Atomic Warfare

The most famous mention of an atomic bomb destroying civilization was in H.G. Wells's The World Set Free (1914). Physicist Leo Szilard credits the novel with giving him the idea that an atomic bomb was possible, which - when he joined the Manhattan Project - he helped to create.

In The Lord of Labour (1911), George Griffith imagined weapons like bazookas firing atomic missiles. And in his book A Columbus of Space (1909), George Serviss described a nuclear-powered spaceship.

John W. Campbell's first published story, "When the Atoms Failed" (1930), dealt with an atomic bomb. Campbell wrote about atomic weapons frequently in his editorial and used them on the covers of Astounding.

Robert Heinlein's "Blowups Happen" (1940) dealt with anxiety in an atomic factory, and Lester del Rey's "Nerves" (1942) described an accident in an atomic factory.

In his 1941 story "Solution Unsatisfactory," Robert Heinlein suggested that victory in War World II could be achieved by blowing radioactive dust onto the enemy. Cleve Cartmill's "Deadline" (1944) described the atom bomb so accurately that it prompted the U.S. military to investigate both him and Campbell.

In his 1982 novel On the Beach, Neville Shute depicts a group of post-nuclear-holocaust survivors in Australia. Their world was destroyed when at least 4,700 nuclear weapons were detonated across the globe. Radioactive wind currents are headed toward their area, and the exposure will kill them all.

Walter Miller's classic 1982 novel Canticle for Liebowitz also explores an Earth devastated by nuclear war. Eventually the world is rebuilt, including the nuclear technology that caused the first cataclysm, and humanity is once again facing the threat of nuclear war.