Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction

by Paul Brians

Nuclear Holocausts Bibliography: K

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Kannon, Joseph. Los Alamos. New York: Broadway, 1997.
A murder mystery set at the Manhattan Project.

Karig, Walter, Capt. U.S.N.R. War in the Atomic Age? New York: William Wise, 1946. Illustrated.
In spite of this little pamphlet's being an immediate response to Hiroshima by a retired naval officer anxious to acquaint the general public with nuclear warfare, this is a very old-fashioned piece of fantasy, with little attention paid to scientific plausibility. In 2076 (which Karig oddly calls the "200th year of the independence of the United States"), a new Axis, called the "Galaxy of Nations," destroys Kansas City and threatens other American cities at the beginning of the One Week's War. Fifth columnists are quickly identified and arrested, decontamination units neutralize and precipitate the mushroom cloud, minimizing fallout. It is discovered that the attack was launched from artificial icebergs, promptly destroyed by a U.S. submarine. Now alerted, the U.S. turns on a super-electronic force field which surrounds the country and which is generated by atomic power. This shield causes the thousands of missiles sent against the country to detonate harmlessly at sea. Since Galaxia fails at first in its attempts to penetrate the barrier, the real battle takes place at sea. (Karig here makes his pitch for maintaining a large navy.) When the barrier is finally penetrated, all the invading planes are shot down, and one hundred thousand invaders killed. Galaxia then resorts to biological warfare, wiping out the population of the neutral island of Palmyra as a test; but revenge is swift and complete by robot combination submarine-tanks. The enemy then tries to change the climate by diverting the Japanese current and is prevented from doing so. When they resort to beams of unbearable noise, battalions of the deaf are formed to carry out the defense. Finally the U.S. uses mirrors to reflect and penetrate the enemy's shield, destroying Galaxia and ending war forever. A postscript urges military preparedness and attempts to explain the bomb and atomic energy to the laity. The narrative is reminiscent of Buck Rogers and the old-fashioned invention-oriented science fiction of the late twenties and early thirties.

Kasenkina, Oksana. "We Worship GOD Again." See under Collier's.

Kelleher, Victor. The Beast of Heaven. St. Lucia, Queensland (Australia): Univ. of Queensland Press, 1984.
One hundred thousand years after a nuclear holocaust, neoprimitives fleeing a mutated, mindless beast encounter a pair of long-isolated supercomputers. These "gatherers" study the past through scraps of microfilm. It is explained that the gatherers are descendants of apes, and the beast pursuing them belongs to degenerated humanity. The computers set off a huge bomb, showing fallout everywhere, destined to destroy all life. The gatherers ironically misinterpret the fallout as divine manna.

Kelly, James Patrick. "1016 to 1" (Asimov's Science Fiction, June, 1999). Rept. in Gardner Dozois, ed.: The Year's Best Science Fiction: Seventeenth Annual Collection. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2000, pp. 41-58.
A boy in 1962 encounters in a backyard bomb shelter a time traveler who has come back during the Duban Missile Crisis to see that Adlai Stevenson is killed before he can address the U.N. A nuclear war would result, but otherwise a much worse one will destroy civilization in 2009. The boy tries to kill Stevenson, but loses his nerve and lives out the rest of his life anticipating the the end with guilt and dread.

Kennedy, Leigh. Saint Hiroshima. New York: Harcourt Brace, Jovanovich, 1990.
Movingly depicts the complex relationship between a frustrated musician and a woman who has been haunted since childhood by the fear of nuclear war. During the Cuban missile crisis, her jealous husband tricks them into suffering through a traumatic two weeks together in a fallout shelter. They spend much of the rest of their lives trying to recover from the crippling effects of this experience. In the last chapter the woman, finally healed of her phobias, travels to England--just in time to be dusted by the fallout from Chernobyl. Compare with Tim O Brien: The Nuclear Age.

Kensch, Otto [pseud of Russell Hausfield?]. Time Has A Door. Sydney: Transport Publishing, 1949.
A time traveler visits a post-nuclear holocaust future to discover most the human race has died and radiation has created mutants. Upon his return, he is committed to an insane asylum for having tried to warn about this dire future. See "Wonder Down Under: Australian Sci-Fi 1948-51," Extrapolation 47:1 (Spring 2006): 112-122.

