During the early years of the Atomic Age, many became concerned not only with the effects of Atomic War, but the after effects. The power of Atomic weapons is so overwhelming that it seems logical to wonder if civilization itself would survive their use.
So what will be the result of their use? Science Fiction writers have been exploring that question since before the dawn of the Atomic Age.
X Minus One: Ray Bradbury’s Dweller’s in Silence
Ray Bradbury’s tale, “Dwellers in Silence”, was broadcast on X Minus One, and is featured in our Atomic Radio Collection. Some humans have managed to escape to Mars from the inevitability of Atomic War. Many years later they are able to mount an expedition that will return to Earth, to see what has happened to their home world. The small team of astronauts is surprised to find a single family has survived the holocaust. But curiously, while the scientist father has aged through the years since the Atomic War, his wife and children have remained youthful.
Suspense: Report from a Dead Planet
Suspense! brings us another post-apocalyptic story, also featured in Atomic Radio. “Report from a Dead Planet” is told from the point of view of astronauts approaching what to them is a new world. From their descriptions of their landing, the listener can tell that they have landed in a New York City that has been abandoned for decades, or even centuries. Why don’t the Spacemen realize that it is Manhattan?
A longtime theme of Science Fiction is the story of the Mad Scientist’s creation taking a will of its own, usually with tragic results. This happened in one of the earliest Science Fiction novels, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The theme took on Society wide implications in the Atomic Age.
The apprehension is understandable. There was to be countless wonders from Atomic Power, but all that the average person saw were pictures of mushroom clouds. Coupled with this lack of understanding was a lack of control. Should the world be vaporized in Atomic War, the average person would have little to do with it. The decision would be made in Washington, or worse, in the Kremlin.
In “The Life Boat Mutiny”, written by Robert Sheckley and performed on X Minus One, Sep 11, 1956, the question is explored in a rather humorous fashion. Â Â A team buys an old lifeboat to use in a survey of a water covered planet. The automated lifeboat, when fully activated, sticks to its programming to protect its occupants at any cost. But those occupants werenâ€™t supposed to be human…
Suspense had a more chilling interpretation of the theme in “The Doom Machine”, written by Edgar Marvin and broadcast Mar 4, 1962. A scientist is frustrated with the limitations of his Human Brain, so he creates a robot to aid in his work. He thinks that he has succeeded, the robot meets his expectations, but there are dangers with “the most advanced electronic brain ever devised.” The Machine kills on assistant while the Doctor is away. The Machine tries to warn the Doctor by telling him to listen to the audiovox tape, but the Doctor can’t be bothered, thinking the first assistant has quit. Instead he finds another Assistant that will be put in danger, this time the fiancÃ© of the Doctor’s daughter.
In many ways the Cold War was a period that Americans can be extremely proud of. Her scientists and servicemen made progress and sacrifices that boggle the mind.
But not everything from the period is a source of pride for America. One great challenge to American values was the specter of McCarthyism. The term refers not the activities of Senator McCarthy and the related House Un-American Activities Committee, but to any unfounded accusation of disloyalty, subversion or treason.
There were in fact enemies of the State active in the US during this period; the Red Scare was not without basis. The tragedy of McCarthyism is that its practitioners often acted without out proper evidence, often in a manner contrary to the precepts set forth in the Constitution.
One great fear of the Anti-Communist movement was the insidious manner in which the enemy operated. This fear is reflected in “Conqueror’s Isle”, by Nelson Bond, broadcast 1/11/1953 on Suspense. A Bomber pilot over the Pacific is forced down on a deserted island. The island is inhabited by a human-appearing race far advanced of our own. And they are ready to take over the Earth. What is doubly frightening is that the pilot learns that they have already begun, infiltrating our government and social institutions.
Available in the Atomic Radio Collection,Â Robert Heinlein’s classic tale “The Roads Must Roll” is presented on X Minus One on Jan 4, 1956. The tale is a fable concerning a future transportation system based on the rolling sidewalks in airports. The Rolling Roadways carry so much traffic that there operation has important strategic and economic value. The engineers that maintain the Rolling Roads begin to feel that they deserve greater power, for without them the roads stop. This tale is reflected in the rise of Organized Labor, especially Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters.
We have been very busy for the last few days, getting ready to roll out our big Atomic RadioÂ Collection. I think that everyone will enjoy the recordings– there has been a lot of discussion about the Cold War and we are all proud, because we know that the cat really appreciates the high quality of Old Time Radio Shows that we’ve put together for Atomic Radio.
But there is the problem; we have been so busy that no one had noticed that the cat has been missing for a couple days.
I had a suspicion, and it turns out I was right. The cat had been hiding in the Bomb Shelter in the basement. No harm, right? Well, I forgot that I hid my collection of
Amazing Science Fiction and Astounding Science Fiction Magazines down thereâ€¦ Over the weekend, the cat has had the garage locked, and won’t let anyone in. I think he is building either a Time Machine or a Space Ship. What ever is going on down there, I fear for Uncle Steve’s Ham radio set and Sister Kate’s 1974 Honda Civic.
The Atomic Radio Collection includes some of the finest Science Fiction radio from X Minus One, Exploring Tomorrow, Escape!, 2000 Plus, Suspense! and more, featuring the work of Sci Fi’s best authors including Bradbury’s “Zero Hour” and “There Will come Soft Rains” from 1956: