This was originally written as a guest post for David Bridger’s blog, which is sadly no longer live.
I was fortunate enough to meet David when we discovered that both of us explore real-life politics while writing speculative fiction. He was kind enough to offer me the opportunity to continue that conversation in this forum. We were discussing my upcoming novel series The Mara Chronicles. This series revisits the Cold War in a medieval fantasy setting. Writing about that period in this way seemed like an appropriate thing to do, because the Cold War seemed a little fantastical all along.
We did not have nuclear bomb drills in school when I was a child in the late 1970s. We did, however, have black and yellow signs on public buildings reading “Fallout Shelter.” When I was perhaps six, I asked my parents what the signs were for. They had to explain.
There were alternate reality civilizations on either side of the globe. One of the last great wildlife preserves in Europe was the death strip that ran between them. Some people said one side was good and the other was evil. Other people said it was the other way around.
It was all very strange, and all very ominous. You could interpret it in many different ways, depending on your political outlook. If you lived in what was then known as the First World, you were also generally able to ignore it. Most of the time, most First-Worlders did.
Today, it all seems very long ago. You can buy Fallout Shelter signs as “genuine collectables” on Amazon. Nevertheless, important things happened during the Cold War – things which lead directly to important things which are happening now. By writing about an imaginary version of the Cold War, I hope to recapture the frequently bizarre feelings of the real-life original. I’m writing about it through the eyes of a child who is just becoming aware that the knights who claim to be protecting her village may not have her best interests at heart. In that process – in addition to telling a good story – I’m inviting readers to reconsider what actually happened in a time which may not be so far behind us as many people think.