quinta-feira, 24 de maio de 2012

Absurdist Visions: Dr. Strangelove in Context by David Seed

Mister, Send Your Missile My Way (Gina Berriault 1961)


The scene is a Salt Lake City cafe. A man and woman are eating canned sausages and drinking coffee. The man has made a proposal and the woman refuses to 'live in sin' with him. So far it might be an everyday situation. But we know that this couple might be the last surviving humans after a nuclear war has covered the Earth in radioactive dust. Damon Knight's 'Not with a Bang' (1950: collected in Far Out) turns Eliot's description of the end of the world from 'The Hollow Men- into a sexual pun by dramatising a tug of wills between a randy survivor and a genteel librarian in a situation of destruction which makes such an opposition absurd.

In that respect his story represents an early example of treating the nuclear subject through black comedy, which reaches its climax in Dr. Strangelove (1963). Paul Brians has argued that such treatments represent an evasion: 'Absurdism is often a coping mechanism which allows one to shelve nuclear war mentally as simply one of life's insoluble quandaries' (Brians 1987a: 86).

Comic strategies, however, can turn a satirical spotlight on the assumptions which might cause nuclear war. Far from avoiding nuclear war, they deflect its morally oppressive weight, masking their local subjects with a deadpan narrative. For instance, Pat Frank's Mr. Adam (1946) labours the comedy of one man's retention of fertility after a nuclear plant explodes, but then dramatises his assimilation within superpower rivalry that could lead to war.

Perceptions of the absurdity of Cold War nuclear postures had been forcefully put in the fifties by two vigorous opponents of the arms race: the cultural historian Lewis Mumford and the sociologist C. Wright Mills. Both writers placed contradiction at the centre of their diagnoses. Mumford's collection In the Name of Sanity (1954) mounted a protest against the 'violence and irrationality of our times'.

Mumford found a direct contradiction between American 'totalitarian military instruments and our democratic political ends'. To him the superpowers were playing out an endgame whose meaningless would culminate in war. He warned apocalyptically of a total nullification of history: 'the chaos of a final wasteland in which all order and design derived from life have returned to aimless dust and rubble' (Mumford 1973a: 154-5, 161). Mills similarly declared in The Causes of World War Three (1958) that the 'drift and the thrust toward World War Three is now part of the contemporary sensibility'.

He continued : 'War has become total. And war has become absurd' (Mills 1959: 9, 12); absurd because massive preparations are being made for a war without a conception of victory. Both commentators therefore warned of the imminence of nuclear destruction from the lack of rational control over strategy. In fiction, both Aldous Huxley [Ape and Essence) and James Blish (Black Easter, 1968) explain nuclear war as proving mankind's 'worship of unreason'. By contrast Herman Wouk's satire The 'Lomokome Papers (1968) gives a fragmentary narrative (edited by a military officer who dismisses the contents as pure 'fiction') of an astronaut's contacts with intelligent beings on the Moon who are waging a 'reasonable war'; the two nations each observe a regular Death Day when a set number of citizens are put to death thereby avoiding unnecessary conflict. (1)

These narratives gain their force by masking their subjects behind a facade of reasonableness which must be penetrated by the reader. Similar apparently skewed priorities inform the cartoons of Jules Feiffer which helped to establish a vogue in the late fifties for sick jokes, among which were sketches of the promotion of nuclear technology to the public by official agencies. One series (in Sick, Sick, Sick, 1959) shows a sales director or government official (the point is that the roles have become indistinguishable) insisting that the public should be made 'positive fallout conscious' and that this can be done by having a 'Mr. and Mrs. Mutation' contest. The fear addressed by Poul Anderson and others (see Chapter 4) is here turned on its head into a grotesque prize quality. Again Feiffer's narrative 'Boom!' (Passionella, 1959) describes the growing atmospheric pollution from nuclear tests. To quieten fears a government-hired PR firm erects bill-boards declaring that 'Big Black Floating Specks Are Good For You!'

Feiffer describes the selling of the bomb to the public. Gina Berriault's 1961 novel The Descent also satirises the commercial promotion of nuclear shelters. Set in I lie imminent future (1964), the novel describes the appointment of an obscure Iowa professor to the post of Secretary for Humanity. This is essentially a PR post designed by the us government to stifle the 'non-realists', i.e. anyone who doesn't accept the official line on defence. Berriault demonstrates how nuclear issues have become institutionalised within the culture. Cities compete for who has the best nuclear shelters, an anti-radiation pill called NIX-R is being promoted, and Miss Massive Retaliation (voted in by us Armed Forces Overseas) sings a song whose refrain appears as this chapter's epigraph in Tokyo shortly before a Hiroshima memorial ceremony. The descent of the title is an entry into a massive shelter under Denver which has become a bizarre tourist attraction, and here Berriault, like Mordecai Roshwald in Level 7, plays on the metaphorical implications of descent and its opposite.

