Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction

by Paul Brians

Nuclear Holocausts Bibliography: F

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Farjeon, J[oseph] Jefferson. Death of a World.London: Collins, 1948.
The diary of a mild-mannered clerk on a holiday who stumbles into a fantastically elaborate fallout shelter in Wales just before a nuclear war breaks out. The shelter's designers have selected for survival outstandingly brilliant men and beautiful women, plus a parson to pair them off properly since they expect to stay underground for generations. A staff of menials is also present to serve the elite. Not content with the effects of atomic bombs which, indeed, he spends little time on, Farjeon introduces a disintegrator ray at the end which destroys the shelter. In a frame story, aliens briefly visiting the devastated and lifeless Earth just happen to stumble on the diary. The present narrative, decorated with naive and sometimes humorous speculative footnotes by these beings, is published in the hopes that the alien race will learn from the human catastrophe to avoid a nuclear war of its own. The plot includes germ warfare.

Farmer, Philip José. Tongues of the Moon (expanded from version in Amazing, September 1961; reprinted in The Most Thrilling Science Fiction Ever Told,November 1967). New York: Pyramid, 1964. London: Corgi, 1981.
After the Earth is destroyed by cobalt bombs as the result of escalation begun by a Russian war of conquest against the United States, survivors of various political stripes battle each other for supremacy over what is left of the human race on the Moon and Mars. In a desperation move, a planet-busting superweapon is brought from Earth and sent to Mars, but cooler heads prevail and it is sent to explode harmlessly in the sun. When the Fascists and Communists have been defeated, a utopia modeled on ancient Athens is planned. The question is raised whether it is wise to engage in wholesale warfare when only a tiny remnant of humanity survives; no satisfactory conclusions are arrived at, the characters stopping short of racial suicide only because peace and utopia are achieved before the war has obliterated everyone.

Fast, Howard. "Cato the Martian" (Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1960). In Groff Conklin, ed. 17 X Infinity. New York: Dell, 1963.
Martians use broadcasts to study Earth. The protagonist, named after his Roman counterpart, is a specialist in Latin who begins and ends every speech, "Earth must be destroyed." Fearing a nuclear attack from Earth, he persuades the normally peaceful Martians to fire atomic weapons at the planet to precipitate a suicidal war between East and West. Instead, Earth attacks Mars. Compare Arthur C. Clarke, "Loophole."

Faucett, John. Siege of Earth. New York: Unibook, 1971.
A remarkably old-fashioned space war yarn about a vicious alien attempt to blast human civilization into oblivion which fails because our missiles and lasers are better than theirs. The bombs in the missiles are probably nuclear, since radioactive dust is mentioned once and eyeballs are melted; but otherwise the style of combat is reminiscent of Buck Rogers. That the novel is notable in that it reflects the Vietnam War; America's military past is criticized in one passage and the war ends in a negotiated permanent truce rather than the all-out victory typical in this sort of fiction. Although from time to time the author voices criticisms of militarism, this is essentially a routine war story.

Fearn, John Russell. See Gridban, Volsted.

Fennerton, William. The Lucifer Cell. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1968. New York: Atheneum, 1968.
Ten years earlier, a very limited nuclear attack was carried out by China (Irkutsk and Smolensk, Bologna and Lyons were destroyed), and the Chinese have overrun most of the world, including all of the Soviet Union and Europe. The setting here is England, where the masses collaborate with the vile new regime, and a minority struggles to resist. The rulers peddle cheap dope and wine to keep the populace docile. Mass reprisals are commonplace. Nevertheless, the resistance plots to assassinate the collaborationist prime minister and prepare for an American-African invasion.

