IN WAR TIMES, (Tor, May 2007, ISBN 13: 978-0-765-31355-3) is set, partially, in the Pacific (Honolulu and Oahu, the Big Island, and Midway) during the early sixties. Her father was then inspecting the setups for the new IBM system, the DEW line, which were also used by the newly-formed NASA. It has starred reviews from Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist.
"IN WAR TIMES is a novel of great historical reach -- from the Battle of the Bulge to the Kennedy assassination and beyond -- and profound ambition, expressed with an unmistakable ease of execution and a master's sureness of touch. Kathleen Goonan has come through to the kind of control that makes every startling fresh development, and this novel bristles with astonishing moments of development, seem inevitable. Not only does Goonan know that Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie changed the world, she understands that every vision of the future conceals a deep yearning for one's own specific past. That's real wisdom."
"Thank you for
sending me In War Times. I enjoyed it very much. The protean Hadntz device
brought to mind Greg Benford's "Timescape" (still to my mind the best and only
truly scientific time travel novel); but also Marge Piercy's "Woman On The Edge
Of Time". Not to mention, for a highly contrasting view of the WWII experience,
"Gravity's Rainbow", which fortuitously I'm also reading at the moment. Kathleen
Ann Goonan goes against the grain of a lot of 21st century sf by using sci-fi
tools to create serious novels of ideas, and she's done it again: this is a
truly humanist, and feminist, take on what's important for our future."
Goonan has done it again--infused her fiction with both a deep understanding of
emerging technologies and the yearnings and perfidities of the human heart. IN
WAR TIMES is a labor of love, a fact made evident on every page by the immediacy
of its characters. I feel like I know these people. It's a darn good story,
too, that will keep you up well past bedtime."
"A complex, low-key, thoughtful and often dazzling journey through worlds that might, and perhaps should, have been."
Reviews, Starred Review
"She [Goonan] can take all the credit for a narrative that has hardly a single flaw of pacing, setting, or characterization, and will be intelligible, not to say fascinating, to readers far beyond the ranks of World War II buffs. An authentic classic."
"Paralleling the evolution of modern jazz with the creative ferment of science, Goonan delivers a bravura performance."
--Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review
Kathleen Ann Goonan comments:
In a many ways, I’ve been writing IN WAR TIMES for most of my life. The novel had its genesis in the war stories of my father, Thomas E. Goonan, a veteran of World War II.
When I was born, in 1952, the War was over, at least on paper. Germany had been divided in a series of ad-hoc agreements. My father, whose college education in chemical engineering at the University of Dayton had been interrupted by international politics, resumed his education, at Purdue rather than at the University of Dayton, and finished his degree as an electrical engineer. My mother, who had flown for the Civil Air Patrol and worked for Dow Chemical during the forties, sold the small plane she and some friends owned and got married. At that time, my father was well into a career as a fire protection engineer, following in the footsteps of his father, who had first sprinklered the Grand Hotel on Macinac Island.
I was born six years after the end of the War, and its shadow lingered. I knew it had been a terrible War and an exciting War and that its end released the world in a burst of great light. I gathered that we were now living in interesting times, that an image of superimposed ellipses around which dashed small dots meant to be electrons illustrated the font of all being, and that all would be good, henceforth and evermore, because the War had been fought, the War had been won, and the War was over.
But the War was not over. The War was in the chairs, rounded and tucked in the lines of the thirties, when war was accreting like leaves in a stream lodged by the current against implacable rocks. The War was in the black and white photographs of my father in uniform on my parent's dresser. It was on the bookshelves and in the acrid pages of old newspaper clippings I found in trunks, in the books I found and read at my paternal grandparent's house--books like Boots and Her Buddies, Nina and Skeezix, illustrated by pictures of German and Japanese spies with narrow, ominous mustache, wearing spectacles that blanked out their eyes. It was in movies, where spies played out their games on those mysterious trains and narrow dark streets which seemed the epitome of Europe, where the ominous two-toned siren of the Gestapo signaled deportation and death.
