PD Smith

Saviours and villains

22 January 2009 | Doomsday Men, Dr Strangelove, mad scientist, Science & literature, Wells | 4 comments

The leading historian of science fiction Professor David Seed, author of American Science Fiction and the Cold War (1999) among other titles, has written a nice review of Doomsday Men for the Modern Language Review. Here's the first paragraph:

"Taking Dr. Strangelove as his main reference-point, Peter D. Smith sets out to give us a narrative of the history of the superweapon, whose origin he dates more or less to the discovery of radioactivity. One of the main strengths of this account lies in Smith’s ability to combine science, history, and fiction in an engrossing cultural history of one of the concepts lying at the heart of the Cold War. It may sound odd, but the superweapon was conceived in a utopian spirit as the device which would end war once and for all. This idea was from the very beginning politically naïve and internally flawed. Smith rightly presents H. G. Wells’s 1914 novel The World Set Free as a formative text in imagining how the world could be reborn through atomic war. Here Wells was technologically prescient, but also disturbingly unconcerned about the millions who would have to be atomized to realize this dream. It was a dream made possible by an enterprising scientist, and Smith charts out fascinatingly how the figure of the scientist fluctuated in the period from the turn of the twentieth century up to the 1960s between the polarized extremes of a role as saviour of humanity or its villainous destroyer."

(David Seed, Modern Language Review 104.1 (Jan 2009), 195-6)

4 comments so far:

  1. mary | 23 January 2009


  2. PD Smith | 23 January 2009

    Thanks, Mary

  3. jon turney | 27 January 2009

    that was a nice one (just read the rest of it)

  4. PD Smith | 27 January 2009

    yes, makes all the hard work worthwhile...!

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