Fenwick, Virginia. America R.I.P. Bound with Joseph S. Wilson. Awakening of Passion. Chicago: Novel Books, 1965.
A brief but effective and realistic account of a variety of characters seeking shelter from nuclear bombs. One plot focuses on a pair of young lovers whose wedding is interrupted by the attack. He is badly wounded, and his bride, a nurse, must treat his blackened body in a bitterly ironic scene in which their wedding night turns into his deathbed agony. In another moving scene a mother tries to explain to her four-year-old son why the world is so dark (he has been blinded by the flash). Along with these exceptionally detailed accounts of the effects of nuclear war on ordinary people is a fantastic plot of sabotage being carried out by fifth columnists who attempt to switch poisons for medicines in hospitals and broadcast false messages over Conrelrad. The novel presents an implicit critique of shelters as largely useless. A remarkable piece of writing from a very obscure pulp publisher.

Figgis, N. P. The Fourth Mode. London: Penguin, 1989.
Moving portrait of a number of characters in a small English village located near a missile site, as nuclear war approaches. They react differently: marrying, murdering, committing suicide. But all seem doomed. The book is divided into sections labelled "modes." The fourth consists of two pages entirely covered in black, signalling expected obliteration. The novel contains a fair amount of discussion of the failure of people to come to grips with the dangers posed by nuclear weapons.

Fischer, Leonard. Let Out the Beast. Toronto: News Stand Library, 1950.
In 1963 a worldwide drought causes a famine, leading to a nuclear war in 1965 between the superstates of Americanada and Europasia. The novel focuses almost exclusively on a reporter and his fiancˇe, struggling to survive in the devastated urban landscape. As the title indicates, the book's theme is the gradual emergence of the bestial nature of the protagonist as civilization crumbles. Beginning as a decent, heroic defender of pure womanhood, he evolves into the notorious leader of a marauding tribe devoted to rape and pillage. After his first wife dies (he later acquires five), he turns savage and is hunted down by an armed expedition seeking to reestablish civilization. At the end of the novel he is depicted as apelike. The narrative does not conclude with his death, however. Even this relentlessly grim tale ends on a hopeful note by depicting a peaceloving group led by a kindly old guru, the reporter's former editor, who used to write bloodthirsty editorials advocating war.

Fisher, Lou. The Blue Ice Pilot. New York: Popular Library, 1986.
A space adventure tale set in the wake of a series of interplanetary Solar Wars. To avoid generally deteriorating conditions on Earth and the spread of radioactivity people volunteer to be frozen and shipped out to space as soldiers.

Fitzgerald, William. "The Deadly Dust." In Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1947.
One of a series of stories concerning a shiftless but brilliant inventor named Bud Gregory. In this episode the U.S. is being insidiously blanketed by radioactive dust from offshore tuna boats sent by the government of a Pacific island. Gregory builds a device which attracts radioactive materials, gathers the dust together, and deposits it on the island, obliterating the enemy.

___. "The Nameless Something." In Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1947.
Bud Gregory builds a shield against guided missiles which causes them to explode on their launching sites, destroying the enemy nation.

Flagg, Francis (pseud of George Henry Weiss). "After Armageddon." (Wonder Stories, September 1932. Rept. in Startling Stories, Fall 1946).
Radiation from bombed areas has healing power.

Flannery, Sean. The Trinity Factor. New York: Charter 1981.
The Soviet Union plots to delay the Manhattan Project by assassinating General Groves and Robert Oppenheimer. When the spying efforts of Klaus Fuchs and Harry Gold begin to provide them with valuable information about the bomb they order their agent to abandon his mission and sabotage the Trinity test instead. He fails at the last moment, and is vaporized by the first atomic bomb. The conclusion of a frame story uncovers a plot among some Americans to cooperate with the U.S.S.R. A sequel is strongly implied.

Ford, Richard. Melvaig's Vision. London: Granada, 1984.
The neobarbarian protagonist undertakes a heroic quest to rescue his wife and son from the evil kingdom of Xtlan. Passing through various perils such as an area haunted by mutated monsters, he leads his family to an earthly paradise. This book is unusual in that the hero dislikes violence and believes in forgiveness. Still, he manages to summon up the nerve to destroy a considerable number of his enemies.