An evangelist, parodically echoing Norman Vincent Peale who had been arguing since the late 1940s that the cure for nuclear fear was to think positively, declares ringingly: 'Man's descent into the bowels of the earth shall be known as the great descent that was the ascent. Let this Nuclear Era then be known as the Age of Ascent' (Berriault 1961: 111). This disguise of an action as its opposite is symptomatic of a nationwide government orchestrated process where Cold War policies are commodified and foisted on a gullible public.

Running throughout these works is a denial of death, an attempted diminution of nuclear holocaust. Mordecai Roshwald's A Small Armageddon (1962, inspired by the Peter Sellers farce The Mouse That Roared) makes this process explicit in its very title. An American nuclear submarine crew use their warheads to blackmail the President into supplying them with money, drink and professional strippers. Then in the second plot an airforce commander sets out on a 'Nuclear Crusade' against the 'seat of godless power' in Moscow.

Both sequences resemble Dr. Strangelove in starting with bizarre acts of rebellion within the us military. In the event both rebels destroy each other and so total holocaust is avoided. Armageddon recedes too in Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle (1963) where the narrator plans to write a book about the day of the Hiroshima bombing (The Day the World Ended). As his subject eludes him he begins to suspect that he is retracing a megalomaniacal apocalyptic script like Roshwald's airforce commander, and his account is never completed (cf. Zins 1986). The comic treatment of fears of extinction and mutation exemplify how black humour feigns to deprioritise subjects presumed lo carry weight. It was the ultimate subject, of nuclear holocaust which received comic treatment in the masterpiece of Cold War absurdism. Dr. Strangelove. It is no coincidence that Joseph Heller, whose Catch-22 superimposed fifties paranoia on a late-World War II setting, should have been approached to write the screenplay for this film.  (2)


As early as 1946 Chandler Davis had published a story ('To Still the Drums') on the dangers of a military clique taking the USA into war. In 1948 the Joint Chiefs of Staff tried unsuccessfully to persuade Truman to turn over to them control of nuclear weapons, and the following year Heinlein published an account ('The Long Watch') of a renegade military officer on a lunar base who also tries to threaten the Earth into submission with atomic bombs. With the accession of Kennedy relations between the military and the White House deteriorated so markedly that Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey could describe an attempted military coup in their 1962 novel Seven Days in May.

Dr. Strangelove belongs within a cluster of novels dealing with nuclear crises triggered by a despairing us general (Peter George, Two Hours to Doom, 1958), a component fault in the SAC computer (Burdick and Wheeler's Fail-Safe, 1962), and a deranged Soviet general (George O. Smith's Doomsday Wing, 1963).3 George's novel describes the decision by a SAC general to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union from his desperation at the latter's remorseless gains during the Cold War. General Quinten's actions bring the world to the brink of war, but the crisis passes when the one us bomber which penetrates the Soviet Union drops its bomb harmlessly in an uninhabited area. Strangelove follows the same scenario whose initiator this time is a manic paranoid, but takes us up to the brink and over it.

When Stanley Kubrick started work on the screenplay for Strangelove is original intention was to produce a serious adaptation of George's novel. Then, by his own account, he ran up against a difficulty: in filling out scenes 'one had to keep leaving things out of it which were either absurd or paradoxical, in order to keep it from being funny, and these things seemed to be very real' (Kubrick 1963: 12). This blocked his true sense of a subject: 'After all, what could be more absurd than the very idea of two mega-powers willing to wipe out all human life because of an accident, spiced up by political differences that will seem as meaningless to people a hundred years from now as the theological conflicts of the Middle Ages appear to us today?' (Gelmis 1971: 309). Accordingly he chose a method of 'nightmare comedy', bringing Terry Southern in to work on the script and presumably also the novel.

The novel, published in 1963 shortly before the film's release, captures the black humour of the film, but with differences of scene-arrangement. Where the latter opens with a voice over describing a secret military establishment in Russia, the novel introduces its narrative with a science fiction frame which warns against generic expectations of war fiction, distances the reader, reduces nuclear weapons to 'toys', and questions superpower rivalry: 'They were not on friendly terms, and we find this difficult to understand, because both were governed by power systems which seem to us basically similar' (George 1979: 1).

