Volume 23, Number 03, Spring, 2005

Anarquía: Afterword

By J. Neil Schulman

Look, anyone who can read can blurb a novel.

Anyone who can write can write an afterword for a novel.

But aside from the authors, themselves, the only man who can touch me in his commitment to this novel is James A. Rock, publisher of Sense of Wonder Press, who is issuing the first edition.

Nevertheless, with all due respect to Mr. Rock, he only bought rights to this book once.

I’ve bought them twice.

In 1999, when Anarquía was nothing more than an outline, I obtained the book-publishing rights to Anarquía—and paid the authors an advance to write it—in my capacity as publisher and editor-in-chief of Pulpless.com.

A couple of years later I reverted those rights to the authors so they could accept Jim Rock’s publishing offer.

Then, within 24 hours of the manuscript’s completion in July, 2003—after reading only the first four chapters—I made an offer to purchase the movie rights. Within a week, the contract was signed, money changed hands, and I had an option on those rights.

You may reasonably conclude that I consider Anarquía an important work of literature, and one which, additionally, has great commercial potential both as a book and a movie.

I’ll go further than that. Anarquía doesn’t read to me like science-fiction, of which the alternate history is a subgenre. Neither does it read to me like an historical novel. Anarquía reads to me like a contemporary novel written in the late 1930’s, about the time that Ernest Hemingway wrote his 1938 Spanish Civil War stage-play The Fifth Column. But Anarquía reads to me not like flat-beer reporting by the newsman Hemingway, but a rich brew by his far-more talented contemporary, and fellow Nobel laureate, John Steinbeck.

My inside track on this book goes all the way back to its conception…and I’m going to reveal a few secrets for the first time.

In 1992 the idea for Anarquía originated in the mind of J. Kent Hastings … but Kent’s inspiration for the novel was Brad Linaweaver’s 1988 novel, Moon of Ice, an alternate history of World War II in which the United States remains neutral, Nazi Germany uses nuclear weapons to conquer both the Soviet Union and Europe, and the Cold War is not between the United States and Russia but between the United States and Germany.

Kent asked himself, “What would have happened if even before World War II started—if even before Nazi Germany had made its first conquest —the anarchists in Spain had prevailed in the Spanish Civil War?”

It was a rich vein to prospect for literary gold. The Spanish Civil War was in many ways a prologue to World War II, and the literary lions associated with it include not only Hemingway (who covered it) but also George Orwell (who fought in it).

By 1995 Kent had outlined the novel with three personal heroes as its main characters: the father of the moon landing, rocketeer Wernher von Braun; the mother of spread-spectrum communications, movie-star Hedy Lamarr, and the father of modern computing, Konrad Zuse.

By 1998 Kent had reached the limits of research about the Spanish Civil War written (or translated into) English, and was studying Spanish so he could read documents and books in their originals.

Kent and I briefly discussed my collaborating on the novel, but in 1999 my adventures in book publishing shoved my life as a writer aside, and Kent went back to the source of his inspiration and offered the collaboration to Brad. I offered them a contract and their collaboration was official.

The rest is history.

Yes—after I bought the movie rights for my production company, Jesulu Productions—I did finish reading the novel. Actually, Brad read me the second half on a long weekend he and Kent spent at my house in Pahrump, Nevada, where we signed the option contracts. It was fair revenge since I’d read aloud to both Brad and Kent the full text of my latest novel, Escape from Heaven…then read aloud to them my screenplay adaptation as well.

And when I expressed my dismay at the abruptness of the novel’s ending, Brad let me in on another secret, which I’ll now share with you.

The last chapter of this novel is not an ending. It’s a cliffhanger. The sequel is already in the works…and I’m already pumping Kent and Brad for deep background on my screenplay adaptation.

Here’s the teaser for my screen treatment:

WE OPEN on a ten-year-old boy pulling a little red wagon through the streets of Berlin in 1922. Little Wernher von Braun has tied six Chinese firecracker-rockets to the wagon and is about to conduct his first experiment in rocketry. He lights the firecrackers and the wagon careens uncontrollably through the streets, narrowly avoiding disaster. A policeman grabs the little boy by the scruff of his neck and takes him home to his father, who takes off his belt, and the incident ends with nothing more than a little boy’s yelps behind a closed door.

WE CUT TO July, 1969—Cape Canaveral, Florida—as Wernher von Braun watches proudly as Apollo 11 is launched…and a few days later the famous TV broadcast from the moon, as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin leave their footprints in lunar soil.

SUDDENLY WE ZOOM BACKWARDS IN TIME: the Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury missions…the launch of Sputnik by the Soviets…the liberation of Europe by the Allies…V-2 rockets bombing London and we’re back to a little boy’s wagon being pulled on a Berlin street in 1922.

WE REPEAT the rocket-propelled wagon careening wildly through the streets of Berlin, only this time the wagon knocks a well-dressed matron into oncoming street traffic. We hear SCREAMS and little Wernher von Braun watches his first experiment in rocketry end in tragedy.

And the rest is alternate history.

J. NEIL SCHULMAN is the author of two Prometheus award-winning novels, Alongside Night and The Rainbow Cadenza, short fiction, nonfiction, and screenwritings, including the CBS Twilight Zone episode “Profile in Silver.” This afterword to Brad Linaweaver & J. Kent Hastings’ novel, Anarquía, is reprinted with permission from the author.

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