Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction

by Paul Brians

Nuclear Holocausts Bibliography: O

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O'Brien, Robert C. Z for Zachariah. New York: Atheneum, l974. New York: Dell, l978.
Written in the form of a first-person journal, what seems to begin as a post-holocaust Adam and Eve story turns out to be a quite well told battle of an intelligent, competent teenage girl against a rather stereotypically violent, abusive older male bent on rape. Ends in her successful escape. The story is so narrowly focused that the nuclear war--which may have killed off practically everyone else--becomes mere background. At the work's end the girl heads off with high hopes.

Oda Katsuzo. "Human Ashes." Originally published in Japanese 1966. Where? Trans. from Japanese by Burton Watson. In Kenzaburo Oe, ed. The Crazy Iris and Other Stories of the Atomic Aftermath. New York: Grove, 1985.
A straightforward description of one person's experience of the Hiroshima bombing.

Oda, Makoto. The Bomb. (Originally Hiroshima). Trans. D. H. Whittaker. Tokyo & New York: Kodansha International, 1990.
An impressionistic collage of scenes surrounding the building and use of the atomic bomb. Concentrates on racism, both American and Japanese (against Native Americans, Japanese, Koreans, etc.). Set in White Sands, Tinian, Hiroshima, and a veteran s hospital in which two Native Americans irradiated by uranium mining share a ward with a Vietnam vet dying because of his early exposure to bomb test fallout. Striking as the first Japanese attempt to depict the Manhattan Project.
O'Donnell, Lawrence. See Kuttner, Henry, and Catherine L. Moore.

O'Donohoe, Nick. The Gnomewrench in the Peopleworks. New York: Ace, 2000.
In this fantasy, gnomes aid the Manhattan Project. Sequel to The Gnomewrench in the Dwarfworks.
O'Heffernan, Patrick, Amory B. Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins. The First Nuclear World War. New York: Morrow, 1983.
A nonfiction study of the danger of the proliferation of nuclear weapon-making ability in the Third World, including an elaborately developed fictional scenario in the first three chapters which includes a strike by Palestinian terrorists, followed by an India-Pakistan exchange, and an Iran-Iraq conflict. The scenario concludes in a precarious balance of terror, with the Russians and the Americans having agreed to cut off military support to both sides of the India-Pakistan dispute and to bomb whichever nation uses a nuclear bomb first on the other.

O'Keefe, Claudia. Black Snow Days. 1990.
A young man genetically engineered to survive in a postholocaust environment struggles with despair, resentment against his creator/mother, the resentment of his caretakers and a cult advocating universal suicide. Rather thoughtfully and sensitively developed, despite its fantastic premise. The title refers to the effects of nuclear winter.

Olan, Susan Torian. The Earth Remembers. Lake Geneva, Wis.: TSR, 1989.
A thousand years after the Great War which produced a severe nuclear winter, life in the new Southwest is much as it was in the old West, with bandits fighting townsfolk, and whites fighting Indians. Yet much has also changed. Cowboy is a mere term of abuse, since cattle have become extinct. The Alamo is an object of cultic mythology. Intelligent lizards have evolved, and prehistoric giants have reemerged on the Earth. Descendents of the ancestors of the Aztecs tell how their people created an earlier holocaust thirteen thousand years earlier by embedding nuclear bombs in religious shrines, then detonating them. Such a paleolithic bomb is detonated in the course of the novel. Essentially a playful nuclear western, the novel does exhibit some sensitivity to racial and cultural issues.
Oliver, [Symmes] Chad[wick]. "The Life Game" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, June l953). In William F. Nolan, ed. The Pseudo-People: Androids in Science Fiction. Los Angeles: Sherbourne, l965.
A young couple rebels against Life City, the sterile mechanical utopia buried under the arctic ice in which they live, sheltered from the war-devastated environment outside. This supershelter was built by a scientist who claimed to be able to build superweapons and then diverted the money to finance its construction. Their tedious existence is the invention of machinery which has tried to ensure the preservation of the species at the cost of innovation and excitement. The city's creator, wakened from almost a millenium of suspended animation, delivers the young couple--who turn out to be the only real humans left--to the now decontaminated outside world to begin the race again. At one point savage mutated Eskimos are said to have warred against Life City, but nothing further is said of their descendants.