Kestavan, G. R. [pseud. of Geoffrey Robins Crosher]. The Pale Invaders. London: Chatto & Windus, 1974. New York: Atheneum, 1976.
A juvenile novel set in an isolated valley where the elders have tried to shield the younger generation from knowledge of preholocaust technology and civilization. Outsiders seeking coal from a nearby mine establish contact with the reindustrializing outside world. The Upheaval probably involved nuclear weapons, since it was so pervasive; it is said to have been an outgrowth of demonstrations and protest bombings.

King, Stephen. The Stand. New York, 1978. Second edition published as The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition. New York: Doubleday, 1990. New York: Penguin/Signet 1991. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1991.
Most of humanity is killed when a biological warfare virus developed in a U.S. lab escapes. The few immune Americans are divided into two groups good and evil the evil one ruled over by the Devil himself. His group is defeated by a traitor from within who obliterates their stronghold in Las Vegas with a nuclear weapon.

Kipphardt, Heinar. In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Originally In der Sache J. Robert Oppenheimer. Frankfurt am Main: Surhkamp Verlag, 1964. Trans. from German by Ruth Speirs. London: Methuen, 1967. New York: Hill & Wang, 1968.
A fascinating drama based on the transcripts of Oppenheimer's 1954 security hearing. Portrays him as shocked by Hiroshima into opposing further development of atomic weapons.

Kirst, Hans Hellmut. The Seventh Day. Originally Keiner kommt davon. MŸnchen: Kurt Desch, 1957. Trans. from the German by Richard Graves. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1959. New York: Ace, 1960. London: Weidenfeld, Nicolson, 1959. As No One Will Escape. Manchester: World Distributors, 1960.
An uprising in Poland causes a war in Germany, escalating to a nuclear holocaust. Most of the novel concentrates on Germany and contains a large cast of sympathetic characters, all of whom are eventually killed. More attention is paid to the politics of the situation than to the nature of nuclear war itself. The concept is good, but the novel is flawed by a superficial style and shallow characterizations. See Raimund Kurscheid: Kampf dem Atomtod! Schriftsteller gegen eine deutsche Atombewaffnung [Fight Against Atomic Death: Writers against German Nuclear Armament], 312-26.

Klass, Morton. "In the Beginning." Astounding, July 1954.
Scientists are blamed for the Atomic War, but one of them pursues his project of reviving Neanderthal man from a fossil, arguing that the Homo sapiens replaced the earlier race, but was not truly superior to it. The story ends with this quotation: "Though surprisingly ingenious, Sapiens was emotionally unstable. Throughout his thirty thousand years of life on Earth, he made unceasing attempts to destroy all other species. To his credit, however, is the fact that, just before Sapiens' last--and successful--attempt at self-destruction, he re-introduced to Earth the more stable Homo Neanderthalensis II (q.v.) who was able to survive Sapiens' final cataclysm thereby inheriting the planet and Sol's eventual position in the galactic--ENCYCLOPEDIA GALACTICA."

Klass, Philip. See Tenn, William.

Knight, Damon. "The Last Word" (Satellite Science Fiction, February 1957). In Far Out. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961. Also in The Best of Damon Knight. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1976. New York: Pocket Books, 1976.
The devil surveys the history of human warfare, concluding with one man and woman left alive in an anti-atomic bomb shield after a nuclear holocaust. He sends them back in time to begin all over again, but the woman points out that the Earth he has conquered is now Hell.

___ . "Natural State" (Galaxy, January 1954). In Natural State and Other Stories. London: Pan, 1975. Also in Rule Golden and Other Stories. New York: Avon, 1979. Also in Martin H. Greenberg, ed. All About the Future. New York: Gnome, 1955. Also in Frederik Pohl, ed. Time Waits for Winthrop, and Four Other Short Novels. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1962. Also in Georgess McHargue, ed. Hot and Cold Running Cities. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1974.
A few isolated cities are surrounded by a prosperous countryside which uses biological science to create a superior technology. The dying cities attack the rural "muckfeet" with radioactive dust, which the latter defend against with specially developed insects called "antirads."

