Sunday, December 4, 2011

And now it's time for...

Another boring edition of "When I was a kid" that attack of nostalgia guaranteed to make you wish the speaker was dead rather than regaling you with some disjointed half-memory of a time that never actually was!

In the 60's the roots of the organization that is now called Greenpeace were formed to protest US nuclear testing.  Early efforts by the organization were focused on anti-nuke policies, and this was their primary focus until the 90's when it became an all-encompassing Pro-Earth organization.  This is not to say that individual members or spokespersons were not already interested in Global Warming or preserving the rain-forests or saving the mastodon, this is simply the point where the organization as a whole shifted its focus from the narrow to the global.
Why shift?
Well because they won.  And like any organization that completes its goal, rather than disband they shifted their goals to allow unlimited lifespan by choosing a goal that could never be achieved.  Taking a page from the US government.  Very clever.
How?  What do you mean "how did they win?"?  The Cold War ended, of course.
With the USSR changing toward more Western-friendly ideals, the loss of some of its republics, and the US military showing in Gulf War 1, it was over by 1992 completely.  Years of fears of atomic war, nuclear winters, mutations and biker gangs roaming the desert for gasoline were all put away and Grunge entered the picture to ruin music forever.
The greatest loss of this new nuclear-fear-free time?
Apocalyptic Fiction, of course!
When I was a lad you could tell any story if you set it in the 21st century and after "World War 3" which was synonymous with "Nuclear War".  Man, we looked forward to it.
It spawned some great things like...
Mad Max:
Technically the setting is about the aftermath of an energy crisis, but by Road Warrior (Mad Max 2, internationally) big bombs were used by the two great post-nuke-apocalypse.  Biker gangs, especially in the second film, roaming creating havok, wearing assless chaps and feathers.  Humans huddling together for survival, worshiping wrecked airplanes and burned out tellies.  Oh, it was brilliant.
Since Godzilla and Them! we've had the joys of atomic mutation that creates giant monsters to ravage our world.  Many a good post-apocalyptic tale featured at least 1 giant rat/bunny/lizard to menace the heroes.
Car Wars:
Steve Jackson's board game for automobile combat simulation was a product of the very early 80's and saw many iterations as the years rolled on, including a personal favorite Commodore 64 game called Autoduel.

I played that game so much in my formative, pre-high school years.  Of course games like Carmaggeddon and Twisted Metal would come along to up-the-carnage-ante for car-warrior games, but the original by Ultima creator Richard Garriot, is, to me, still the benchmark.
Gammarauders:  A board game from TSR, loosely connected with their Gamma World product (the name, post apocalyptic setting, but in reality it was its own storyline, setting and product), Gammarauders featured a background "world book" written by the great Jeff Grubb (well, great to RPG pen and paper nerds of my generation, at least) and featuring more tongue-in-cheek humor than one can shake a stick glowing with nuclear radiation at.  Gammarauders featured giant, mutated animals that were also beweaponed cyborgs being guided by humanity's survivors all seeking to recreate the Golden Age, which was their misunderstood idea of what the world had been like "before the bomb".  In essence of world of 1950s and 1960s pop culture kitsch.  It was brilliant.

Look at that.  How can you not love anything with a giant penguin and a cyborg t-rex (named Elvin, by the way) and a hovering tank that looks oddly like a classic T-bird?

These are the losses I lament.  I was never afraid of a nuclear war...I welcomed it.  Unlike my parents, who remembered the days of "duck and cover" and actually thought the Ruskies were going to attempt to invade their homes, I grew up at the tail end of the Cold War era, the unfortunate Greenpeace years.  Unlike the children of a previous generation, who had the Space Race to inspire their dreams of the future (always Looking Up, to the skies) and had heroes like Captain Atom, a Space Race hero if I ever saw one:
The original Charlton Captain Atom, not the compromised, deconstructed, DC bullshit
I had the horrible post-nuclear future to look forward to...and dammit I wanted it!
Attempts have been made since the big CW ended to create classic post-apocalyptic work, mostly in the "retro-kitsch" sense.  I point to 1998's Six-String Samurai, which explicitly states that it takes place in an America that was partially conquered by Russia in the late 50's.

This film is a retro-kitsch lover's dream, but is a single blip on an otherwise uninspired post-apocalyptic landscape.  When the Cold War ended, taking the threat of Nuclear Apocalypse with it, everything changed.  Bond films began to suck so abysmally that nothing could save them.  The post Cold War Bond films are charybdic...and that's being nice.
Even Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, with its two-fisted, pulp look at the "evil" Ruskies of the 1950's could not bring back the joy I once felt regarding this era.  Although it was nice to see it and I thought it funny that there were minor complaints from Russia about the portrayal of the Russians in the film.
Too bad, Ivan, that was the era.
Actually, I miss you guys.  Please come back, Ivan, in all your Hammer and Sickle Glory.  Fiction has been empty without our big old buddy Bear to threaten our way of life...which is already dangerously close to...oh no, is it true...
It couldn't be...
Damn you, Khrushchev!  Very clever, Nicky, very clever indeed.
All those sleeper agents...really did run for political office after all...
Where are my guns and my giant lizard?

Probably with my rocket pack and raygun.


  1. Fallout 3 and New Vegas are cool worthy successors to the post apocalyptic genre of the Cold War era.

    I liked your C-64 Autoduel with the glitch of that junk and if you walked from New York to Albany and sold it, you got plenty bou cou cash. I always bought a couple of kick-ass cars from the haul and Gold Cross.

    I really want my raygun and jetpack too!

  2. I've heard that Fallout is a good game series, but I've never played it, myself.

  3. If you get Fallout 3, get it for the computer because I can send you some kick-ass mods I have made. I built my own vault as my base. It has a surly super mutant butler named Alfred and a robot pool boy named Aldo. LOL

  4. I'm trying to imagine Aldo as a pool boy. Gardener, yes.