Presenter Information

Cory Matieyshen, National University

Location

Panel 11: Kearney 317

Start Date

27-10-2012 8:30 AM

End Date

27-10-2012 10:00 AM

Description

During the early 1950s (the “Bert the Turtle” era of nuclear civil defense planning), federal civil defense authorities in the United States chose to all but ignore the effects of radiation in an effort to portray nuclear weapons as large conventional weapons. The focus of civil defense planning changed from protection from blast and heat to evacuation and, finally, home fallout shelters in the face of increasing weapons capability and knowledge of the effects of nuclear weapons over the course of the 1950s. This paper examines how changes in civil defense planning and assumptions are reflected in five examples of 1950s American science fiction prose critical of nuclear civil defense policy, beginning with William Tenn’s “Generation of Noah” (1951) and ending with Helen Clarkson’s The Last Day (1959). Secondly, this paper compares criticism in works of science fiction prose to other forms of literary and artistic protest against nuclear civil defense. The significant increase in other forms of protest that began in 1957 grew into a huge outpouring by the early 1960s. This argues that science fiction prose was not only among the first forms of artistic and literary protest against nuclear civil defense but was also one of the only, if not the only, significant form of protest against the civil defense policies that predated the official focus on home fallout shelters.

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Oct 27th, 8:30 AM Oct 27th, 10:00 AM

Bert the Turtle Won't Save You: American Science Fiction Prose and Criticism of Nuclear Civil Defense During the 1950s

Panel 11: Kearney 317

During the early 1950s (the “Bert the Turtle” era of nuclear civil defense planning), federal civil defense authorities in the United States chose to all but ignore the effects of radiation in an effort to portray nuclear weapons as large conventional weapons. The focus of civil defense planning changed from protection from blast and heat to evacuation and, finally, home fallout shelters in the face of increasing weapons capability and knowledge of the effects of nuclear weapons over the course of the 1950s. This paper examines how changes in civil defense planning and assumptions are reflected in five examples of 1950s American science fiction prose critical of nuclear civil defense policy, beginning with William Tenn’s “Generation of Noah” (1951) and ending with Helen Clarkson’s The Last Day (1959). Secondly, this paper compares criticism in works of science fiction prose to other forms of literary and artistic protest against nuclear civil defense. The significant increase in other forms of protest that began in 1957 grew into a huge outpouring by the early 1960s. This argues that science fiction prose was not only among the first forms of artistic and literary protest against nuclear civil defense but was also one of the only, if not the only, significant form of protest against the civil defense policies that predated the official focus on home fallout shelters.