War Stars: The Superweapon and the American Imagination

WAR STARS: The Superweapon and the American Imagination

This is a must read critical history of the ultimate weapon in fiction and popular culture, from Garrett P. Serviss' 1898 sequel to H.G. Well's "War of the Worlds" - "Edison's Conquest of Mars" through to Ronald Reagan's film-fueled fantasties of the Star War space defense shield (SDI). Franklin covers over two hundred books, films and stories (including some incredibly obscure future-war novels published prior to World War I) that have shaped the imagination and influenced the discourse about actual super weapons and their deployment.

Franklin's exhaustive research and keen observations are great stepping off point for one's own pursuit of the threads of the our post-Cold War world through the last century of cultural and military affairs. There are many, many titles you'll want to track down and read (or re-read) after encountering this book.

"To create the objects that menace our existence, some people first had to imagine them. Then to build these weapons, a much larger number of people had to imagine consequent scenarious—a resulting future—that seemed desirable. Thus our actual superweapon originated in their imagined history, which forms a crucial part of our culture... Just as the weapons have emerged from the culture, so too have the weapons caused a profound metamorphoses in the culture. Comprehending this process may show us how we got into our current predicament. It might even help us find a way out" [from the Introduction]

Franklin also edited the collection Countdown to Midnight: Twelve Great Stories About Nuclear War (New York: Daw Books, New American Library, 1984).

For more essential reading see Paul Brian's ground breaking study Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction (available online in a complete edition - thank you Paul!)

WAR STARS: The Superweapon and the American Imagination
By H. Bruce Franklin
Copyright 1988; Oxford University Press
ISBN 0-19-506692-8


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