The author comments on Moonfall

   Back in the forties, when the rains were fresher and the world had clearer definition, I fell in love with the radio show, CBS Was There.

   The show used a team of reporters to cover various historical events. Everything is now as it was then, except that CBS was there. "Now we take you to Mike Rafferty, who's with Alexander in the center of the Macedonian line just west of Arbela." I loved it. I was on the spot when Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, and when Crazy Horse described how he was going to ride down on Custer. I was with Caesar (though not too close) when the conspirators attacked. I remember being chilled by Aaron Burr's detachment when a reporter interviewed him before the shootout with Hamilton. Occasionally, as in real life, correspondents died. One, I recall, was trampled by Hannibal's elephants, although he kept broadcasting until he was overwhelmed by the rumble and cut off. We regret we've temporarily lost contact, the studio informed us smoothly. (They didn't call their people anchors then.) They expected to be back with their man momentarily. But their man was oatmeal and I knew it.

   Later the show changed its name to You Are There. And eventually it acquired Walter Cronkite as its anchor man and more or less simultaneously made the jump to television, where it was considerably less effective. The theater of the mind, as we like to say, was replaced by cheap sets and occasional wandering stage hands.

   But the electricity generated by a team of reporters covering a dramatic event was simply undeniable. It was probably inevitable that I'd eventually pay my tribute to that exquisite, if forgotten, show.

   So I set up my anchor desk and hired a few good journalists, warning them that not all should expect to return from their assignments. I added some headlines, tossed in Crossfire, a talk-show host and the Newshour, and set them to covering a story of appropriate dimensions: It's the end of the world, and it's on CNN.


First appeared in the SFWA Bulletin, Summer 1999
Copyright © 1999, Cryptic, Inc.


An excerpt from Moonfall