A couple of weeks ago, the retro-SF blog Galactic Journey talked about SF television from 1959 – in particular, Twilight Zone and Men Into Space. Everyone is familiar with Twilight Zone – it’s iconic enough that even now most people have at least heard of it. Men Into Space, not as much.
Meanwhile, we’ve been playing Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas again at the Lair, like y’do, in anticipation of Fallout 4 coming out soon. When I was playing before, I’d never yet seen any episodes of Men Into Space. I’d heard it mentioned, but never watched it.
What do these works have in common?
MiS feels very strange, as a viewing experience. It’s extremely-near-future SF of 1959; it started maybe a decade into that future. They’ve more or less got the science as understood at the time acceptably right, thanks presumably to the very close cooperation with the American space programme of the US Air Force. And it was shot very much like a radio drama with pictures; there’s lots of narration voiceovers and talking.
The resulting combination makes it feel like a series of short military documentaries, rather than fiction. Which is good, because it’s pretty dull, and you need an angle to make it interesting. That one works for me.
And where that ties into Fallout is that if you take the Fallout universe and have them get into space exploration with gusto rather than nuclear power and robots… this becomes a documentary about the history of that Fallout AU. If Fallout is specifically about the imagined future of the late 1940s and early 1950s, this is background clips for an almost identical world, based on the imagined future of just a few years later.
In some ways, Men Into Space feels more like Fallout than Fallout itself does. No, that’s unfair; it feels more like Fallout than does Worlds of Tomorrow: Science Fiction with a Difference, the collection of short SF stories cited by the creative team as possibly the largest single source of inspiration for the game world.
Fewer robots and more spaceships, but nuclear armageddon nonetheless
I never really expected to have a headcanon for 1959’s Men Into Space, but – apparently, that was going to happen, because it has. It’s not a world I’d want to visit; wow, sexist much? and, again, 1959, so it’s Whitey! Into! SPAAAAAAACE! which is a name I originally came up with for When Worlds Collide but certainly applies here.
But it’s kind of neat, just the same.