From the same period Alfred Bermel's 'The End of the Race' (1964) uses the same device of a detached, rather bemused observer from another galaxy in opening: 'At that time the nations known as America and Russia had set off 2,500 nuclear explosions, pulverised every small island in the Pacific, Arctic and Indian Oceans, blown out of the earth lumps of great magnitude and little mineralogical value' (Pohl 1965: 77). Robert Sheckley's Journey beyond Tomorrow (1962) similarly describes from a far-future viewpoint the 'spontaneous and chaotic explosion of warfare' triggered by a civilian jet in Californian airspace. The ensuing 'great war' is so widespread that the 'Old World ... perished as completely as though it had never been' (Sheckley 1987: 180). All three narratives estrange the reader by refusing kinship with a lower species bent on self-destruction.

Strangelove shows a process running under its own momentum where the loss of communication only emphasises the helplessness of the human agents. Kubrick has pointed out that 'most of the humor in Strangelove arises from the depiction of everyday human behaviour in a nightmarish situation' (Gelmis 1971: 309). Whereas in Two Hours and Fail-Safe the hot line performs an important function in bringing the leaders of the superpowers together, one of the many ironies of Strangelove is that the military machines function only too well whereas the means of communication constantly break down (Maland 1979: 712). At one critical point Mandrake has no coins to phone the recall codes to Washington; at another the President can only locate the Soviet premier through Omsk Information. (4)

The cross-cutting between scenes (the novel has approximately double the number of the film) strengthens the suggestion of loss of communication by showing how each key location (Ripper's office, the main bomber, War Room) is sealed from the others. The traditional interaction between command centre and bombers in World War II narratives Is blocked off, although traces are retained of earlier wars in anachronistic statements like General Ripper's declaration that 'it looks like we're in a shooting war', and in the use of handheld cameras for the assault on Burpelson base as if it were combat footage. There is a collective refusal by the military to recognise the paradigm shift that nuclear weapons necessitate. (5) The mismatch between sound-track and image strengthens this irony by playing 'When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again' or Vera Lynn's 'We'll Meet Again' over repeated nuclear explosions (Broderick 1992: 69). The whole point is that there will be no 'again'. In the meantime characters continue to play out Cold War rivalries diminished to a squabble like that which erupts between the Soviet ambassador and General Turgidson on the floor of the War Room.

While Generals Ripper and Turgidson personify a hawkish wing of the military, they also parody the cigar-chomping Curtis Lemay, the SAC commander who was a leading proponent of the Joint Chiefs' war plan kept secret from the Kennedy administration. (6) When General Turgidson is proposing a pre-emptive strike a nearby file reads 'world targets in megadeaths', a clear allusion to the government adviser who did most to popularise thinking about the unthinkable, Herman Kahn.

The latter's massive study On Thermonuclear War (1960) not only explains the feasibility of the Doomsday Machine which concludes Strangelove but also describes with chilling objectivity the massive casualty figures which would result from any nuclear exchange. This sort of nuclear calculation is embodied in the figure of Dr. Strangelove whose entrance in the film is delayed until the Doomsday Machine is mentioned, thereby associating him with death as he wheels forward out of the shadows. (7)

Strangelove is in fact a composite figure also signifying the continuity between Nazi and American military experimentation (cf. the rocket technician Wernher von Braun) as well as the scientific rationalism floating free of consequences parodied in Bermel and James Blish, in whose novel The Day after Judgement (1971) an ex-RAND Corporation official invokes Kahn's 'ladder of escalation' to assess the destruction after a nuclear war. Insulated from the wasteland outside, he argues heatedly in an underground bunker for the benefits of different nuclear weapons, insisting that 'a selenium bomb is essentially a humane bomb' because of its short half-life (Blish 1981: 128). The most sustained satire on Kahn's analytical method is Leonard C. Lewin's Report from Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace (1967). This fictitious report, prepared by a government think-tank in a secret under¬ground nuclear facility, reverses the conventional relation of war to peace, presenting the former as a norm and the latter a danger.

Drawing on the arguments of works like Fred J. Cook's Warfare State (1963), Iron Mountain imitates Kahn's practice of tabulating options in its 'Disarmament Scenarios' and concludes that 'war itself is the basic social system' (Lewin 1968: 61). Throughout its deadpan Swiftian proposals Iron Mountain maintains a facade of plausibility by quoting contemporary commentators, prominent among them Kahn himself.