___ . "Not With a Bang" (Fantasy and Science Fiction, Spring 1950). In Far Out. New York: Simon & Schuster, 196l. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 196l. Also in The Best of Damon Knight. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1976. New York: Pocket Books, 1976. Also in Groff Conklin, ed. Big Book of Science Fiction. New York: Crown, 1950. Rpt. as The Classic Book of Science Fiction. New York: Bonanza, 1978. Also in Alfred Hitchcock, ed. Stories That Scared Even Me. New York: Random House, 1967. Alfred Hitchcock, ed. Slay Ride. New York: Dell, 1971. Edward L. Ferman, ed. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction: A Thirty Year Retrospective. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980. Also in Annette P. McComas, ed. The Eureka Years. New York: Bantam, 1982.
A rather silly tale of the last man and woman left after a nuclear war, doomed never to reproduce because she is too prudish to enter the men's room where he stands paralyzed. As suggested by the risquŽ pun of the title. Obviously the world in this story obviously is not destined to end with a bang, but a whimper.

___ . "Shall the Dust Praise Thee?" In Harlan Ellison, ed. Dangerous Visions. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1967. New York: Signet, 1975. Also in Mayo Mohs, ed. Other Worlds, Other Gods: Adventures in Religious Science Fiction. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971. Also in Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander, eds. 100 Great Science Fiction Stories. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1978.
God arrives to conduct the Last Judgment, but finds all humans have vanished in a nuclear war, leaving behind the message, "We were here. Where were you?"

___ . "World Without Children" (Galaxy, December 195l). In H. L. Gold, ed. Five Galaxy Short Novels. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1958. New York: Pocket Books, 1960.
The world has survived World War III, achieved longevity and banned children. The war seems incidental, irrelevant. There are no obvious effects.

Koestler, Arthur. "Freedom--At Long Last." See under Collier's.

Kogawa, Joy. Obasan. Boston: Godine, 1982.
A novel about the experiences of Japanese-Canadians during World War II in one chapter of which the author recounts the horrifying experiences of her relatives who lived in Nagasaki when the bomb fell. Of her grandmother she writes: "One evening when she had given up the search for the day, she sat down beside a naked woman she'd seen earlier who was aimlessly chopping wood to make a pyre on which to cremate a dead baby. The woman was utterly disfigured. Her nose and one cheek were almost gone. Great wounds and pustules covered her entire face and body. She was completely bald. She sat in a cloud of flies and maggots wriggled among her wounds. As Grandma watched her, the woman gave her a vacant gaze, then let out a cry. It was my mother."

Koman, Victor. The Jehovah Contract. (Der Jehova-Vertrag. City: Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, 1985.) New York: Franklin Watts, 1987.
In 1999 a professional assassin is hired to kill God. He is dying of cancer caused by living in a building still radioactive from the detonation of a small fizzle fission explosion in the women Ôs restroom on the twenty-sixth floor of the South Tower of the Arco Plaza building in old downtown Los Angeles, a radioactive slum where criminals hang out.

Kornbluth, C. M. [under the pseudonym "Simon Eisner"]. "The Luckiest Man in Denv," (Galaxy, June 1952). In Marching Morons and Other Science Fiction. New York: Ballantine, 1959. Also in The Best of C. M. Kornbluth. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1976. Also in Anon., ed. The Mindworm and Other Stories. London: Michael Joseph, 1955. Also in Damon Knight, ed. Cities of Wonder. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966. Also in Georgess McHargue, ed. Hot and Cold Running Cities. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1974. Also in Robert Silverberg, ed. Alpha 7. New York: Berkley, 1977. Also in Patricia S. Warrick, Martin H. Greenberg and Harvey A. Katz, eds. Science Fiction, Contemporary Mythology: The SFWA-SFRA Anthology. New York: Harper & Row, 1978. Also in Tom Boardman Jr., ed. Science Fiction Stories. London: Octopus, 1979.
A disgruntled "atomist" plans to halt an ongoing nuclear war which has been created as a spectator sport between the megalopoli of Denv and Ellay. He is thwarted by the establishment, which regards the possibility of peace as the "end of civilization as we know it."

___ . Not This August. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1955. New York: Bantam, 1956. New York: Pinnacle, 1982. As Christmas Eve. London: Michael Joseph, 1956.
After the Russians and Chinese conquer America, a savage dictatorship is imposed. The hero becomes involved in a resistance plot to launch a satellite armed with nuclear weapons, hoping to threaten the enemy into surrendering.

