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Mar 08, 2016



An Alternate History

  • 1 9 5 9 - bAn Alternate History


    1 9 5 9 BAn alternate history

    Text by Michael Baccamillustration by Stephen Knezovich

  • 1959B

  • I n t r o d u c t i o n

    In 2012, Sarah Wesseler asked if I

    wanted to work with a visual artist for a

    Satellite Magazine collaboration project.

    I said I wanted to work with this guy

    Steve [unpronouncable last name: ka-nes-

    o-vitch?] who makes weird collages.

    Knezovich and I threw some ideas around,

    most of which involved pawning tasks that

    wed normally do onto the other person

    (i.e., I would select source materials

    for the illustrations; he would cherry

    pick text from said materials for me to

    turn into written stories; and so on). I

    bought some issues of Life from 1959 and

    all of the National Geographics for that

    same year, and Steve cut out one-hundred-

    fifty text snippets from those magazines.

    He told me to do whatever I wanted with

    them and that hed make the collages based

    on the stories they inspired.

    I had some ideas about children turning

    into motorcycles, old people stuffed

    into cannons, and Germans caught in a

    whistleroom. I tried writing a single

    narrative, a braided narrative, gibberish.

    I tried a collage approach, spreading the

    half-inch snippets on my kitchen table and

    using packaging tape to stick different

    combinations of words to blank pieces of

    paper. I asked Steve to send me the text

    again because I ruined the first copies.

    Eventually, I decided to use real headlines

    from 1959 for each month. The stories

    contain some true details (Nixons trip,

    Fosters attempt at the motel pool, etc.)

    but with other elements thrown in. Almost

    all of them use quotes from the text Steve

    gave me (everything from entire lines and

    phrases to a single name or place), and for

    some, the text was just a starting point

    and then I veered way off. The stories

    arent meant to be summaries or captions

    but rather text extracted from imagined

    National Geographic-like articles.

    I gave Steve the twelve stories, and he

    went to work, cutting the 1959 magazines

    to shreds while creating the collages.

    This book is the flawed and messy love

    child of our union.

    Michael Baccam

  • M e c h t a e s c a p e s e a r t h s g r a v i t y

    Jan 4

    We all watched the

    television screens and

    listened, the metal craft

    trembling in a numbing

    wash of air and fire.

    Bogdan stared at the

    sky, waiting for a rip of

    light. If Mechta failed,

    he would have to wait

    another year. If not,

    hed leave Novosibirsk.

  • Am e r i c a n A i r l i n e s E l e c t r a C r a s h e s i n N Y s E a s t R i v e r

    Feb 3

    The prisoners were hurled

    forward violently into

    their shoulder harnesses.

    Jolted and spun about, the

    plane floated weightless

    in air for a moment

    before falling, killing

    all 65 passengers.

    Korolyov ordered another

    controlled crash to

    test the impact equipment

    for Lunik 4.

  • R o b e r t F o s t e r s e t s r e c o r d b y s t ay i n g u n d e rwat e r 1 3 m 4 2 . 5 s

    Mar 15

    Pulling himself out of

    the swimming pool at

    the Bermuda Palms Motel

    (San Rafeal, California)

    after nearly 14 minutes,

    Foster collapsed and had

    to be revived by EMTs.

    A former electronics

    engineer, Foster (age 32)

    had moved to Hollywood and

    was marketing himself as

    a man of the future. Man

    is three machines, hed

    said before the attempt.

    A tank. A motorcycle.

  • C a s t r o b e g i n s U S g o o dw i l l t o u r ; c o p s o n p r ow l f o r b o o t s

    apr 15

    The new prime minister of

    Cuba met with Secretary

    of State Herter. Before

    entering the State

    Department building,

    Castro demanded that

    everyone remove their

    boots. A half hour was

    spent negotiating the

    definition of boots.

    U.S. security personnel

    were allowed to keep their

    footwear; 23 civilian

    staff were removed from

    the premises.

  • 1 st house with bu i lt- i n bomb shelter exh i b ited ( P l easant H i l l s P a )

    may 24

    The compartments are

    fairly spacious and the

    beds have springs. In

    the jukebox of The Pit,

    four silent records are

    available. Two have

    beeps, the others have

    only needle scratch.

