Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Commentary On The Free Science Fiction Classic - The Year When Star Dust Fell 1958 By Raymond F. Jones For Your Old School Post Apocalyptic Campaigns

Grab it Right Over
The Year When Star Dust Fell is a juvenile science fiction novel from 1958 from the pen of Raymond F. Jones. The novel is an end of the world novel about a comet that flies over a small city and everything changes!
Here's the blurb from the dust jacket of the book :
That night the comet was the only thing in the whole sky. All the stars were smothered by the light of its copper-yellow flame, and, although the sun had set two hours ago, the Earth was lit as with the glow of a thunderous dawn.
The name of Raymond F. Jones should be familiar to science fiction film fans. He wrote the script for the classic film 'This Island Earth" .
Raymond F. Jones (1915-1994) had an active career that spanned nearly three decades. His most famous work is the novel "This Island Earth" (1952) which in 1955 was made into a movie of the same name. During his career, Jones published over seventy-five stories and a number of novels.
 This is a very dark tale about the breakdown of society in the face of a comet tale that passes through the Earth. Suddenly there is a failure of metal across the world and an almost total breakdown of society. The man character 
Ken Maddox and his father must face down a bevy of looters, mystics, politicians, and others who could spell complete doom for the typical 1950's small town.
 This isn't your typtical juvenile science fiction from the fifties. This little, fast paced tale concerns the conditions that a small town faces in the wake of a passing comet. The situations are surprising real, the ideas here are dark and well thought out.
The book reads surprisingly well for a 1950's science fiction novel and stands up even after all of these years.

Using the Year The Dust Fell For Your Old School Science Fiction or Post Apocalyptic Campaigns

This book has a number of things to recommend it. The science here is fairly sound and the ideas easily adapted. With retroclone games such as X plorers and Stars Without Number the properties of the comet adapted to an old school adventure would keep the players certainly guessing. The technology level hovers just around three for this adventure and even with the properties of technology level instruments of four there is still a real challenge here. The looters, mystics, cranks, and cults might prove to be interesting NPC's to encounter.
I've actually used this book as part of a background for Metamorphosis Alpha. The city in the story was part of a level of the Warden. The passing of the comet disrupted the hologram generators built into the ceiling of the star ship and the effects of the comet were kept the same.
For other post apocalyptic old school games I've used this little known story several times. The challenges of the comet and the formation of several fledgling Cryptic Alliance style organizations resulted from the this particular book.
 The book makes a nice change of pace when a post apocalyptic situation might not call for a life and death challenge for players but one that will keep them guessing.
There are several reasons to use this PD book as background. The book isn't well known anymore, its a great free resource, and it provides a nice window on to an alternative world of folks who are trying to get on. The PC's can stumble into this situation and it makes a great one shot adventure. 

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