Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Irradiated Zone

Tom Engelhardt has an interesting article on his site today. "Irradiated Zone: Don’t Go There! Missing in the Japan Catastrophe -- Thinking the Unthinkable" considers the nuclear crisis in Japan through his youthful memories of reading Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s sf classic A Canticle for Leibowitz (1955).

Canticle, like many novels of its era, was set in a new dark age after humans had destroyed so many of their own and so much of their civilization, leaving behind a mutant planet.  It didn’t take a lot of smarts to know how they did that either: with the newly discovered power of the atom -- already loosed on the perfectly real cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- aided and abetted by the hubris and bumbling of humanity.  (I hope, given the headlines of the moment, you see where I’m heading.) 

It's a natural comparison for someone raised in those days to make, although to be fair there's a big difference between a meltdown and the global thermonuclear war depicted in those books. Lester del Rey's Nerves (1956, revised 1976) which involves "atomjacks" fighting to avert a catastrophe at an atomic power plant might be a more apt reference, although it obviously isn't widely known. When it comes to the aftermath of such a crisis, the book that sprang to my mind was Michael Swanwick's In the Drift (1985) which depicts just the kind of irradiated exclusion zone we all fear might result if worse comes to worse.


Löst Jimmy said...

You've been on a blog post spree Jerry, I've some catching up to do. Been busy at work, but enjoying reading through your stuff this evening.

Jerry Cornelius said...

I try to post at least once a day, even if it's just a token gesture like a song or something. Usually nothing up to your standard. But if there's an sf related story around that catches my eye I'll comment on it. I'm just glad I'm not boring you.

Löst Jimmy said...

Never boring my dear fellow, keep up the good work!