Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction

by Paul Brians

Nuclear Holocausts Bibliography: E

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Eco, Umberto. The Bomb and the General. Illus. Eugenio Carmi. Tr. from the Italian by William Weaver. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989.
A beautifully illustrated but silly picture book for children telling how the benign atoms leave bombs which the evil general plans to drop on the world, rendering the bombs harmless. When his planned attack fizzles, disarmament ensues and the general becomes a lowly hotel doorman "Because now he was of no importance at all." Paints a threatening picture of the danger of nuclear war and then resolves it though whimsy that would not reassure any child old enough to understand the text.

Edmonson, G. C. and C. M. Kotlan. The Takeover. New York: Ace, 1984.
A political thriller in which an American grain embargo triggers a Russian oil embargo, creating a crisis which brings the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust. A bomb destroys the Latin American city of Flyville, and the Russians announce they have planted atomic weapons in major American cities. The government capitulates and the U.S. is occupied by Russian troops; but at a news conference, the president announces he is calling on the Trident submarine force to maintain resistance, and shoots himself. The subs station themselves near cities the Russians wish to spare. When one of them is attacked, it fires a missile at the USSR, doing little damage, but impressing the leadership. The Russians withdraw as their allies fall away from them in droves. Much of the novel concentrates on the gas shortage caused by the crisis and on the problems of illegal immigrants from Mexico.

Edwards, Malcolm. "After-Images" (Interzone 4, Spring 1983). In John Clute, Colin Greenland, and David Pringle, eds. Interzone: The First Anthology: New Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. London: Dent, 1985. New York: St. Martin's Press, [1986].
Nuclear bombs exploded around a Greek island cause an anomaly resulting in the slowing of time, so that the wave front of the explosion advances slowly, day by day, toward the people trapped inside the anomaly. Two Englishmen penetrate the barrier between their isolated world and the outside. One dies, the other somehow finds himself back in England, in yet another anomaly, waiting for the end. The concept is fantastic, but the story is highly effective.

Edwards, Peter. Terminus. London: Macmillan, 1975. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1976.
In 2139, after two nuclear wars have destroyed three-quarters of the Earth, a repressive bureaucracy dominates Eurafrica. Disillusionment with science has led to a revival of various forms of religion and superstition, and there is a plot to assassinate a religious leader. Much of the novel is set in a Martian prison camp, where excavations uncover a ten-thousand-year-old city whose secrets are still undiscovered when it is destroyed. However, its discovery prompts a myth that it was designed by aliens bent on denying the violent human race access to outer space. The popular opinion is: "They were a celestial judiciary, and woe betide man if he was found wanting. Their ships would sweep low over Earth and envelope Eurafrica in fire and brimstone, nuclear catharsis Sodom-and-Gomorrah style."

Egleton, Clive. The Judas Mandate. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1972. London: Coronet, 1976. New York: Coward, McCann, 1972. New York: Pinnacle, 1974. Sequel to Last Post for a Partisan.
When the Russians, embroiled in a conflict with China, are forced to withdraw their troops, Garnett becomes involved in a plot to free six political prisoners to form a government in exile. Early in the book he visits the devastated region in which his wife and child were killed by an H-bomb.

___. Last Post for a Partisan. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1971. London: Coronet, 1976. New York: Coward McCann, 1971. New York: Pinnacle, 1974. Sequel to A Piece of Resistance .
Dane turns out to be alive after all. She and Garnett find and kill a cell of Russian counterspies.

___. A Piece of Resistance. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1970. London: Coronet, 1976. N.Y.: Coward-McCann, 1970. New York: Pinnacle, 1974. Sequels: Last Post for a Partisan and The Judas Mandate.
This is the first of a series of three novels in which an agent named Garnett does battle with collaborators and invaders in a postwar Britain ruled by the Russians. He gets involved with a beautiful woman named Dane, and she joins the team that he leads in an assault on a prison. At the end of the novel, he is told she has panicked and committed suicide when she thought she might be apprehended. Little is said about the nuclear war in any of these three novels, and remarkably little about the Russians; most of the energy of the resistance is concentrated on collaborators of various stripes.