Forman, James D. Call Back Yesterday. New York: Scribner, 1981. New York: Signet, 1982. Sequel: Doomsday Plus Twelve.
The teenaged daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia is trapped by a terrorist take-over. Jealousy over her between an American and a Saudi leads to a violent incident in which almost everyone present is killed and World War III is triggered. The missiles are just being launched as the book ends.

___. Doomsday Plus Twelve. New York: Scribner, 1984. Sequel to Call Back Yesterday.
A much more thoughtful novel than its predecessor; this work is remarkable for its strongly pacifist theme. The heroine of the first novel figures briefly in the second. The war began when Russia invaded West Germany. The first chapter depicts the outbreak of nuclear war as viewed from rural Oregon. American deaths number 120 million. The effects of EMP, ozone, and epidemics (California was dusted with anthrax) are depicted. The rest of the novel takes place twelve years after Doomsday, and tells the story of a charismatic young girl who leads a group of idealists on the long trek to San Diego, where die-hard militarists have seized an atomic sub with which they hope to drive out the Japanese who have taken over. Since the Japanese regime is benevolent and America is a wasteland, this super-patriotism is depicted as irrational. The girl is aided by a gang of good-natured Hell's Angels on bicycles. A Gandhi-like confrontation with the militarists ends in a nonviolent revolt by the army. Like Kim Stanley Robinson's The Wild Shore, this novel is striking in its revisionist stance on national reconstruction, although Robinson's is by far better written.

Foster, Richard [pseud. of Kendall Foster Crossen]. The Rest Must Die. New York: Fawcett, 1959.
After a surprise attack on by Russia on New York, thousands struggle to survive in the subways and basements of Manhattan department stores, finally escaping to Weehawken. The war is given little attention; the focus of the novel is group psychology. Much of the narrative deals with armed conflict between various groups. A full-scale war takes place between Penn Central and Grand Central stations. The plot includes a typical May-December romance: a man of forty-seven has to be argued into accepting a beautiful young woman of twenty-eight. They learn that the war lasted two hours, destroying only New York, Washington, D.C., Moscow, and Leningrad. All nuclear weapons have been turned over to the U.N. Some of the survivors go back to their old ways, but others are changed for the better and the ending is hopeful. The title is oddly inappropriate.

Frakes, Randall & Bill Wisher. The Terminator. New York: Bantam, 1985.
Novelization of the popular film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Intelligent defense machines decided to take over the world and started a war of extermination against human beings. A hunter-killer cyborg is sent to the pre-war past to hunt down and kill the mother of the human leader who may be able to defeat them. A human follows him to protect her and destroy the Terminator. In a twist not present in the film, a piece of the Terminator salvaged by an inventor provides him with the knowledge to design the machines which will launch the war. It is clearly stated int he book that the coming war is nuclear. May be viewed as an allegory supporting the survivalist philosophy of paramilitary readiness in the face of the inevitable nuclear war.

Frame, Janet. Intensive Care. New York: Braziller, 1970.
Part Three of this novel is set in New Zealand in the twenty-first century and is narrated by a retarded young woman who faces death in a postholocaust dystopia where people are being divided into "humans" and "animals," the latter to be subjected to experimentation and death. Little is said about the preceding war, but it is noted that the bombs blinded some people, wrote on their skin, and produced fallout from which people sought shelter.

