Cover

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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7

Contents

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pp. 8-9

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Introduction

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pp. 1-8

The time is one year in the near future. An American professor of physics returns to his hometown after a nuclear war to find it completely flattened. The aggressors are unknown; they are simply the “people with bombs and planes.”1 It seems as if civilization itself has been ...

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Chapter 1. The Atom—From H. G. Wells to Leo Szilard

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pp. 9-23

The discovery of radioactivity in the 1890s would qualify as beginning what Thomas Kuhn calls a paradigm shift in scientific knowledge. In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions he uses the term “paradigm” to signify the set of beliefs shared by scientific communities and asks the ...

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Chapter 2. The Dawn of the Atomic Age— The Bomb and Hiroshima

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pp. 24-41

We have seen that as soon as novels attempted to describe nuclear war, ambiguities and tensions began to emerge between the destructive capability of the new bombs and the utopian hopes invested in radioactivity as an energy source. The title of this chapter borrows from the ...

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Chapter 3. The Debate over Nuclear Refuge

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pp. 42-61

The atomic bombing of Japanese cities not only triggered a whole series of narratives that attempted to describe those events, but it also served a symbolic function throughout the Cold War, which was dominated by fear of nuclear war. Only Hiroshima (and of course Nagasaki, ...

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Chapter 4. Do-It-Yourself Survival

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pp. 62-74

In fiction dealing with civil defense, an important dimension of self-help supplemented the activities of local organizations, and Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon is a classic in this field. Never out of print since its original publication in 1959 (and 1960 adaptation for the television series ....

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Chapter 5. Philip Wylie on the State of the Nation

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pp. 75-94

Although he was one of America’s most popular writers of the 1940s and 1950s, Philip Wylie is not widely read today. During the Cold War, however, he was an important commentator on the fears of nuclear war, and his fiction from this period, especially the novels Tomorrow! and ...

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Chapter 6. Cultural Cycles in Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz

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pp. 95-111

We have seen in the fiction of Philip Wylie the fascination with the “prospect of the postholocaust social collapse.”1 Indeed, without making any of his works overtly religious, Wylie’s favored stance as a writer was that of a latter-day Jeremiah, grimly warning the nation of its ...

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Chapter 7. The Pathology of Warfare in Bernard Wolfe’s Limbo

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pp. 112-129

Once the Soviet Union demonstrated that it possessed an atom bomb in 1949, the nuclear arms race got under way, and there was real danger that such atomic weapons might be used against China during the Korean War, as General Mac-Arthur recommended in 1951. The following year ...

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Chapter 8. Push-Button Holocaust in Mordecai Roshwald’s Level 7

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pp. 130-146

In Limbo Bernard Wolfe expressed sardonic doubts about a technologized defense system running out of control. One of that novel’s main ironies lies in the complete inability of the protagonist to affect not only political events but even the fate of his own notebooks. We turn ...

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Chapter 9. Whales, Submarines, and The Bedford Incident

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pp. 147-162

The action in Level 7 was almost entirely subterranean, the underground bunker suggesting not only refuge but a distancing from real-life consequences. We turn now to a surface narrative. Mark Rascovich’s 1963 novel The Bedford Incident draws on the American tradition of hunt ....

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Chapter 10. Nuclear Safety Procedures in Fail-Safe

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pp. 163-180

It is one of the major premises of this study that the nuclear bomb is not a single object, however feared, but the most dramatic weapon within a whole military system. We have seen how Mordecai Roshwald satirizes the dehumanizing effects of such a system because it reduces the ...

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Chapter 11. Uncovering the Death Wish in Dr. Strangelove

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pp. 181-198

Where Fail-Safe focuses on technological malfunction, one of the most famous treatments of the U.S. nuclear defense system engages with human failings. Dr. Strangelove gives particularly bizarre expression to what had become known as the “mad man” scenario, where an individual ...

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Chapter 12. Mapping the Postnuclear Landscape

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pp. 199-214

Narratives of nuclear war regularly evoke it as a massive rupture that might or might not open up possibilities of survival. Because the normal continuity to life has been so damaged, these novels describe attempts by characters to decode the shattered landscape in an attempt to ...

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Chapter 13. Future Reportage on World War III

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pp. 215-230

In one form or another, all the narratives examined in this volume have dealt with war. In many cases the duration of combat is telescoped into a single day known variously as “X-Day,” “Doomsday,” or just “The Day.” However, the Cold War also saw the emergence of a ...

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Chapter 14. Beyond the Cold War

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pp. 231-239

The 1980s marked the last major wave of fiction dealing with nuclear war. Once the Soviet Union collapsed, the Cold War ended. But of course nuclear weapons continued to exist. A number of novels were published over the following decades that still address the nuclear threat ...

Notes

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pp. 243-271

Bibliography

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pp. 272-286

Index

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pp. 287-299