    After, were going to

    record our own music,

    Bill says. But we have

    to wait.

  • 1 s t o f f i c i a l m i s s i l e m a i l l a n d s ( J a c k s o n v i l l e F L )

    Jun 8

    Summerfield proclaimed

    the missile launch from

    the U.S. Navy submarine

    a groundbreaking moment.

    California to DC in only

    a couple hours, he said.

    Janice Hughes of Palatka

    was impressed. I like

    the little parachutes,

    she said. Maybe someday

    the rockets will land

    right on our porches.

    The cost to mail a

    letter will be four

    cents domestic and eight


  • V P R i c h a r d N i x o n v i s i t s s o u t h e r n S i b e r i a n c i t y

    Jul 29

    Nixon was given a tour of

    the hydroelectric station

    and treated to a ballet

    in the evening. Though

    Novosibirsk was a town

    of unpaved roads, freely

    roaming livestock, and

    wood houses reminiscent

    of Depression-era shacks,

    he was enamored of it and

    its people.

    Before leaving the next

    morning, he stopped the

    motorcade in the town

    center, stood on the hood

    of his car, and gave an

    impromptu speech. The

    vice president thanked

    his hosts, complimented

    the towns technological

    advancement, and then

    declared that he would

    seek to ban promotional

    cheesecake. The people

    cheered for five minutes.

  • D i s c o v e r e r 5 l a u n c h e d i n t o p o l a r o r b i t

    Aug 13

    The sailor at the control

    console took a last

    look at the television

    screen and then at his


    The chief officer said,

    almost laconically, Push

    the pickle. The sailors

    thumb went down, and the

    spy satellite on the

    screen dissolved into a

    cloud of smoke.

  • S o v i e t U n i o n s L u n i k 2i s 1 s t s p a c e c r a f t t o l a n d o n t h e m o o n

    Sep 14

    His robot creation, hurled

    aloft on raging streamers

    of fire, finally reached

    its destination. It was

    the first time a manmade

    object had impacted the

    moon. Both the Soviets

    and Americans had already

    flown by but missed their


    Sikorsky smiled. Its

    so easy now, he said.

    Like a practice flight

    with models.

  • F a r s i d e o f M o o n s e e n f o r 1 s t t i m e , c o m p l i m e n t s o f U S S R s L u n i k 3

    Oct 18

    Bogdan took 29 photos on

    October 8. He processed

    the film, let it dry,

    scanned it, and began

    transmission to Moscow.

    He waited for a response

    as Lunik drifted back

    toward Earth.

    Command sent an error

    message and asked him to

    resend the photographs.

    Bogdan kept pushing the


    On October 18, they sent

    their last transmission:

    17 photos secured.

    Bogdan asked which ones,

    but he received no reply.

  • H awa i i s K i l a u e a v o l c a n o e r u p t s

    Nov 14

    As the earthquakes

    subsided, we heard

    reports of lava pouring

    from the crater. Someone

    said the trees had

    sparked bright yellow

    and disintegrated.

    At the base of the volcano,

    Sikorsky was distraught.

    The crew he had hired to

    recover Lunik had fled.

    He headed toward the dock

    and disappeared into a

    ships cabin. The lava

    carried the boats to the

    ocean, and we watched as

    they melted, descended

    straight down, masts


  • D a n i s h C o mm u n i s t s s e n t t o j a i l

    Dec 22

    The East German spies

    were sentenced to five

    years in prison. During

    the trial, prosecutors

    accused the spies of

    brainwashing orphans

    and turning them into

    military fighters.

    One of the kids, whom the

    press began to call Baby

    Ricky on account of

    his tan skin, testified

    that the Communists had

    strapped lights to his

    eyes and made him blink

    in Morse code in order

    to communicate with the

    other children.

  • g e o c i t i e s a d d r e s sbaccamMB wishes he were a little

    bit taller. He wishes he were

    a baller. He wishes he had a

    girl, he would call her.

    t h e n ewg r a vy c a k e . c o mknezovich

    Language and story play a major

    role in SKs work. Through a

    process of deconstruction,

    juxtaposition, and addition

    by subtraction, each piece

    is an attempt to recreate

    meaning, tell a story, and

    resurrect a forgotten piece

    of our printed past.

    s a t e l l