Features

  • AMERICA’S MAIN STREET

    What America Can Learn from Route 66

    - Alta Editor at Large Mary Melton searches for a deeper connection with her autistic son—and with a divided country—on a 15-day journey along Route 66.
In what would be the most expensive scene in silent-film history, Buster Keaton constructed a bridge, set it afire, drove a steam train onto it—and then had everything collapse into a river 34 feet below. Keaton had only one chance to get the shot right, and he nailed it.
© BUSTER KEATON PRODUCTION
PERSONAL FAVORITE

Buster Keaton’s Last Stand

Production for The General involved guns, bombs, fires, and the blowing up of a bridge in a tiny Oregon town. When the filming was over, the comedic legend’s career was in tatters. Forty years later, the movie was hailed as a masterpiece.

ILLUSTRATION BY STEVE CARROLL
MADE IN CALIFORNIA

Frost Was a San Francisco Kid

Long before he stopped by woods on a snowy evening, New England’s favorite poet roamed the rough-and-tumble streets of the Barbary Coast.

The San Francisco health department dispatched teams to catch and kill rats by the hundreds of thousands.
THE PLAGUE YEARS

Pandemic Manuals: A History

Pandemics and plagues run deep in the history of the West. Documents from these acute moments provide context and understanding to our situation today.

John F. Kennedy, as a navy lieutenant junior grade, during the time of his romance with Inga Arvad, circa 1942.
FRANK TURGENT/GETTY IMAGES
WEST OF CAMELOT

JFK’s Unlikely Love Story

Danish beauty Inga Arvad was a scoop-driven journalist courted by royalty, the Nazis, and a young Kennedy—before finding peace in the West. A tale of reinvention, redemption, and enduring love.

ILLUSTRATION REPRODUCED COURTESY OF BONESTELL LLC
COVER STORY

The History of the Future

Alta considers the appeal and legacy of science fiction in this special collection of short stories, essays, and articles.

ILLUSTRATION REPRODUCED COURTESY OF BONESTELL LLC
SPECIAL SECTION

First Drafts of the Future

Alta considers the appeal and legacy of a misunderstood form defined by possibilities.

ILLUSTRATION REPRODUCED COURTESY OF BONESTELL LLC
THE BIG PICTURE

Looking Backward from the Future

Relevant to the real world as much as to the worlds it imagines, science fiction has always offered more than is expected.

TIMELINE

The Best of West Coast Science Fiction

Across the decades, these groundbreaking works of West Coast science fiction have shown us where we are and where we might be headed, from speculative postwar histories to cyberspace, the near future, and beyond.

ILLUSTRATION REPRODUCED COURTESY OF BONESTELL LLC
SHORT STORY

A Short Story by Philip K. Dick

Originally published in 1954, this story about a strained relationship and a mysterious cuckoo clock explores themes that helped make Dick such a seminal voice in the science-fiction genre.

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