla (Gojira in Japanese) for that reason, even featuring Raymond Burr, who played Steve Martin in scenes added for the American release of the original film, in that same role; the emergence of Godzilla was explicitly tied to a nuclear meltdown at a coastal power plant.

    However, both King Kong (with its modern setting) and Godzilla (with its technological aspects) failed to capture to pure fantasy aspects inherent to their genre. More successful in this aspect, if perhaps somewhat lacking in others, was a film adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s second-most famous creation, The Lost World. The original novel, written in 1912, was set within the darkest reaches of the Amazon - in an age with commonplace air travel and where NESSA’s Earth Surveyor satellites were providing images of every corner of the globe, that prospect was deemed unrealistic for a modern setting, so the film was made a period piece, hailing from a (fictionalized) era when vast tracts of unexplored land still remained beyond the furthest frontiers, with the specific country being explored left vague. Though the precise setting (other than the “heart of terra nullius”) was left vague, Professor Challenger, the protagonist, continued to explicitly hail from the United Kingdom. (Had the film gone ahead with a modern-day setting, Challenger had been planned to become an American, but this was abandoned with the shift back to an Edwardian setting.) The Lost World was praised considerably for its innovations in stop-motion and puppetry technology. [1] The remaining defects were successfully disguised by the film’s art direction and set design as having an “otherworldly” effect which added to the potency of the fantasy. The effects team behind The Lost World had previously worked on The Clan Wars, helping George Lucas to create a recognizable brand with the premier effects shop in Hollywood.

    The smash success of The Lost World inspired live-action adaptations of Tarzan (first published the same year, 1912) and The Jungle Book (published in the 1890s), which were themselves quite similar to each other in broad strokes. The Jungle Book had previously been adapted as an animated Disney film in 1967, and that overshadowed the release of the live-action film, as did Tarzan ultimately beating it to the punch. [2] This adaptation heightened the fantastic elements of the basic story, which granted was already quite far-fetched - including Tarzan being raised by the super-gorillas (which had largely been discredited even when Burroughs was writing, and was hopelessly out-of-date by the late 20th century), his ability to swing from the omnipresent vines on the trees, and his aptitude for learning human language despite his deprivation therefrom for his entire childhood.

    Another, perhaps slightly less conventional fantasy property to be adapted for the big screen in this era was the 1930s Robert E. Howard series, Conan the Barbarian. Conan told the story of the titular character, a great Cimmerian warrior, and his epic journey from humble beginnings to become the great warrior-chieftain of his tribe, and a feared conqueror of his enemies. The sprawling, epic feel to the film complemented the tone taken by The Clan Wars, The Lost World, and Tarzan very nicely - in all cases presenting a setting very loosely based on reality (the Eurasian steppes, medieval Europe, the South Pacific, and Darkest Africa) and providing a fantasy counterpart which greatly exaggerated it while also presenting the audience with a tantalizing, yet familiar, setting. By contrast, attempted adaptations of old pulp fiction and motion picture serials in the vein of science-fiction, such as Flash Gordon, fizzled, often failing to enter production in the first place. Fantasy dominated the silver screen in the era, and it also had an impact on the small screen as well.

    Perhaps no producer epitomized the transition from science-fiction to fantasy as the primary mode of escapism as much as Terry Nation, who had worked on the obscure 1960s science-fiction series, Doctor Who, for the duration of its run, before it was cancelled in 1969. It wasn’t long before he pitched an entirely new project to the BBC, a fantasy story called Blake’s Quest, based loosely on the French resistance of World War II (the wartime picture Passage to Marseille was cited as a direct inspiration). The totalitarian regime which had conquered the homeland of our protagonists was modeled on various real-world sources: Nazi Germany, obviously, but also the Stalinist Soviet Union and Maoist Red China. The role of nuclear weapons in the war were handily replaced by apocalyptic magics, and the after-effects of these magics tended to resemble the holocaust. Nobody expected such a dark and sinister series from Nation, but the show quickly developed a cult following even greater than the one previously enjoyed by Doctor Who. Extensive location footage using the iconic “BBC Quarry” helped to keep costs down, as did the judicious use of limited practical effects, makeup, and costume design - as well as miniatures - and scripting to imply a far more impressive and epic storyline than which was directly depicted onscreen.