Olson, Wesley. 3AR. Moore Haven, Fla.: Rainbow Books, 1986.
A clumsy anticommunist tract modelled on Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four, concerning a Soviet conquest of the U.S. in the wake of an abortive nuclear exchange. The Soviets institute compulsory orgies to break up family units. Finally a dissident Soviet blows up a nuclear weapons plant, creating fallout which threatens to wipe out all life on Earth; but in the end the threat disappears mysteriously, the dictatorship is destroyed, and humanity survives.
Orwell, George [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]. Nineteen-Eighty-Four. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1949. New York: Signet, 1950. London: Warburg, 1950. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1950.
Atomic weapons are briefly referred to twice in the novel before Goldstein's book reveals that an atomic war had been fought in the fifties, followed by a stalemate which produced the unending conventional bombing of 1984. Much of the dilapidation of Oceania is due to the government's failure to rebuild after this disaster. The rocket bombs being used at the time of the story are clearly based on World War II V-2's.

Ota Yoko. "Fireflies." In Kenzaburo Oe, ed. The Crazy Iris and Other Stories of the Atomic Aftermath. Tokyo: Shiueisha Press, 1984. Tr. Kaichi Nakagawa. New York: Grove, 1985.
A novelist investigating the fate of hibakusha meditates on the fate of Tamiki Hara, who committed suicide in 1951 after writing one of the first Japanese stories about the Hiroshima bombing in 1947. He describes the scars and deformities of two victims, and ends his quest at the memorial to Hara, where he sees a swarm of fireflies, which he interprets as incarnating the spirits of dead soldiers. The author was herself exposed to the Hiroshima bomb. The story was originally published in Japanese in 1953.

Owen, Dean [pseud. of Dudley Dean McGaughy]. End of the World. New York: Ace, l962.
A novelization of the American International film of the same title. When Los Angeles is bombed without warning, a family which has fortunately just started out on a camping trip begins a savage odyssey of survival. Father and son are tough, violent, ruthless. Mother and daughter are anxious, compassionate. The father robs a hardware store for supplies, assaults an extortionate gas station owner, and runs a blockade of small town residents. When some thugs bent on rape and murder block their way, the mother prevents the son from killing them. Stopped by unceasing refugee traffic at a crossroads, they ignite gas to create a wall of flame. Hoping to cut off pursuit, they destroy a bridge behind them and move into what they think is a secret cave. At this point grace is said before dinner and the father stresses that civilization must be preserved: the men will shave daily and the women keep themselves neat and tidy. There are radio reports of heavy damage to the northeastern and western U.S., but little radiation has accompanied the bombs, suggesting a forthcoming invasion. The hardware store owner turns up at their hideout, but he and his wife are killed by the same thugs encountered and shot at earlier. Their leader, crazed by drugs and rock and roll, enjoys murder for its own sake, as well as rape. The gang has killed the owners of a nearby farm and captured their daughter, raping her repeatedly. When two gang members rape the daughter of the protagonist, the mother sees the necessity for violence, and frightens them off with a shotgun. Father and son pursue them to their hideout and kill them, rescuing the farmer's captive daughter. The son insensitively tries to seduce her, seeming rather surprised when she rejects his advances. When the pair is attacked by the gang leader, the girl kills him, but the son is shot in the struggle. The family rushes the son to a doctor and is told that he must be taken to a hospital for a blood transfusion. They have since learned that the enemy has surrendered. The novel ends abruptly as the family encounters an army patrol--signifying the restoration of order--which will help them reach their goal. The novel's emphasis on the necessity for brutal action to survive is oddly counterpointed with denunciations of the brutality of others. As a film-based novel, the work clearly emphasizes action over thought.

Owens, Barbara. "Chain." Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1987.
A member of a degenerate pygmy race encounters the sole preholocaust survivor of humanity, who was evidently preserved by freezing in a nuclear winter. He teaches the pygmy to laugh, which starts his race on the road of rebuilding civilization.

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