Eisner, Simon. See Kornbluth, C. M.

Elliott, Charles. The Unkind Light . London: Hamish Hamilton, 1959.
A satire on colonialism set on a fictional Pacific island, focusing on the adventures of a beautiful woman reporter. A revolutionary leader steals an atomic bomb and uses it to destroy the local American military base. The "unkind light" of the explosion reveals the falsity of the views of the colonial administrators.

Elliott, George P. David Knudsen. New York: Random House, 1962.
A story of the responsibility of scientists for their work on the bomb. The narrator's father worked on the Manhattan Project and later becomes the subject of a security investigation; eventually the father commits suicide. The son worries that the expression of his view that his father was wrong to have worked on the bomb may have triggered his death, but this is not clear. The narrator and some of his comrades in the army are caught in the fallout from an H-bomb test and fall ill of radiation disease. Two of the men die of the effects, and the protagonist worries about genetic effects, so that he induces his wife to have an abortion when she becomes pregnant. He experiences depression and a breakdown, then has a romance with a friendly nurse in a rest home.

Elliott, H. Chandler. Reprieve from Paradise. New York: Gnome Press, 1955.
Long after a holocaust, reproduction is insanely encouraged by a dictatorial government which has reduced the average life span drastically and lowered the quality of life in order to maximize the number of children born. (No logical reason is given for this bizarre policy, whose depiction must reflect mid-fifties fears about Catholic opposition to birth control.) Rebels use the threat of tipping the globe off its axis with nuclear bombs, thereby duplicating nuclear blackmail on a grand scale. The novel contains a typical love story. It is rather well written, but flatly incredible in its basic conception.

Ellison, Harlan. A Boy and His Dog (New Worlds, April 1969). In The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World. New York : Signet, 1974. London: Millington, 1976. London: Pan, 1979. Also in Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr, eds. World's Best Science Fiction, 1970. New York : Ace, 1970. Also in Arthur C. Clarke and George W. Proctor, eds. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, vol. 3. New York : Avon, 1982. Also in Walter M. Miller, Jr. and Martin H. Greenberg, eds. Beyond Armageddon: Twenty-one Sermons to the Dead. New York: Donald I. Fine, 1985.
Savage adolescents roam the devastated postwar landscape. The boy and his telepathic dog encounter an attractive young girl from one of the conservative middle-class "downunder" shelters. He is bent on rape, but finds her enthusiastically cooperative. Despite the warnings of Blood, his dog, who senses something amiss, the boy pursues her to underground Topeka, where he learns she was sent to lure him into becoming a stud to impregnate downunder women threatened by sterility. She has learned to want him, however, and together they kill much of her family and run off. In the end his loyalty to Blood takes precedence: the girl is killed so that the dog will not die of starvation. This striking example of the grotesque in contemporary science fiction was made quite faithfully into a film in 1975. See John Crow and Richard Erlich, "Mythic Patterns in Ellison's A Boy and His Dog, " Extrapolation 18 (1977): 162-66. Made into a movie, 1975. [More, More, & More]

___. "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" (If, March 1967). In I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream. New York: Pyramid, 1967. Also in Alone Against Tomorrow: Stories of Alienation in Speculative Fiction. New York: Macmillan, 1971. Also in The Fantasies of Harlan Ellison. Boston: Gregg, 1979. Also in Stephen V. Whaley, ed., Man Unwept. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974. Also in Thomas Durwood and Armand Eisen, eds. Masterpieces of Science Fiction. Berkeley: Ariel, 1978. Also in Eric S. Rabkin, ed. Science Fiction: A Historical Anthology. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1983. Also in H. Bruce Franklin, ed. Countdown to Midnight: Twelve Great Stories About Nuclear War. New York: DAW, 1984.
The supercomputers built to run World War III merged and took over, killing all humanity except for one woman and four men who are kept underground and tormented because the computer realizes it is only a useless machine. The protagonist kills the other men and is remolded into a gelatinous monster unable to die. This is one of the finest nuclear war stories ever written. See Harlan Ellison: "Memoir: I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream," Starship 39 (1980): 6-13. Rept. Martin H. Greenberg, ed. Fantastic Lives (Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1981): 1-14.

