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Strange New Worlds

Reliving the Space Age with Another Science Fiction

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AT SOME POINT, science fiction became fantasy. Once Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon, public interest in space exploration waned, and the interstellar utopia prophesied by Star Trek started to increasingly resemble a naïve daydream. Thanks to President Obama's restructuring of the space program—complete with vague promises to visit Mars by 2030—maybe a bit of that space-age optimism will resurface. But even if it does, it'll have a hard time eclipsing the romanticized visions of space from the '50s and '60s.

Plenty of that romance is on display in Another Science Fiction, Megan Prelinger's collection of ads touting the infinite possibilities of extraterrestrial exploration. Prelinger's dry text gives historical context, but the ads are what impress: Confident and bold, and swiped from magazines like Aviation Week and Missiles and Rockets, many aim to recruit engineers to work at places like Lockheed's Missiles and Space Division and the "Defense Systems Division of General Motors Corporation."

The ads' artwork, design, and logos are sleek, alluring, and gorgeous, but aesthetics aside, it's also great to study the subtextual balances—between government and private enterprise, between the military-industrial complex and the promises of sci-fi pulps. Another Science Fiction is a fascinating time capsule—one that's all the more interesting because it promises a future that has yet to happen.

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