    One person who never gave up on science-fiction on the big screen was Arthur C. Clarke, author and co-screenwriter of Space Odyssey. Although his collaborator on that project, Stanley Kubrick, had lost interest in science-fiction and had moved on to other productions, Clarke remained committed to a sequel for the big screen. He wrote the novel first, both to make some easy money from the sequel to a popular book (his novel version of Space Odyssey, written in tandem with the film’s screenplay, had been a smash bestseller). Venus was chosen as the setting for this sequel (duly named Venus Odyssey) due to the images which had been transmitted from the Venus Radar Surveyor in 1974, which captured unusually symmetrical “dome” structures which were detected even through the unimaginably dense cloud cover on Earth’s sister planet. It captured Clarke’s imagination enough to build on the pyramid structures he had envisioned on the far side of the moon.

    Venus Odyssey
    follows on from the events depicted at the end of Space Odyssey, with a signal sent from the pyramid to Venus, noted by observers from Earth. Both the Americans and the Soviets, who had been planning to follow-up their lunar missions with Martian ones, switch gears quite rapidly, deciding to venture to Venus, “the Veiled Goddess”. The voyage from Earth to Venus (a joint expedition) is essentially a rehash of the first film’s central conflict. The craft sent out to Venus is able to enter into orbit through an elaborate “aerocapture” technique, skimming the planet’s dense atmosphere to create sufficient friction so as to be dragged beneath the escape velocity threshold. The cloud cover is so impossibly dense that the planet is bathed in darkness from the surface - where communications with the ship are nigh-impossible due to interference. [3] The temperature had been found by exploratory probes to be that of “molten lead”, or about 500 degrees Celsius (932 degrees Fahrenheit).

    In this case, the trials for humanity are external, not internal - the environment is so hostile, and the safe landing point so far from the pyramid, that it is a struggle just to get there. (Fortunately, the gravity on Venus is 90% that of Earth, which Clarke deems a promising prospect for any film adaptation - no need for simulated low gravity, as in the original film’s lunar scenes). The equipment, despite its durability and the skill of its construction, cannot long withstand the temperatures and pressures to which it is being subjected - but tensions of an entirely different nature plague the crew, leading each faction to suspect sabotage by the other. Meanwhile, to their great surprise, life appears to be present in the hostile environment, but it is quickly discovered that this “life” is actually mechanical, clearly pre-programmed servants of the Sentinels acting out some pre-arranged plans. Upon finally reaching the pyramid (though not without sacrifices), the group manages to put aside their suspicions and agrees to enter in unison once more, as they did on the Moon, where they are greeted by the Sentinels, who inform them of their grand plan - that the visit to Venus was the last of a series of tests assessing their suitability. (This explicit explanation is a pointed and deliberate contrast to the surreal and vague imagery so memorably featured in the climax of the original film--though, of course, not in Clarke’s book.)

    Having passed the final test, the crew - and humanity in general - is promised their “final reward”, which cues the planet to begin tearing apart at the seams! The seemingly harmless machines the crew had encountered outside suddenly begin seemingly assaulting the planet in grotesque and unfathomable ways, and the effects are immediate. Faced with earthquakes, volcanoes, storms, all the Biblical plagues and then some, getting back to the launch site is an even greater challenge than reaching the monolith, but somehow the crew manages (with further sacrifices), launching back to the orbiter just in time to witness the planet’s final transformation. Over the following days, as the Sentinel’s machinery spread across the face of the world below goes about its work, their objective becomes obvious. Gradually, the clouds dissipate, their carbon dioxide and sulphuric acid converted by the Sentinels into water that accumulate into oceans in the vast depressions - a process seemingly indistinguishable from magic to our astronauts and cosmonauts. Heat and humidity are still greater than Earth average, but soon a swamp- or jungle-like world perfectly habitable by humans lies beneath them. A second home for humanity awaits, and the novel ends with the crew deciding to return to Venus, even though this would mean they would be stuck there until additional ships arrive from Earth. In the meantime, the Pyramid of the Sentinels, which endured through this entire transformation, sends out one final signal, pointed deep into the interstellar medium, before dramatically self-destructing…

    Though the novel was very well-received by Clarke’s devotees and by fans of the original novel (and specifically fans of the novel, not the film, many of whom were unaware of the sequel), Hollywood ultimately did not come calling. Even for an industry that loved sequels to films with no need for them, Venus Odyssey was deemed too derivative of the original film. Kubrick reiterated his prior position - that he had no interest in directing a sequel - and this was also considered detrimental to the chances for a potential adaptation. The “transformation of Venus” sequence was also deemed prohibitively expensive to film, even with the recent advances in visual effects technology. Clarke always wondered what would happen if the film had made it to the big screen, but eventually moved on to his other projects. Venus Odyssey, when it wasn’t labelled unfilmable, would become famous as an iconic movie-that-never-was.