___. "Phoenix" (originally "Phoenix Land," If , March 1969). In The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World. New York: Signet, 1974. London: Millington, 1977.
In this twist-ending story an expedition from a future Atlantis seeks a lost city said to have recently risen from the waves--the fabled (and radioactive) ruins of New York.

___. "Soldier" (Fantastic Universe, October 1957). In From the Land of Fear. New York: Belmont, 1967. Also in Leo P. Kelley, ed. Themes in Science Fiction: A Journey into Wonder. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972.
Radioactive beam weapons bounce a soldier fighting in Great War VII back to a city of the 1950s where he first wreaks havoc and then becomes an eloquent spokesman warning of future wars. A 1964 television script based on the story also printed in From the Land of Fear has a less optimistic ending, as the soldier is blasted back into the future to be killed.

___. "The Very Last Day of a Good Woman" (originally "The Last Day," Rogue, November 1958). In Alone Against Tomorrow: Stories of Alienation in Speculative Fiction. New York: Macmillan, 1971. Also in Ellison Wonderland. New York: Paperback Library, 1962. [New York]: Bluejay 1984.
A man who has psychic knowledge that the world is about to end is desperate to have sex with a woman for the first time. His quest ends in the arms of a prostitute to whom he hands his life savings ($4,000) just before they are both turned to ash. Presumably a nuclear war has broken out, but it is conceivable that the sun has gone nova.

___. "The Voice in the Garden" (Lighthouse , June 1967). In From the Land of Fear. New York: Belmont, 1967. Also in Isaac Asimov, Martin Harry Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander, eds. Microcosmic Tales: 100 Wondrous Science Fiction Short-Short Stories. New York: Taplinger, 1980.
The last couple left after the holocaust are named--for a change--Eve and George.

Ellison, Harlan and Robert Scheckley. "I See a Man Sitting on a Chair, and the Chair is Biting His Leg" (Fantasy and Science Fiction, January 1968). In Harlan Ellison. Partners in Wonder. New York: Ace, 1983. Also in Robert Sheckley. The Robot Who Looked Like Me. New York: Bantam, 1982.
First the good news: World War III didn't kill many people. Now the bad news: it did kill most of the plants, and since fear of the war produced overpopulation, famine threatens constantly. But there is more good news: radiation has created mutated plankton called "goo" which can be made into a universal and highly nutritious food. More bad news: its gatherers sometimes develop bizarre symptoms. Good: the particular symptom developed by the protagonist is that he becomes irresistible to women. Bad: he is irresistible to inanimate objects as well; and when he spurns their advances, they turn on him. A piece of whimsy concocted to fit the arbitrarily chosen title.

Emshwiller, Carol. "Day at the Beach" (Fantasy and Science Fiction, August 1959). In Judith Merril, ed. 5th Annual Edition: The Year's Best S-F. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1960. New York: Dell, 1961. Rpt. as The Best of Science Fiction 5 . London: Mayflower, 1966. Also in Judith Merril, ed. SF: The Best of the Best. New York: Delacorte, 1967. New York: Dell, 1968. Also in Leo P. Kelley, ed. Fantasy: The Literature of the Marvelous. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974. Also in Walter M. Miller, Jr. and Martin H. Greenberg, eds. Beyond Armageddon: Twenty-one Sermons to the Dead. New York: Donald I. Fine, 1985.
In the postwar suburbs, commuting consists of harrowing train rides to loot the ruined city and the struggle among the passengers to plunder each other. The few survivors cower in their houses as vicious gangs roam the streets. A hairless couple and their retarded, hair-covered son try to revive the old custom of Saturday trips to the beach. The husband wants to make love, but the wife resists, fearing pregnancy in a world of birth defects and without doctors. When three punks try to rob them of their gasoline cache, the father kills one with a hammer, and drives the others away with his gun. Much of the rest of the afternoon is spent searching for the retarded boy, who has wandered off. All in all, however, muses the mother, "We had a good day." "I wonder if it really was Saturday."

