On “Strange Gifts”

On the story “Strange Gifts,” published in decomP, November 2012.

I wrote this story sometime in winter of 2011. In it, a young citizen of  a fictional empire encounters floating canisters containing propaganda from a distant civil war and finds ways of capitalizing on their contents, wondering now and then where the canisters come from, who they were really meant for, and what psychological purpose they were meant to serve.

Someone asked if my inspiration for the parachuting canisters came from the book/movie Hunger Games. Apparently, in it, something similar happens.

The story is ripped out of similar historical events. Dispersed propaganda  is a feature of any empire, but it was especially prevalent during the Cold War, when proxy-nations became the frontlines on a war of ideologies.  Americans handed out Hershey’s bars in Vietnam and the Korean War. Japanese  floated leaflets to African American soldiers, reminding them of the racist atrocities of their own country. Today, the U.N parachutes propaganda into third world countries, like cheese, cigarettes, Christmas cards, and women’s negligee. During the propaganda wars between Taiwan and China, some of the parachuted canisters from Kinmen floated all the way to Iraq and Israel.

I wondered how the children, kept ignorant of the proxy-wars of the Cold War, might wake-up to the sound of metal canisters knocking against their windows.