Systemic Shock

In keeping with the whole plague and war theme, I finally finished Dean Ing’s Ted Quantrill trilogy having read the first two books years ago.

A novel from the 1980s with a nuclear world war and survivalists – I feel like I’m poaching on The Books That Time Forgot’s territory.

After writing the first draft of this, I checked out Ing’s Wikipedia page. He died on June 21, 2020.

Review: Systemic Shock, Dean Ing, 1981.

Cover by Paul Alexander

As Spider Robinson once noted in a review of an Ing work, Ing’s something of a moralistic writer. And there’s no doubt about the main moral of this story. It’s right there on the front page quote in the original Ace paperback:

Governments across the globe ducked for cover. Long-drilled and partly prepared, millions of RUS urbanites sealed themselves into subway tunnels, then slid blast-and-firestorm-proof hatches into place to ride out the blast-furnace interval. Most Americans were asleep, and in any case had only the sketchiest notion of adequate shelter. A few city dwellers – the smaller the city, the better their chances – sped beyond their suburbs before freeway arterials became clots of blood and machinery.

The American public had by turns ignored and ridiculed its Cassandras, who had warned against our increasing tendency to crowd into our cities. We had always found some solution to our problems, often at the last minute. Firmly anchored in most Americans was the tacit certainty that, even to the problem of nuclear war against population centers, there must be a uniquely American solution; we would find it.

The solution was sudden death. A hundred million Americans found it.

But this isn’t a Third World War fought with nukes. It’s the Fourth World War fought with nukes.

Continue reading

“Future Wars, 1890-1950”

The review series on Brian Stableford’s Opening Minds concludes.

Review: “Future Wars, 1890-1950”, Brian Stableford, 1983.Opening Minds

Interesting look, inspired by I. F. Clarke’s Voices Prophesying War 1763-1984 (I reviewed its second edition), at the history of British future war stories from “The Battle of Dorking” (1871) on with particular emphasis on the influence of World War One on inter-war science fiction. By doing this, he is addressing a weakness he perceives in Clarke’s survey.

The “jingoism” of the British stories was unique, but American future war stories shared “the myth of a war to end war”. It shows up in works like Frank R. Stockton’s The Great War Syndicate (1899) and Stanley Waterloo’s Armageddon (1898).

World War One, of course, turned out to be nothing like anything imagined.

As it did with so much, the war changed British science fiction and imbued it with a pessimism unfelt in the American science fiction pulps that started in the inter-war period. Continue reading

They Don’t Nuke’em Like They Used To

Reading I. F. Clarke’s Voices Prophesying War got me thinking. Does anyone write nuclear war stories now?

The bottom seemed to have fallen out of that particular literary market when the USSR’s flag was lowered for the last time on December 25, 1991. No more USSR, no more nuclear war seemed to be the popular thought.

It’s not that nukes went away. Continue reading

Did Science Fiction Help Cause World War One?

There is a mountain of literature on what caused World War One and no general consensus.

I. F. Clarke’s Voices Prophesying War looks at one element of pre-World War One European culture, the science fiction sub-genre of the future war story. Nowhere, does Clarke make any bald statement about where all those stories fit in the chain of causation, whether they were cause or effect. He doesn’t even argue that you can consider all these tales of invasion by airship, Channel Tunnel, or by the sea as helping in any way to lay the rails for the train crash of European civilization.

He implies, though, they reflected and shaped popular opinions in France, England, and Germany about the nature and outcome of a coming war. Continue reading

Voices Prophesying War

Voices Propheysing War

Hoping that I’d learn something about the place of the future war story in the context of the First World War, I took I. F. Clarke’s book off the shelf.

It fulfilled my hope, and I’ll be discussing that subject at greater length in a future posting.

Review: Voices Prophesying War, Future Wars 1763-3749, 2nd Edition, I. F. Clarke, 1966, 1992.

Free from academic jargon, Clarke traces the development of the future war.

The main focus is on a period starting with 1871’s The Battle of Dorking by Sir George Tomkyns Chesney and going to 1978’s The Third World War: A Future History by General Sir John Hackett et. al. Continue reading

War and the Weird

War and the Weird

Above is the cover for the $1,100 version. I just have the free public domain version downloaded from Amazon.

I had never even heard of this book until I saw it mentioned, with a lot of books I had heard of, at the end of the Science Fiction Encyclopedia’s “World War One” entry.

I haven’t found out much about the authors on the Web of a Million Lies.

Forbes Phillips seems to have been an Anglican vicar who wrote other books on Christian matters. R. Thurston Hopkins wrote several biographies of authors including ones on Oscar Wilde and Rudyard Kipling, both humorously alluded to in passing in the stories.

Review: War and the Weird by Forbes Phillips and R. Thurston Hopkins, 1916. 

On its own merits as philosophy or entertainment, this combination of weird fiction and theological theorizing doesn’t have much to offer a modern audience. Continue reading