    Clarke’s difficulty in adapting his novel for the big screen was, to be fair, symptomatic of a sea-change within the genre itself as well, one which could not be ignored. The shift in science-fiction taking place during this time was perfectly explained by the contemporary shift in space exploration: increasingly moving away from living, breathing explorers seeing the wonders of space from their tin cans to cold, sterile unmanned probes. It was emblematic of the increasing automation of the 1970s and 1980s, which had lost millions of industrial workers their jobs. This further did little to endear the space program to those individuals, or to their families, seeing in those computers their own lost livelihoods. This was one reason why the rise of fantasy and it replacing science-fiction as the primary genre of speculative fiction in the mainstream was singularly unsurprising. It capitalized on the eternal undercurrent of nostalgia in popular culture, and carefully avoided modern technology wherever possible. Magic often stood in for technology, but magic still required a magic-user to humanize the concept, something lacking in automation.

    Science-fiction authors chose to exploit the existential crisis brought on by the potential obsolescence of man. Naturally, Isaac Asimov continued writing about robots throughout this period, as he had for decades, regardless of whatever trends affected wider society. However, other authors chose to approach the issue with a more philosophical, existential approach. Among these was Philip K. Dick, who wrote his famous novel, Prometheus, which told the tale of an android on the run from human hunters. The novel was deliberately evocative of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, often described as the first science-fiction novel, which was written against the backdrop of a romantic society questioning then-recent scientific discoveries relating to the evolution of man (in the years before On the Origin of Species). However, Dick’s androids were considerably less vengeful and vindictive than Frankenstein’s monster - after all, the existential threat to humanity that they posed merely by existing was enough for them to be perceived as needing to be destroyed by those who would oppose them. The novel was a smash success and would ultimately be adapted into a popular and groundbreaking science-fiction film. The central irony of the surreal and disturbing imagery and themes introduced for the film version was the question as to whether the seemingly-human antagonist was, in fact, an android himself.

    Prometheus
    was directed by David Lynch, a filmmaker who had previously produced his own independent film, Pencilhead, which had received great acclaim from other filmmakers. Lynch proved himself to be part of an emerging generation of filmmakers who depicted science-fiction with an overall grim, surreal, and subversive tone, which included David Cronenberg. Likewise, Philip K. Dick was joined by such authors as William Gibson in capturing the same overall tone and bringing it to the written word.

    This shift in the perception of technology and its place in the world was emblematic of overall perceptions of society and forces for political change between the optimism of the mid-1960s and the cynicism of the years that followed. Nowhere was this more obvious than in Canada. In 1967, Montreal had played host to the International and Universal Exposition - more succinctly, the Expo - where the latest in modern and future technology was showcased to a global audience. The event was a smash-hit, and an aura of optimism and good feelings pervaded the event. However, seeds of the bitter dissent that followed were sown when French President Charles de Gaulle proclaimed “Vive le Quebec libre!” to the people of Quebec, the province in which Montreal was located, and a French-speaking island in a mostly English-speaking country. This was typical of the black-and-white, moral absolutist rhetoric common to de Gaulle’s generation, which had served him well as the leader of the Free French Forces in World War II. But times were very different, as was the generation most interested in affecting social change - as he himself would learn to his dismay back home in France the following year. His words would have repercussions far beyond his intentions.

    In 1968, the newly-elected Prime Minister of Canada, Robert Winters, was forced to deal with riots in Quebec on the same scale as in de Gaulle’s France and in the United States that same year, eventually granting les Quebecois the concessions they had long demanded - official bilingualism on the national level, for one. However, their passions had been suitably inflamed such that their demands of only a few years prior were no longer nearly enough to satisfy them any longer - a relatively small but vocal and violent fringe demanded nothing less than full independence from the rest of Canada. This fringe was the Front de Liberation du Quebec - a terrorist organization who attacked innocent civilians and government buildings in Montreal, Quebec City, and the national capital of Ottawa (located just across the river from the province of Quebec) into the early 1970s. This would eventually capsize the short-lived Liberal government, which despite taking power in late 1967 with a massive majority, was defeated in the following election, replaced with Robert Stanfield, who took an even more conciliatory approach to granting additional power to the provinces, particularly Quebec.