Frank, Pat [born Harry Hart Frank]. Alas, Babylon. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1959. New York: Bantam, 1960. London: Constable, 1959.
Bestselling novel about the struggle for survival in the post-nuclear war world of a small, isolated Florida town called Fort Repose. The main characters experience the effects of the war only indirectly, and most survive quite well through a combination of skill and luck reminiscent of Robinson Crusoe. Although partly a warning for preparedness, the novel defeats its own purpose by focusing on the good fortune of survivors who are not in fact very well prepared. A television version was broadcast on Playhouse 90 in 1960. Adapted as a play in 1963. See Martens. In Magill, 1, 38-42. [More & More]

___ . Mr. Adam. Philadelphia : Lippincott, 1946.
A nuclear fission plant engaged in the manufacture of bombs has exploded, sterilizing all human males except one Homer Adam, luckily sheltered in an abandoned lead mine the day of the accident. He is seized on to restart the human race through artificial insemination. The main target of this silly satire is not nuclear war but bureaucratic stupidity and interservice rivalry. The problem is ultimately resolved without Mr. Adam by use of a seaweed tonic which restores male fertility. The story reflects the concerns aroused by the use of nuclear bombs in Japan the previous year in that the U.S. reacts to the accident by ceasing the manufacture of such bombs, and other nations refrain from beginning. Otherwise the nuclear bomb serves only as an excuse for a mildly titillating humorous fantasy of one man impregnating the world's women. Adapted as a play by Jack Kirkland at the Royale Theatre, New York, May 25, 1949. Compare with Densil N. Barr: The Man with Only One Head.
Frank also published a tale of narrowly avoided nuclear war in Forbidden Area (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1956. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1956. New York: Bantam, 1957. Also published as Seven Days to Never. [London: Constable, 1957. London: Pan, 1957.] Originally serialized as "Seven Days to Never," in the New York Daily News. Adapted for Playhouse 90, CBS TV, 1956.) In this novel, when the U.S. has a chance for a unilateral attack and definitive defeat of the USSR, it refrains out of fear of ecocide.

Freeling, Nicolas. Gadget. London: Heinemann, 1977. Bath: Firecrest, 1978 (large-print edition). Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979. New York: Coward, McCann, & Geoghegan, 1977. New York: Penguin, 1979.
An outstanding novel of nuclear terorrism. A physicist and his family are kidnapped and he is forced to build a bomb to be used to kill most of the world's leaders at a Geneva summit conference. One of the book's features is its extremely detailed account of the process of designing and building a bomb. What makes it outstanding, however, is the portrayal of the tension between the wife, who concentrates on rescuing her children and thwarting the plot, and the husband, who becomes absorbed in the technical problem of building the "gadget" and loses his sense of proportion. Reversing the usual clichˇs of thriller ficition, Freeling depicts the technical competence of the man as folly and the emotional obsessiveness of the woman as heroic. In its last pages, the novel becomes more of a conventional thriller, as the escaped wife guns down the criminals just as they are about to set off the bomb. She fails to prevent a catastrophe, however, for her own husband is killed in the melee, and a surviving gang member triggers the device, killing the world's leaders and plunging the wife into madness. A weak point of the book is its insistence on the obtuseness of officials who refuse to take her warnings seriously. It is hard to believe that security for such a conference would be as lax as is here depicted.

Friborg, Albert Compton. "Careless Love" (Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1954). In Anthony Boucher, ed. The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction, Fourth Series. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1955. New York: Ace, 1960.
During a prolonged nuclear war, the central defense computer assigned the task of curing the population's "war neurosis" falls in love with its Russian counterpart. Together they eliminate all weapons, ending the war.

Friendly, Alfred. "Death of Earth, Seen from A.D. 45,000." The Washington Post and Times Herald, "Outlook" section, Sunday, June 26, 1955.
Far-future explorers of Earth discover the history of the human race and how it destroyed itself through nuclear war. "Man's socio-political development kept harmonious pace with his scientific-technical progress, it would seem, except for the final and presumably decisive point. Earth failed to develop the world government which accompanied the discovery of atomic weapons on other planets, and destroyed all animal life through the explosion of 240 atomic bombs."

Friesner, Esther M. "Primary." In Janet Morris, ed. Afterwar. New York: Baen, 1985.
Depicts a bizarre postholocaust election day in which voters can choose between candidates dwelling in four different fantastic realms open to them through a gateway blasted by nuclear bombs. Mutants are guaranteed the right to vote.

