Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Nuclear Warfare In Science Fiction

 Novels involving nuclear warfare:

The World Set Free by HG Wells;
On The Beach by Nevil Shute;
Ape And Essence by Aldous Huxley;
Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury;
Twilight World by Poul Anderson (see here).

In CS Lewis' The Hideous Strength, first published in 1945, World Wars I and II "'...were simply the first two of the sixteen major wars which are scheduled to take place in this century.'"
-Lewis, That Hideous Strength (London, 1955), p. 157.

Robert Heinlein predicted "Mutual Assured Destruction" in "Solution Unsatisfactory" and described free men continuing to fight after a nuclear war in "Free Men."

In Isaac Asimov's future history, a far future radioactive Earth probably resulted from a near future nuclear war - although Asimov revised the history later.

In James Blish's A Case Of Conscience, populations wind up living underground in permanent city-sized nuclear air raid "Shelters," even though nuclear war is avoided.

In Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium future history, the Great Patriotic Wars of 2103 end the CoDominium and are followed by the Exodus of the Fleet so they sound like a delayed World War III.

In SM Stirling's Draka timeline, the three major wars of the twentieth century are not numbered but named - the Great War, the Eurasian War and the Final War.

Harry Turtledove describes Anson MacDonald (Robert Heinlein) fighting on after Stirling's Final War.

In Alan Moore's V For Vendetta, "England prevails" under fascist rule after opting out of a nuclear exchange whereas, in the same author's Watchmen, a faked inter-dimensional invasion prevents a nuclear war.


  1. Paul:
    One oddity I'd like to mention, relevant to what you cited about the Draka timeline, is that L. Sprague de Camp, in a number of non-fiction essays, displayed the quirk of referring to World Wars I and II by the names "the Kaiserian War" and "the Hitlerian War."

    I can't say I think these are good phrasings, because they imply blaming the entirety of each war on one man and ignoring all the other major players. WWI was a suicide pact between MOST of the powers of Europe, what with how eagerly so many rushed to fulfill their mutual-defense treaties. Too, I believe Japan would still have done horrific things in Asia in the '30s and '40s with or without Hitler. (They MIGHT have been a bit more restrained if no one else was preoccupying the Europeans and U.S.)

    1. Hi, David!

      I agree with what you said about WW I being, in essence, Europe's suicide pact. My only qualifier being to point out that many leaders of the major powers didn't WANT a war--but somehow they failed to prevent war or actually felt unable to do so.

      Yes, the degraded form of the old knightly code of Japan which became dominant there after about 1914 did lead Japan to do truly horrific things.


  2. Hi, Paul!

    I would have included Pat Frank's ALAS, BABYLON (1959) in your list of novels treating nuclear war. And Poul Anderson's TWILIGHT WORLD, dealing with the results of a nuclear war also comes to mind.

    Yet another book by Poul Anderson comes to mind, this time his non fictional study of nuclear conflict: THERMONUCLEAR WARFARE.


    1. Sean,
      There are many other works, of course. I am not familiar with ALAS, BABYLON. I left out TWILIGHT WORLD because I was listing Anderson titles in the Poul Anderson Appreciation post that links to this one.

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      Understood! I mentioned Pat Frank's book because it was, I believe, one of the earlier fictional treatments of nuclear war. And, IMO, a good one.

      And, yes, I think it makes sense that the Great Patriotic Wars which brought down the Co-Dominium in Pournelle's future history was a delayed WW III. The Co-Dominium took form in that alternative 1990 as a rather desperate attempt by the US and USSR to both moderate their suspicions of each other and to prevent new rivals from challenging them.