August 1, 1939 Futile History Series 1

August 1, 1939 Text from

From: John W. Camel
Astoundingly Cheap Science Fiction Magazine
Flushing, New York

To: D.J. Cline
San Francisco, California

Dear D.J.,

I hope your trip back to Frisco was a pleasant one. It was great to see you in person while you visited the World’s Fair. I look forward to seeing your amazing color photographs.Text from

The future you have created is a doozy! I have read your first outline of the Futile History Series and had some comments and suggestions that might help sell the stories to our readers. Text from

Let’s go over it in chronological order.


This is almost too close to call. Events could overtake us before we publish. As remarkable as FDR is, no president has ever served more than two terms, much less four. While there was a bad war scare last year at Munich I think the Germans will think twice about attacking France and Britain. There is no telling what the Russians or Italians might do, but I doubt they would switch sides in the middle of a war. They did that in the Great War and it did not work out well for them. The Japanese are tied down in China and unlikely to attack America as you suggest. Our navy would destroy theirs before they could fire a shot.Text from

We have published quite a few stories about atomic weapons so this is not a stretch. The problem is that you only use two of them and I think our readers will want more. Wouldn’t they use them on Tokyo and Berlin? These other two cities are obscure, hard to pronounce and unknown to our readers.Text from

That radio detection device for enemy ships and airplanes is plausible but the computer-coding device sounds impractical. The elaborately faked color photographs you sent of these machines in a future museum are nice but we only have color illustrations on our covers and black and white drawings inside. We simply don’t have the budget for this kind of art.Text from


The whole idea of the Russians invading or controlling most of Asia and Europe like a new Mongol Empire has lots possibilities for exciting battle scenes. The idea that other European countries would overcome hundreds of years of rivalry and unify their armies and economies is utopian. The idea that Americans would pay for it does not make sense. The fall of the British Empire is not going to happen no matter what this Gandhi fellow in India does.Text from

I like the idea that televisions would be everywhere and the shows would be just as silly as radio shows with games and soap operas etc. Jet airplanes and rockets will certainly grab readers’ attention. As big as the cars are, why didn’t you put television sets inside them? Text from


The trip to the moon story has been done to death. What you describe is more than our typical story of a few scientists but a whole partnership between government and industry. I do like how the electronic circuits get smaller because they have to fit in rockets. The Russia angle is interesting although I doubt they would get as close as Cuba. On the flip side I doubt America would fight for French Indochina. The Catholic president is pure poppycock. We try not to do stories that openly deal with religion. Text from

The other broader social aspects are also outside the scope of this magazine. Our publisher has a policy of not depicting sex or drugs and I doubt the post office would deliver any stories like this. My editorial staff blushed through most of it.Text from


We usually depict our government as a positive force so I am hesitant to deal with something this farfetched. I like the idea of cub reporters going after crooked politicians but I am alarmed that any elected official would go beyond the pale. Only one president was ever impeached and no president was ever forced to resign. Also, America does not lose wars. If anyone ever took over an American embassy, the Marines would show up and that would be the end of that. As for the oil shortage stories, I think you know that America exports oil so I think this premise needs reworking. The women-in-rebellion story sounds like Lysistrata and is unbelievable. Don;t give my editing staff any more ideas and or they will want a raise. Text from

I love the story about boy inventors building computers in their garage. Our readers will love it too. Why aren’t there more moon stories? Why no Mars stories? It’s the future for heavens sake. Text from


Actors play politicians, they do not become politicians. The two don’t mix. I would think that John Wilkes Booth would have taught you that. The idea that an actor would become governor of California and then president is ridiculous. Besides you repeat yourself, first with a cowboy and then with a bodybuilder (see below). Obviously you are trying to tie this in with the Charles Atlas advertisements in the back of our magazine. It is unnecessary. If they want to be mentioned in a story they will have to pay for it.Text from

On the technology side, I think the whole space rocket defense thing is real science fiction. I am disappointed that it does not get used. The commercial application of death rays sounds dangerous. Wouldn’t the death rays burn the paper they print? Wouldn’t they melt the cans at the grocery store? I also do not understand this liquid crystal technology. A substance cannot be a liquid and a solid at the same time. This is basic physics and chemistry that even our readers understand. Besides, a story about people communicating by crystals belongs in our other magazine Fantastically Frugal.Text from


I don’t understand how this Russian empire just falls apart. Rome took centuries to fall and it sounds like the Russians keep a pretty tight grip. The China story does not make sense, you either are a communist or capitalist country, and you cannot be both.Text from

I’m beginning to understand your whole theory about unintended consequences. You build electronics to fit inside rockets so they eventually fit into a radiotelephone. I think the story of scientists trying to smash atoms and then wanting to publish their articles electronically is unlikely. They build a global Teletype network and then businessmen start using it? Once again you have boy inventors building this and I like that. Text from

The idea that cell tissue is controlled by a mathematical code needs better explanation. The idea that cancer is code run amuck has possibilities particularly if they can detect it with those giant magnets you wrote about. Women strapped to dangerous looking machines make great covers and sell lots of  magazines. Text from

You are at least consistent in that the same inane programming on radio and television will be on this computer network. This can be a running joke in the series.Text from


I don’t like or believe anything you have written about this decade. The American people would never put up with a rigged election. The Supreme Court consists of nine old men and they would never make such a decision. There would be fighting in the streets. Once again you have taboo subject of religion where you have Bible thumpers fighting Muslims over the skies of New York City. Can you rework this? Why does it take so long to find the bad guy? He sounds like he would stand out in a crowd. Text from

I still think the British and French would take an issue to our sending troops to Mesopotamia or Afghanistan. Are you trying to be Lawrence of Arabia or Kipling here? Once again the American government is a government I don’t recognize. Our country would never torture people on the equivalent of the French’s Devilâ’s Island. These stories go against everything we stand for and I won’t pollute the youth of America with it.Text from

I don’t think our readers who are in one economic depression will want to read about another in the future. The crash of 1929 was so severe that people will never let it happen again. We have all the New Deal safeguards in place. Text from

Your attempt at a happy ending to the series is silly. You create the most unlikely president of all. Southern states would never allow it. If we print this they will shut us down.Text from

Overall it is a fully realized timeline, but it needs a major rewrite. We publish science fiction, not fantasy.Text from

Look forward to the future,


Copyright 2008 DJ Cline all rights reserved.

One thought on “August 1, 1939 Futile History Series 1”

  1. Truth really IS stranger than fiction! Excellent post! Love the last line! We’re living in someone else’s fantasy world!

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