Friday, 10 March 2017


Poul Anderson wrote half a dozen post-nuclear war scenarios. More recent thinking on an all-out nuclear exchange is that it would cause a Nuclear Winter and that no life would survive. But there are other ways to imagine the end of civilization. Anderson also has an Ice Age and an interstellar Long Night. Other authors have comets, floods, droughts, diseases, blindness plus Triffids etc. SM Stirling's Change is ingenious: technology stops working and that suffices as a premise although we suspect that malign aliens are behind it.

The moral of all these stories is that, physically, our continued existence is both vulnerable and precarious.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    The most extended discussion Poul Anderson gave us of nuclear war and its consequences was in his nonfictional book THERMONUCLEAR WARFARE. I wondered how what he wrote in that book stands up to more contemporary thinking on the matter.

    I have read John Wyndham's DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS. And it's premise of invading aliens nullifying opposition from humans by blinding them puzzles me. I saw no explanation from Wyndham of HOW a bright light in the night sky could blind anyone. It contributed to making the book not quite satisfactory for me.

    Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's novel of alien invasion, FOOTFALL, was far more carefully thought out and developed. And pleased me far more than did DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS.


    1. Sean:
      Looking up *The Day of the Triffids* on Wikipedia, I find a synopsis that makes no mention of the triffids being invaders from space; rather, there's supposedly a hypothesis that they were bioengineered by the Soviets as a food source. It's implied to be coincidence that the light which blinded most of humanity thus made humans vulnerable to the triffids.

      Also, Wikipedia mentions the main character speculating that the light, initially described as a "green meteor shower," might have actually been an accidental detonation of orbiting nuclear weapons. Perhaps Wyndham believed the ionizing radiation from such a detonation would be even more damaging to human optic nerves than just the accompanying visible light. (I'm not savvy enough on that topic to know if Wyndham was right or to what extent, but recall that Heinlein portrayed Rhysling's eyesight being destroyed by a single brief glance into an unshielded nuclear reaction.)

    2. David,
      You beat me to it with replying about TRIFFIDS. The blindness was caused by naturally or humanly generated radiation, not just by a bright light. The triffids were Terrestrial in origin.

    3. Kaor, DAVID!

      Darn! I have no memory of the Triffids we see in Wyndham's book being of human origin. I've never reread DAY, probably because of the dissatisfaction I had for it.

      But, I'm still dubious that merely an ionizing radiation or light could have blinded most of humanity as we see described in Wyndham's book. For one thing, wouldn't any such radiation/light also do MORE harm to humans than simply blinding them? Think radiation sickness. But I don't recall any mention of that in the book. Another point, I can't help but think most people in the story were too implausibly far away for that light/radiation to harm them (unless it was radiation sickness).