    However, the FLQ did not well and truly die down until the mid-1970s, after Shelepin had left power in the Kremlin. At the time, this was perceived as a coincidence, but the CIA and CSIS both found substantial evidence that Soviet agents were agitating the FLQ - which usually advocated revolutionary socialist ideology - as a means to divide Canada (the only country sitting between the USA and the USSR, after all) and to facilitate the creation of a pro-Soviet state right on the doorstep of the USA - especially since the Politburo had allowed Cuba, which previously held that position, to abandon the Soviet sphere and fallen in with Red China in the meantime. Soviet agitation had definitely boosted the FLQ - as was the case in Northern Ireland, where a similar nationalist conflict was taking place, the vast majority of Quebecers abhorred the terrorist activity and sought to achieve separation from the rest of Canada through peaceful and democratic means. Indeed, many Quebecers were satisfied with their national identity being protected and their special interests being codified and enshrined in Canadian law - full separation would be very costly, in more ways than one. Far better to burden the Canadian state with the added costs of keeping them happy than having to shoulder them on their own. They found a willing ally in Prime Minister Stanfield, eager to salvage the reputation of his country and his own party. Meanwhile, since the far-left was so intimately associated with terrorist organizations, they fell out of favour with most Quebecois, many of whom continued to favour the traditional conservative nationalism of yore, and others who instead preferred social-democratic politicians in the French vein.

    As far as the US government was concerned, the primary fear with regards to Quebecois terrorism and with the separation of Quebec from Canada and the formation of a new, pro-Soviet state right on their doorstep, was the fate of NORAD, the joint US-Canadian missile defence organization. Since NORAD had an aerial orientation - with focus not just on missiles but also on airplanes - and since the United States Air Force was largely responsible for space exploration, this provided obvious and immediate symbolism for the overall shift in priorities facing the US Department of Defense. No longer could resources be spent in such abundance towards launching men to the far-flung moon, when there was the palpable threat of Soviet agents lurking right across the St. Lawrence River! Even as that threat subsided, the fear lingered. Peace and security returned to Quebec very gradually, and indeed tensions remained high, much as they did in Northern Ireland. After the tumult of the late-1960s and early 1970s and the antagonism between the two superpowers and their respective allies (and puppets) in the Cold War, the later-1970s marked the beginning of a thaw in relations between them. Though Shelepin had left office in 1974, and his bellicose and dissent-sowing policies were largely discontinued by his successor, the aftershocks would continue to be felt, both within the space program and far beyond it, well into the 1980s, by which time Expo 67 seemed nothing more than a distant memory…

    ---

    [1] The effects pioneered here for The Lost World saw use a few years later IOTL, for the 1986 film version of the Little Shop of Horrors musical, perhaps some of the most impressive puppetry ever in a motion picture (less than ten years before CGI).

    [2] The OTL Tarzan film released in the early-1980s, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, took more or less the opposite tack from TTL’s Tarzan, attempting a gritty and realistic take on the Tarzan mythos.

    [3] The film depicts cloud cover as a very dark grey - in actuality, the clouds as seen from the surface of Venus are orange.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2017
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  18. TheBatafour Complete Anarchy

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2012
    Ah, the pop culture update! Let's see...

    Clan Wars? Oh my, how delightfully silly:D
    Looks like fantasy reigns supreme. Being quite the sci-fi enthusiast myself, I can't say that's a good thing. Still, an alternate Blade Runner by David Lynch is a pretty bright light in this medieval darkness!
    That reminds me, is there a chance of the inverse of this update happening: Nixonshead writing a space update for That Wacky Redhead?
     
  19. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2007
    Location:
    Liege Belgium Europe
    What ?!

    Gorge Lucas goes for "The Lord of Ring" approach
    Doctor Who is canceled
    Blake's Seven goes for "Games of Thrones" ?

    [​IMG]
     
  20. Michel Van Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2007
    Location:
    Liege Belgium Europe
    The reasons OTRAG not used N2O4 were it availably and production cost $ 6.00 per kg (in 1990s)
    they used Nitric acid and Diesel fuel and furfuryl alcohol, that react hypergolic with Nitric acid to ignite the engines
    now Nitric acid cost $ 0.20 per kg thirty times cheaper as N2O4 and you can get easy from local Chemical industry

    so the propellant cost for one module is $ 226 for Nitric acid and for Diesel $ 115 (as Gas oil for heating)
    or $ 340 compare to the $ 6832 of N2O4/Kerosene
     
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