___ . "The Only Thing We Learn" (Startling Stories, July 1949). In The Marching Morons and Other Science Fiction. New York: Ballantine, 1959. Also in Best Science Fiction Stories of C. M. Kornbluth. London: Faber, 1968. Also in The Best of C. M. Kornbluth. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1976. Also in Groff Conklin, ed. Big Book of Science Fiction. New York: Crown 1950. New York: Berkley, 1957. Rpt. as The Classic Book of Science Fiction. New York: Bonanza, 1978. Also in Damon Knight, ed. The Shape of Things. New York: Popular Library, 1967.
This story takes its cue from the Iliad as a professor of literature tries to demonstrate to his class that an ancient epic proves that Earth was the planet destroyed in a minor episode of a civil war. His lecture is terminated by the announcement of the beginning of a similar war.

___ . "Two Dooms" (Venture Science Fiction, July 1958). In C. M. Kornbluth. A Mile Beyond the Moon. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1958 (story omitted from other editions). Also in Robert Silverberg, ed. Great Short Novels of Science Fiction. New York: Ballantine, 1970. Also in Richard A. Lupoff, ed. What If? Stories that Should Have Won the Hugo. New York: Pocket Books, 1980.
A scientist working on the Manhattan Project during World War II, troubled by the implications of the atomic bomb, visits a friendly Navajo who feeds him psychedelic mushrooms which project him into a future where ruthless Japanese and Germans have conquered the U.S. Many details of this future world differ from our own: Hitler is not fŸhrer, Gšbbels is, the war lasted until 1955; and the Nazis have suppressed scientific research and prevented the development of the atomic bomb. After various adventures, the protagonist gets hold of some more mushrooms and returns to his own world, resolving to overcome his scruples and proceed with work on the bomb in hopes of averting the future he has seen. This work is clearly intended as an argument in favor of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Compare with Philip K. Dick's alternate-history novel in which the Germans and Japanese divide the U.S. between them, The Man in the High Castle (1962), and with Alfred Coppel's The Burning Mountain.

___ . "With These Hands" (Galaxy, December 195l). In The Explorers. New York: Ballantine, 1954. Also in Mindworm and Other Stories. London: Michael Joseph, 1955. Also in Best Science Fiction Stories of C. M. Kornbluth. London: Faber, 1968. Also in Robert Silverberg, ed. Alpha 6. New York: Berkley, 1976. Also in Frederik Pohl, ed. The Best of Cyril M. Kornbluth. New York: Taplinger, 1977.
In a future where the craft of sculpture has been mechanized, an aging old-fashioned artist shuns the comfort of a promising love affair which he feels is doomed only to disappoint him once more. He flies to war-devastated Europe and commits suicide by exposing himself to the radioactivity surrounding Milles' Orpheus Fountain in Copenhagen. Despite its farfetched conclusion, this is an interesting story with well-drawn characters.

Kornbluth, C. M., and Frederik Pohl. See under Pohl.

Kube-McDowell, Michael. When Winter Ends. In Elizabeth Mitchell, ed. After the Flames. New York: Baen, 1985.
Anticipating a nuclear war, a firm manufactures survival caches and launches precious artifacts into orbit. In the second part of the story, long after the holocaust, a group of neobarbarians who have survived the ensuing nuclear winter recover a descending cache of photographs which teaches them something of the human past. Hope for renewal is suggested by this line: And in the heat of that vision began the first thaw of spring. The tribe highly values fertility, is polyandrous and matriarchal; all probably consequences of their reaction to the male-caused, fertility-destroying nuclear holocaust.

Kunetka, James and Whitley Strieber. See Strieber.

Kurland, Michael, and H. Bam Piper. See under Piper.

Kuttner, Henry. "Atomic," Thrilling Wonder Stories, Aug., 1947.
After the Three-Hour War, many vicious mutants roam the land. A living lake takes over human beings and turns them into zombies.

