June 05, 2014

The First Of Many

The year is 1979 or 1980.  The place is Duckford.  Wonderduck has been friends with Vaucaunson's Duck for roughly a year, and there'd been a lot of Fight In The Skies played in that time, with more still to come.  The game is fun, challenging and exciting, but Wonderduck wants to know more about the planes of World War I... because doesn't everybody?  The library at QS Trotter Elementary School has practically nothing on the topic, of course.  Which means that purchasing is the only recourse, and herein lies a problem.  Problem #1: Wonderduck is 10 years old, and has no income of any sort.  Problem #2: Momzerduck and I are... not to put too fine a point on it... poor.  Duckford is in the midst of a deep Recession, either a hangover from the nationwide '75 one or the beginnings of the crushing early '80s failure (note: Duckford was a factory town... emphasis on was.  They went away in this time).  Money was very tight indeed... often it came down to "heat, light, food: choose two."

Which just goes to show how great a mom Momzerduck was... she made it work, somehow.  Yes, times were tight, but she never complained where I could hear her and things always came out okay in the end.  Looking back at it, it must have been hell for her, and here comes lil' Wonderduck, wondering if he could get something frivolous like a book on World War I airplanes. 

I don't know that that's how it went down.  It was 35 or so years ago, after all, but if it wasn't exactly like that, it must have been pretty close.  But sometime not long afterwards, a trip to Royal Hobby occurred that ended up with me leaving with a book on airplanes from the beginnings of flight through 1918.  And did I read the hell out of that book.  It wasn't a children's book, oh no.  It had a good basic history of flight at the origins, the names and figures involved, and then it got into facts and figures of planes famous and failed... the entry on the Phillips Multiplane set my brain a-racin', trying to figure out how anybody would think that'd work.  Of course, things like aerodynamics weren't as well known then as they are now, but I was just a kid.  So I kept reading, over and over, until I practically had that book memorized.

And then I grew up.  The games of FITS stopped.  High school happened, and it sucked.  Then college, getting kicked out of grad school, and the real world came a-callin'.  Somewhere along the way, the book disappeared, probably into the trash one way or another.  Other interests came and went, or came and stayed, and I simply... forgot.

The end.  No happy ending here, folks.  It doesn't work that way in real life, I'm afraid.  It's gone.


Really?  You believed me?  C'mon, this is Wonderduck we're talking about here... of course there's more to it than that.  A couple of weeks ago, I was cruising Amazon when, in the "suggested for you" box, there was a book... a book that looked familiar.  The cover looked right.  The shape seemed right.  Couldn't get a look at the insides, but I ordered it anyway.

Last Friday, it arrived.  I opened it up to a random page... and began to weep manly tears.  Tears of joy, tears for my long-departed youth, tears of remembrance, they all ran down my face as I looked at the picture of the Siemens-Schuckert DIII, with the "LO!" on the side that I remembered so clearly.  I had found The Book.

I have hundreds of military history books now.  My entire collection could easily be said to be resting on the "shoulders" of this one.  The First of Many. 

It's an amazing thing, if you think about it.  A book I hadn't really thought of in 25 years or more just shows up, I order it from a bookshop in England, it makes its way to me in less than a week... and it's the very title I owned in 1980. 

I love living in the future.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:49 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
Post contains 699 words, total size 5 kb.

1 That reminded me of a similar sort of book that I remember fondly from my childhood.  I looked it up... Complete Book of World War II Combat Aircraft and it turns out its by the same authors as your book!  Amazon has it listed as published in 2000, but that must be a later printing, because I definitely had it well before then.  I remember the huge, beautifully detailed 3-view illustrations of each aircraft... which were later re-used in the manual for the 1992 flight simulator Aces of the Pacific.  Ah, for the days when computer games came with thick, color printed manuals... that takes me back.

Posted by: flatdarkmars at June 06, 2014 06:40 AM (0h1CL)

2 The future is, every now and then, truly wonderful.

I actually still have the Astronomy Made Simple book my folks bought me when I was still a kid in NYC (so, late 70s, I was about 5). I should probably look through that to see if there's anything useful before I try to pick up KSP again...

Posted by: GreyDuck at June 06, 2014 07:24 AM (CUkqs)

3 I've been trying to find my first book on combat aircraft.  I suspect it was a takeoff on Jane's, but when I had the book as a youngster I didn't know what Jane's was.  It was one of those tiny pocket books, hardcover, that was more a miniature history of combat aircraft through the sixties than a spotter's guide.  I cannot remember what the name of the book was; only that it was bright orange with a couple of airplanes on the cover.

Son of a gun, I just found it.

Posted by: Ben at June 06, 2014 12:44 PM (S4UJw)

4 Ben, buy it!  Buy it now!  You'll be surprised how good it feels.

GD, just keep the noisy part pointed down, and the pointy part up and you'll be fine.  If you get the two reversed, well, you will not be going to space today.

FDM, a wonderful game!  I sucked at it, but a wonderful game!

Posted by: Wonderduck at June 06, 2014 06:51 PM (T367D)

5 Am I the only one here who put his time in on Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe? (and before that, Battle of Britain...)

Still unpacking books after my latest move. I think I've still got that Max Hastings history of the Falklands War around here somewhere.

Posted by: Avatar at June 06, 2014 08:48 PM (zJsIy)

6 A buddy of mine has a couple of books about Japanese experimental aircraft from WWII. (Link) I thought he had one on German planes, but I guess it isn't ready yet.

Posted by: Mauser at June 07, 2014 03:34 AM (TJ7ih)

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