The future of atomic energy was always fertile soil for authors and screenplay writers. Some creative works reflected or even anticipated the public's relationship with technology, either painting utopian images of a future powered by the atom or presenting the reader with a scene of apocalyptic destruction.1 2 Imagining the future was a means of coping with the present and perhaps preparing for the inevitable.
Some authors, rather than attempting to anticipate the future, looked to the past for inspiration. Writers like Robert Duncan re-imagined the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, creating an alternative beginning to the atomic era.3 In the same way, Thomas Merton and his colleagues offered criticism of the bomb, examining history through literature.4 Others took inspiration from writers before them, using well-known stories as a template for a creative take on the history of atomic energy. Author Richard Field, for one, produced an elaborate retelling of Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as an introduction to the atomic age, complete with the eccentricities of the original source material.5
Writers were not forced to limit their expression to print media. Atomic energy was examined in plays, musical performances, poetry readings and, most strikingly, film.6 7 While some productions like Mickey Rooney's "The Atomic Kid" misrepresented the subject in order to deliver its promised "explosion of laughs," others like "Atomic Café" worked to introduce a responsible discussion of the subject through film.8 9
Regardless of approach, works of fiction proved to be a powerful lens through which the atomic bomb, the Cold War, and the nuclear era could be examined.
- 2862. The Mighty Atom. Starring Reddy Kilowatt. The Story of Electricity from Amber to Atoms. New York: Reddy Kilowatt, 1959. Return to text ↑
- 2884. Ridenour, Louis Nicot. Pilot Lights of the Apocalypse. Fortune. New York: Fortune, January 1946. Return to text ↑
- 2797. Duncan, Robert L. The Day the Sun Fell. New York: William Morrow, 1970. PS3554.U465 D86 1970. Return to text ↑
- 2861. Merton, Thomas. Original Child Bomb. Points for Meditation to be Scratched on the Walls of a Cave. New Directions, 1962. D790 .M43. Return to text ↑
- 2800. Field, Richard M. Alice's Adventures in Atomland in the Plastic Age. A Stark Fantasy by Daddy Dumps alias Humpty Dumpty, alias Deadeye Dick. South Duxbury, Mass.: Faulkner & Field, November 1949. PS3511.I252 A7 1949. Return to text ↑
- 2838. Kipphardt, Heinar. In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer. New York: Hill and Wang, 1983. PT2671.I6 I513 1968. Return to text ↑
- 2774. Buchan, Alasdair. "To a Missile." Mainstream, Vol. 13, No. 9. New York: Mainstream, September 1960. Return to text ↑
- 2756. The Atomic Kid color lobby cards. Republic Pictures, 1955. Return to text ↑
- 2755. Atomic Café Soundtrack. Somerville, Mass.: Rounder Records, circa 1980. Return to text ↑