Engel, Leonard and Emanuel S. Piller. World Aflame: The Russian American War of 1950. New York: Dial, 1947. According to the dust jacket, a portion of the book appeared originally in Reader's Scope magazine, of which Piller was editor.
A short but detailed and carefully researched account of a devastating war between the two superpowers involving biological as well as nuclear weapons. Dedicated "to all those who realize that another war can be only a disastrous adventure which may lead to personal, national and world suicide . . . with the earnest hope that their numbers will multiply swiftly and that their influence will keep this story from ever being truly prophetic." Written in the form of an official report by a radio newsman. May 14, 1950, after a border air clash, the U.S. strikes first against the USSR with nuclear weapons, by plane; but this act fails to halt the Russian army from marching west and south. The U.S. forms a hasty alliance with recently conquered Germany, an act that alienates most of its former allies. The Russians survive partly because they have decentralized their industry. They use gas, but ineffectively. U.S. atomic bombing goes on for months. Again, America is the first to introduce a weapon into the conflict: a biological toxin to ruin Russian crops. Suddenly the Russians drop atomic bombs on five major U.S. cities, some from sub-launched missiles. The reporter vividly narrates the aftermath in Chicago, borrowing details from John Hersey's Hiroshima (1946). There is one striking original image: mannequins blown out of Marshall Field's display windows are difficult to distinguish from the corpses littering the street. In those cities not hit, panic strikes as the fleeing population jams the streets. To keep up war production, martial law is imposed and news is strictly censored. Elections are cancelled. Strict rationing is imposed (creating a thriving black market and demand for the rental of chairs to be used while waiting in the interminable lines), gas masks are required, water is short, the mail and telephone services function poorly. The population is forced to do compulsory labor in underground factories. The irony of losing one's liberty in order to fight for it is underlined. A "counter-bomb" rocket is used against the Russians with limited success; it works only against planes, not missiles. An errant test rocket hits El Paso and panics the city. The Russians fail to destroy Canadian uranium mines, but the Americans fail to invade Russia in the Arctic. With most nuclear weapons exhausted, the battle shifts to biological agents: wheat rust, "Russian flu," plague, cholera, cattle disease, cancer, and polio viruses. The USSR turns on Great Britain, which surrenders, its empire rapidly falling to pieces. An uprising in South Africa is suppressed. Radioactive dusts are used in the last phase of the war, causing innumerable miscarriages and foreshadowing mutations to come. It is predicted that there will never be a return to the prewar world, but the struggle continues with faint hope for peace.

Erdman, Paul E. The Crash of '79. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1976. New York: Pocket Books, 1977. London: Sphere, 1982.
In this complex thriller of international finance, the shah of Iran builds atomic bombs with the aid of the Swiss and plans to use them to conquer most of the Middle East in the 4-Day War which begins March 19, 1979. The Saudis catch his planes on the ground and explode the bombs in situ . The designer of the bombs, as part of a plot to protect Israel, has jacketed them with cobalt, and their explosion renders Iran a radioactive wasteland. The Western economies having been wrecked by Saudi meddling and the cut-off of oil from the devastating Arab states completes the destruction of civilization.

Etchison, Dennis. "The Fires of Night." In William F. Nolan, ed. The Pseudo-People: Androids in Science Fiction. Los Angeles: Sherbourne, 1965.
Humans battle androids in the postnuclear world.

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