Walter Cronkite narrated the war on television in a series called The Twentieth Century. Tiny puffs of smoke emerged from rolling valleys; troops marched; the Prudential Company's impressive logo, the Rock of Gibraltar, announced its sponsorship, and my father watched, always leaning against a doorway, never sitting down, gleaning information about what he had been through. Winston Churchill's great tomes proclaimed themselves boldly on the Danish Modern bookshelf he'd built in his basement workshop: The Gathering Storm; Their Finest Hour, The Hinge of Fate. By day, my buddies and I crawled beneath the peony bushes and hid behind the sandboxes in our back yards, carrying machine guns and avoiding Germans. At night, when a tiny bedside light illuminated the fine old well-polished bedstead with carefully turned down sheets at the house of the Knotts, my maternal grandparents, the War was in the shadows, sharp and deep, and in the strange artifacts my uncle Johnny brought back after fighting in North Africa.
When we moved to Hawaii in 1960, my father's job was inspecting the new tracking stations the Navy was installing across the Pacific--stations which would track interballistic missiles and spy satellites--and supervising the fire protection for the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. My friend Joey, who lived next door to us in Onana Nui 3, had turned his small back yard into a battleground stocked with thousands of little green soldiers, who re-fought the battles of WWII.
In 1963, when we moved to a brand-new subdivision just off the Braddock Road exit of the then-under-construction Washington Beltway, I began hearing my father’s stories of World War II in greater detail. He told them on Friday and Saturday nights as he sat at the dining room table reading, playing solitaire, and listening to jazz on the radio. If it was summer, the windows were always open, and the soothing susurration of leaves in the wind whispered beneath his words. It occurs to me now that the War, at that time, had only been "over" for a blink of an eye, historically speaking.
For the next fifteen years, my father worked for various government entities--the Navy, then the Veteran's Administration, and then the GSA. He retired from government when my youngest sister graduated from college, opened his own branch of a fire protection consulting firm, and worked on projects like the historical renovation of South Street Seaport, Baltimore's Inner Harbor, and the Furness Library in Philadelphia. His war stories were still constant; he and my mother attended many Army Reunions, and he and his Army buddy, John Wallace, visited one another frequently.
I have since learned that the War was never really over. The men and women and armies and governments which fought the war mostly subsided into a non-combatant status, but our soldiers were sent to Korea and Vietnam in a continuation of the War in other places, other guises. Our economy was based on developing and selling weapons, and our missile and space programs were full of former Nazis. We played with toys made of materials developed during the war. The air raid siren was tested every Wednesday, and we really did hide under our desks, and even children knew that it was ridiculous to do so if the world was going to end. This is not news, but it informed the psyche of my generation, and helped fuel the anti-war protests which began in the Sixties.
IN WAR TIMES begins during World War II. It is a fiction, but the fiction is interleaved with the true war narratives of my father, Thomas Goonan. Some have been transmuted into the fictional lives of the characters, and some, italicized, stand as they were told--snippets, compared to the wealth of stories with which he has provided me.
His war stories are unusual. He had severe myopia, and could not join the Army because of that. However, with over two years of chemical engineering at the University of Dayton and a lot of work in ordnance in Milan, Tennessee, he was able to join an ordnance division after more than a year of perseverance.
He was in Company C of the 610th Battalion. During specialized training at Aberdeen Test Ground, he was schooled in the electronic particulars of the M-9 Fire Director, a top-secret advance made by the Allies with input from the British. They provided the Resonant Cavity Magnetron, a new way of creating shortwave power, for Radio Detection And Ranging , RADAR . The M-9 depended upon a computer developed by Bell Labs which facilitated automatic tracking of a target, removing the necessity of slow ground crew trajectory calculations. It could detect, say, a submarine periscope, rather than just very large objects, like airplanes or ships, which long-wave radar could already do. Coupled with the newly developed Proximity Fuse, which caused a weapon to explode when in the vicinity of the target and eliminated the need to calculate distance and hand-cut a fuse, this new technological development enhanced Allied bombing capabilities and was single-handedly responsible for the cessation of the use of buzz-bombs by the Germans. The last month buzz-bombs were launched, August of 1944, the SCR-584 units set up in England intercepted 100% of the bombs. The Germans did not use them again. One of their most terrifying Vengance Weapons had been rendered useless.