___ [as Lewis Padgett]. Mutant. Originally published as the "Baldy" stories in Astounding [dates given below]. New York: Gnome, 1953. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1954. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1962. Also as Kuttner, London: Mayflower, 1962. New York: Ballantine, 1968. New York: Garland, 1975.
A linked series dealing with telepathic mutants created by radiation from an atomic war, most of the stories being written and published just shortly before Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
     "The Piper's Son," February 1945. Also in Groff Conklin, ed. The Best of Science Fiction. New York: Crown, 1946. Rpt. as The Golden Age of Science Fiction. New York: Bonanza, 1980. Also in Stanley Schmidt, ed. From Mind to Mind: Tales of Communication from Analog. New York: Dial, 1984. New York: Davis, 1984. After the war called "The Blowup," America consists of very small specialized towns; cities have been banned. Duelling is common. Telepathic Baldies are discriminated against. The more intelligent ones realize the danger of making their superiority apparent and disguise their identity, but a Hitlerian Baldy who despises all nontelepaths plots a take-over and is killed by his more rational counterparts. The story explores the parallels between the Baldy sense of superiority and Japanese and German racial theories. As in all of these tales, the antiracism message is rather confused: it is vital not to assert racial superiority, particularly when one is superior, because doing so may precipitate a pogrom. It is quite acceptable, however, to plan the long-term domination and even replacement of humanity by Homo Superior if it is gone about in the proper way. Kuttner's stories display the strain that the superman theme underwent during World War II.
     "Three Blind Mice," June 1945. Three dangerous Baldies like the would-be Hitler in the first story--now termed "paranoids"--have found a new way to communicate solely among themselves. They plot to take over. The protagonist kills one mutant and causes the other two to be killed by sharks in a tank at the zoo. In an unintentionally ironic mishmash of historical references, the hero calls for vigilance, quoting the Bible: "Thou, O Son of man, I have set a watchman unto the house of Israel," then compares himself to the crusaders.
     "The Lion and the Unicorn," July 1945. Cells of paranoid telepathic Baldies have sprung up across the country. A telepathic member of a gang of raiders called "hedgehounds" is recuited and trained to work against them. He inadvertantly helps to break the paranoid's code. In the end the hedgehounds are viewed as a potentially helpful race of hardy pioneer types.
     "Beggars in Velvet," December 1945. The Baldies are still systematically murdering paranoids to prevent an anti-Baldy pogrom, using thought-shielding helmets. A beautiful redheaded paranoid commits a killing which sets off the beginning of a pogrom. The protagonist, weakened by his love for the redhead, is diagnosed as a latent paranoid, but is fitted with a cap to heal him. The final solution to the Baldies's problem is to run human society for the humans' own good. (In this issue of Astounding the atomic bomb is referred to in the lead editorial, which concentrates primarily on the promise of nuclear energy.)
     "Humpty Dumpty," September 1953. The paranoid Baldies plot to release a virus engineered to kill all non-Baldies, but an inductor instead makes all young children telepaths. A note added to the book version contradicts this story by making the inductor work on adults as well.



___ [as Lewis Padgett]. "Rain Check" (Astounding, July 1946). In A Gnome There Was. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1950.
A nearly indestructible and immensely old creature sealed in a block of crystal arranges to have himself shipped to Hiroshima so he can find death beneath the atomic bomb.

___ [as Lewis Padgett]. "Tomorrow and Tomorrow" (Astounding, January, February 1947). In Tomorrow and Tomorrow and The Fairy Chessmen. New York: Gnome, 195l. Also as Tomorrow and Tomorrow. London: Consul, 1963.
After an abortive nuclear war, a dictatorship is established by the Global Peace Commission, which tries to prevent science from developing further, aiming at the prevention of more horrors. However, a group of scientists makes contact with a parallel Earth where a really thorough war destroyed most of humanity but the survivors created a utopia free of disease and with greatly increased longevity. The rebel underground plots--successfully--to trigger a nuclear war to achieve the same result in its own world.

Kuttner, Henry [and Catherine L. Moore]. Fury ([as Lawrence O'Donnell] Astounding, May, April, July, 1947). New York: Grossett, 1950. New York: Magnum, n.d. London: Mayflower, 1963. Destination Infinity. New York: Avon, 1956. New York: Garland, 1975.
The Earth was turned into a star by atomic power gone awry in the twenty-first century, after which nuclear research was banned by survivors living on Venus. Mutated "immortals" (they have a seven-century lifespan) living there in domed undersea cities oppress and exploit other humans. A rebel who rejects their stagnant culture and wants to colonize other planets leads an uprising against them, utilizing atomic weapons to disintegrate the immortals' impervium domes and force them out on land. Nuclear technology is defended: "It wasn't atomic power that destroyed Earth. It was a pattern of thought." After the domes have been destroyed, Venus is remodeled along suitable lines ("terraformed"), and scientific and technical progress begins again. This story uses the same setting as a story by "Lawrence O'Donnell" entitled "Clash by Night" (Astounding, March 1943). According to Lester del Rey, Moore wrote the story and Kuttner wrote the novel (Introduction, The Best of C. L. Moore [Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975; New York: Ballantine, 1976]). In her introduction to the Magnum edition, Moore says she wrote about an eighth of the novel, primarily descriptive passages.

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