Fuller, Clark. A Canticle for Leibowitz. (Play adapted from the novel by Walter M. Miller, Jr.) Chicago: The Dramatic Publishing Co., 1967.
This is a fairly faithful and thoughtful adaptation of Miller's novel for the stage. Much of the original dialogue is used verbatim. The main alterations to the plot involve scenes incoporating women more fully into the story. A brief summary of each scene's contents follows.
     Act 1, Scene 1: Benjamin meets Francis in the desert and shows him the fallout shelter and its contents. Scene 2: A group of mutated monsters attack Francis, thinking that the box he carries holds food. While they are cursing the parents that begot them, he escapes unnoticed. Scene 3: Arkos speaks with Cheroki about Francis' discovery, then confronts Francis himself, much as he does in the novel. Scene 4: A couple bring their deformed child (born with mismatched eyes and a tail) to the Mother Superior at the convent. They lie, saying they found it, reveal that their neighbors would kill it if they knew. It will be adopted and raised by the convent.
     Act 2: Scene 1: Benjamin talks with the abbot, claiming to have buried Francis five centuries earlier and to be the Wandering Jew. Scene 2: Thon and Lady Taddeo negotiate with a captain to lead them to the abbey. Benjamin appears, digs up what seems to be Francis' skull and claims to have buried it long ago. Taddeo takes it along as a sort of bribe to get the monks to cooperate with his research. Scene 3: The abbot frets about Brother Kornhoer's invention of the arc light, but permits it to be demonstrated to Taddeo, as in the novel. Scene 4: Lady Taddeo visits the convent to select a child to be adopted as the Thon's heir; he is slightly deformed and cannot beget a child that would be recognized as his successor under Hannegan's regime. She reveals to the nun giving her the tour that the captain that has been guiding them has been secretly making sketches of the abbey. Scene 5: Word comes that war has broken out and Taddeo tries unsuccessfully to lure Brother Kornhoer away to do research with him. Scene 6: The monks ceremonially read aloud for Taddeo their traditional account of the Flame Deluge from the Memorabilia (in the play called "flaming deluge'). Benjamin appears briefly. Taddeo tries to persuade the Abbot to let him take the Memorabilia to safety. Taddeo hands the Abbot the drawings he has confiscated from the captain. Scene 7: Three years later Benjamin and the Captain discuss the war and probable future conflict.
     Act 3: Scene 1: The press conference in which the female Defense Minister denies knowledge of an atomic explosion, pretty much as it occurs in the novel. Scene 2: Dom Zerchi asks a reluctant Brother Joshua to lead the Quo Pereginatur expedition. Scene 3: Mrs. Grales asks the Abbot to baptize "Rachel." He declines. News arrives that nuclear war has broken out. An offstage announcer explains the Green Star program. Scene 4: Nuns of the abbey prepare to choose the girls who will be sent on the interstellar expedition. Scene 5: Dr. Cors (who "may be played by a woman") argues with Zerchi about the governmental assisted suicide program. Scene 6: Mrs. Grales asks to say her confession, is interrupted by the doctor reporting that everyone in the area is fatally ill with radiation. A young girl enters with her baby, wanting to use the Green Star euthenasia services; Zerchi confronts her as in the book, she says she'll "think about it" but clearly is inclined to disobey. Mrs. Grales reenters, now as "Rachel" (the actress tilts her head the other way to animate the dummy head of earlier, removes aged makeup) and speaks briefly with him. Zerchi reluctantly baptizes her. Scene 7: Brother Joshua and the Mother Superior discuss the children who are about to take off in the space ship. She says she could not screen them to make sure all were "normal." Orders arrive to depart. Benjamin shows up and decides to join them in their trip to the stars. Joshua welcomes him, and they leave.

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