Under the Shadow
The Atomic Bomb and Cold War Narratives
Publication Year: 2012
Seed discusses classics of the period like Nevil Shute’s On the Beach, but he also argues for recognition of less-known works such as Walter M. Miller’s depiction of historical cycles in A Canticle for Leibowitz, Bernard Wolfe’s black comedy of aggression in Limbo, or Mordecai Roshwald’s satirical depiction of technology running out of human control in Level 7. Seed relates these literary works to their historical contexts and to their adaptations in film. Two prime examples of this interaction between media are the motion pictures Fail-Safe and Dr. Strangelove, which dramatize the threat posed by the arms race to rationality and ultimate human survival.
Seed addresses the attempts made by characters to remap America as a central part of their efforts to understand the horrors of the war. A particular subset of future histories is also examined: accounts of a Third World War, which draw on the conventions of military history and reportage to depict probable war scenarios. Under the Shadow concludes with a discussion of the recent fiction of nuclear terrorism.
Published by: The Kent State University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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...6 Cultural Cycles in Walter M. Millerâs A Canticle for Leibowitz 95...
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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 âpeople with bombs and planes.â1 It seems as if civilization itself has been destroyedâthat is, until a piece of uranium isotope is discovered that releases powerful energy from the thought waves of the individual ...
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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 âparadigmâ to signify the set of beliefs shared by scientific communities and asks the question, Does the world itself change with paradigms? His answer: âOutside the laboratory everyday affairs ...
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We have seen that as soon as novels attempted to describe nuclear war, ambigui-ties 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 rhetoric that came into play to describe the atom bomb once it had been successfully tested. H. Bruce Franklin has shown in ...
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The atomic bombing of Japanese cities not only triggered a whole series of narra-tives that attempted to describe those events, but it also served a symbolic func-tion throughout the Cold War, which was dominated by fear of nuclear war. Only Hiroshima (and of course Nagasaki, which is usually implicitly included in âHi-roshimaâ) could offer any concrete image of the new bombâs destructive capacity. ...
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In fiction dealing with civil defense, an important dimension of self-help supple-mented the activities of local organizations, and Pat Frankâs Alas, Babylon is a clas-sic in this field. Never out of print since its original publication in 1959 (and 1960 adaptation for the television series Playhouse 90), it has remained one of the most widely read novels of nuclear war and yet, paradoxically, one of the least discussed....
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Although he was one of Americaâs 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 pe-riod, especially the novels Tomorrow! and Triumph, offer two of the most graphic Wylieâs studies in psychology and evolutionary biology at Princeton, together ...
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We have seen in the fiction of Philip Wylie the fascination with the âprospect of the postholocaust social collapse.â1 Indeed, without making any of his works overtly religious, Wylieâs favored stance as a writer was that of a latter-day Jer-emiah, grimly warning the nation of its shortcomings. For an explicit engagement with religious issues we turn to Walter M. Millerâs A Canticle for Leibowitz, which ...
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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 Bernard Wolfe published his novel Limbo, which presented a satirical parable on the roots of war in human ...
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In Limbo Bernard Wolfe expressed sardonic doubts about a technologized defense system running out of control. One of that novelâs main ironies lies in the com-plete inability of the protagonist to affect not only political events but even the fate of his own notebooks. We turn now to narratives that describe the consequences of automation for nuclear defense and examine the problematic role of the human ...
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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 Rascovichâs 1963 novel The Bedford Incident draws on the American tradition of hunt narratives, specifically that of Moby-Dick, with consequences vastly greater because of the new Cold War context....
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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 ef-fects of such a system because it reduces the human operative to an extension of the larger machine. One of the main ironies of Level 7 is that no individual ...
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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 âmad manâ scenario, where an individual pathological officer launches an attack on the Soviet Union.1 The United States had introduced psychological ...
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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 understand what has happened. This process involves narrative reconstruction and also exploration of the terrain, since map-...
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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 âX-Day,â âDoomsday,â or just âThe Day.â However, the Cold War also saw the emergence of a quasi-documentary subgenre that described a conduct of the war that was repeatedly imagined but never actually took place. ...
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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 de-cades that still address the nuclear threat but that reflect considerable difficulty in identifying the new enemies of the United States and in setting up speculative ...
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...4. Diacritics 14 (Summer 1984) on nuclear criticism; Science Fiction Studies 13.ii (July 1986) on nuclear war and science fiction; PLL: Papers on Language and Literature 26.i (Winter 5. Derrida, âNo Apocalypse, Not Now (full speed ahead, seven missiles, seven missives),â 7. Hinds and Windt, The Cold War as Rhetoric, 6. The other major study in this area is 10. Dowling, Fictions of Nuclear Disaster; Mannix, The Rhetoric of Antinuclear Fiction....
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Abrash, Merritt. âThrough Logic to Apocalypse: Science-Fiction Scenarios of Nuclear Deter-rence Breakdown.â Science-Fiction Studies 13.ii (1986): 129â38.Agnew, John. âRepresenting Space: Space, Scale and Culture in Social Science.â In Place/Cul-ture/ Representation. Ed. James Duncan and David Ley. London: Routledge, 1993. 251â71.Amis, Martin. Einsteinâs Monsters. London: Jonathan Cape, 1987....
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...âUnder the Shadow provides readers of all ages and interests with wonderful in-depth and thoughtful readings of the many books and films on the horrors of âFrom nuclear submarines plying the Arctic wastes to ordinary citizens building new communities after worldwide devastation, Under the Shadow explores dozens of fictional engagements with the atomic bomb. Lucid and wide-ranging, ...
Publication Year: 2012