Saturday, 9 November 2013

Thermonuclear Warfare And James Blish

I found passages in Poul Anderson's Thermonuclear Warfare (Derby, Connecticut, 1963) that were relevant to four of his fictional works:

Twilight World
"Kings Who Die"
The Psychotechnic History
Planet Of No Return

This passage:

"Many will object that the requirements of an aggressive policy will lead to national regimentation, until we are hardly distinguishable from our opponents." (p. 153)

- is relevant to James Blish's Cities In Flight Tetralogy. In Volume I, set in the early twenty first century, American anti-Communism becomes as repressive as Russian anti-Fascism so that the two systems come to be indistinguishable and are bloodlessly united under a single Premier! - although this Spenglerian Fall of the West is preceded by the escape of a few Westerners from the Solar System in FTL spaceships. Centuries later, the Terrestrial Bureaucratic State falls when anti-gravity is rediscovered and entire cities are able to escape, seeking work among the Colonials.

Thus, this is a future in which thermonuclear war is prevented. The Russians conquer by stealth. Another Blish work, A Case Of Conscience, Volume III of the After Such Knowledge Trilogy, presents a different outcome of the Cold War. The arms race leads to a Shelter Race until the entire population lives permanently in subterranean cities where there are Corridor Riots. Anderson discusses shelters in Thermonuclear Warfare but does not suggest permanent life underground.

Anderson hoped that the Soviet Union would be defeated by persistent limited wars whereas instead its inefficient command economy was bankrupted by its self-imposed arms race.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

While I agree the waste, corruption, and sheer iefficiency of a Soviet style command economy was a major factor in the downfall of the USSR, it was not the only cause of its collapse. And there were limited wars or conflicts with Soviet clients. Some of which were lost by the US and the West, like the Vietnam war, and others where the USSR lost. Such as the US eviction of a Soviet client from the island of Grenada and arming of anti Soviet rebels in Afghanistan.

And I am quite aware the Afghan war also led to unintended consequences, such as the rise of a militant jihadist movement. But, I would agree with Anderson that military efforts also played a role in resisting Soviet ambitions.