The 610th was stationed in Tidworth, England for a year, where they assembled and tested everything sent by the United States in preparations for the cross-channel invasion.
In January of 1945, they were sent to France, where they waited for the Battle of the Bulge to end. Their caravan of jeeps, trucks of equipment, and four hundred command cars followed right on the heels of the mop-up through France and into Belgium and Holland, pausing only for the soldiers in front of them to take towns.
They crossed into Germany and set up shop in the just-liberated town of Monchengladback, which at that time was called Munchen Gladback, and which the Allies spelled Muchengladbach. The town, along with other the nearby industrial towns of Dusseldorf and Koln, was in ruins, having been targeted for fifty percent destruction.
The 610th set up shop in the Weber Submarine plant, which had lately produced concrete submarines. The Rhine River, fiercely defended, was six miles away. Until the Surrender on May 8, 1945, the 610th supplied American troops with ordnance, and repaired equipment.
Muchengladbach was in the British Sector, and the 610th was under the command of General Simpson. They were therefore not subject to the draconian “anti-fraternization” orders which forbade even the slightest contact between American troops and Germans, and were able to interact with the Germans still living in Muchangladbach, most of which were women and children.
When my father and his friends in Company C opened a Biergarten in the back-yard summer house of their billet on Nuesser Stratten, the neighborhood children pitched in with daily help in return for Cokes and the cigarette butts left from the night before--viable currency at that time, exchangeable for whatever food might be available. The Biergarten was stocked with beer and wine purchased from nearby breweries.
The 610th remained in Muchengladback until late July, 1945. My father was on the last boat out of LeHavre, and it was rumored that Hapman, their CO, was instrumental in making that the last boat, rather than the one that had sailed just before them.
They were to get two weeks leave in the U.S. Then they were to head for the Pacific and set up shop on ships to supply the necessary ordnance for the invasion of Japan. During that interim, Japan surrendered.
The war, however, did not end. As Churchill had foreseen, the Soviet Union continued its aggression and assimilation of territory, and quickly developed an atomic bomb to achieve parity with the U.S. The threat of a nuclear war overshadowed and permeated my childhood. The air raid signal wailed to life every Wednesday at noon, not only to test it, but to keep us aware that we were under constant threat. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the yards and sidewalks were empty of children after school—none of our mothers would let us out to play because we war with the Soviets might erupt at any second. It was an extremely tense time. Perhaps living in Naval Housing on Oahu, playing in a backyard with a view of Pearl Harbor from Aeia Heights, and then living right outside of Washington D.C heightened these apprehensions, but I think that the anxiety was equally distributed throughout the country. People constructed their own little “fallout shelters” in which their family might survive a nuclear blast, and stocked them with survival packages from General Mills. The OSS morphed into the CIA, and there was no shortage of spy narratives. Until the Soviet Union, having squeezed its satellite countries dry during decades of exploitation, collapsed in 1991, the war continued.
And war itself still continues, a costly constant of the human experience.
The characters of IN WAR TIMES are fictional, and no resemblance to real people is intended.
The war stories of my father are real, one man's chronicle of the war, the development of radar, the use of the cavity magnetron to win the war, and his continued involvement with technological advances in his government work. It chronicles the ways in which the U.S. and Soviet governments did not stand down after the unconditional surrender of Germany and the surrender of Japan, and some possible alternatives to the technological and social history of the second half of the Twentieth Century had the wealth of the world not been tied up in an expensive decades-long war of attrition.
You may read Chapter One of IN WAR TIMES online.
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