While the surface disjunctions of Strangelove have their satirical role, there is a subtext to this narrative which diagnoses a neurosis at the heart of the military establishment. To locate this we need to backtrack to the earliest accounts of nuclear explosions given by the journalist William L. Laurence who for a time enjoyed a virtual monopoly of such reportage. He describes the 1945 Alamagordo blast as producing a 'giant column ... quivering convulsively' as it penetrated low cloud 'like a vibrant volcano spouting fire to the sky' (Laurence 1961: 117). Then the Nagasaki bomb produces a 'giant pillar of purple fire' once again climbing through the clouds whereupon 'there came shooting out of the top a giant mushroom' (Laurence 1961: 159). Laurence's metaphors of male orgasm and birthing have been explained by feminist scholars as attempts at maximising male technological creativity (Cohn 1987: 699-701) and identifying female sexuality with the bomb's destructiveness (Caputi 1991: 430).

Ira Chernus's Dr. Strangelove (1986) pays tribute to the importance of Strangelove in its title and demonstrates a congruence between nuclear weaponry and apocalyptic motifs, arguing that the Bomb is a 'symbol of omnipotence' producing extreme ambivalence (Chernus 1986: 92, 100). In Strangelove it is General Jack D. Ripper whose conspiracy theory proves so ludicrous that it invites the reader/viewer to scrutinise the narrative for other possible signs of neurosis. He explains to the bemused Mandrake that he has 'studied the facts' and concluded that the fluoridation of water is the 'most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face' (George 1979: 78).

Ripper continues: 'A foreign substance is introduced into the precious bodily fluids, without the knowledge of the individual and certainly without any free choice. That's the way the commies work ...' (George 1979: 79). Conflating hatred of welfare With fear of Communism, Ripper identifies the fate of his body with that of the nation, then merges the Communist threat with that of a female sexual contact to justify a retention neurosis. Ripper expounds his 'theory' during the battle for his air base. Rearing a heavy machine gun as a substitute phallus, he blasts away through his office window. However, once his men surrender, the gun droops, his cigar goes out (becomes 'dead'), and he takes his life with a pistol.

Ripper's obsession helps to strengthen a set of linkages between military technology and sexuality whereby the exercise of power shifts symbolically between the two domains. This was first recognised by F. Anthony Macklin who earned Kubrick's approval by describing the film as a 'sex allegory', 'from foreplay to explosion in the mechanised world' (Macklin 1965: 55). Macklin argues that this sequence can be observed particularly clearly in the flight of Leper Colony as its commander 'King' Kong progresses from 'reading' Playboy, through arming the bombs (which then become 'potent') to the orgasmic launch of the bombs one of which is ridden by Kong to his death. Norman Kagan has further fleshed out this reading, adding more glosses on characters' names and pointing out that the B-52 bomber is itself 'phallic, particularly in its indefatigable race to coitus' (Kagan 1972: 137).

Strangelove foregrounds sexual imagery from the first scene, a mid-air fuelling sequence taken out of context from Strategic Air Command (1955) so that it resembles two gigantic metal insects copulating. Kong sees 'Miss Foreign Affairs' on the centre-fold of his Playboy who soon reappears as General Buck Turgidson's secretary 'catching up on paper work' in a hotel suite sprawled under a sun-lamp, in a bikini, named after the Pacific atoll used for H-bomb tests. The scene between Turgidson and his secretary concludes with him telling her: 'You start your count down right now and old Buckie will be back before you can say re-entry' (George 1979: 25).

The concluding ribald pun (the film uses the more decorous 'blastoff') relates sexual activity to the operation of nuclear weaponry. The comedy of Strangelove is ultimately about death, and destruction turns out to be the ultimate aphrodisiac. When the bombers head for the Soviet Union, Dr. Strangelove's eyes gleam with excitement and Turgidson becomes 'almost feverish'. General Ripper functions in the narrative not only as a trigger to the action but also as a particular instance of a general pathology.

In an article published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (to which Kubrick had a regular subscription) Mortimer Ostow speculated on the implications of Freud's death-wish for war, suggesting that it might be subject to 'discharge pressure' like Eros. He continued: 'In the case of some of the more aggressive and bold leaders of the past, it is likely that their belligerence served to deflect their inward directed death impulses to the outer world' (Ostow 1963: 27).

Here we encounter the central reversal that lies at the heart of Strangelove. Where earlier novels and films depicted the army as the nation's protector, they are now shown to be driven by lust for destruction which turns American against American and which ultimately leads to the demise of the nation. Lewis Mumford enthusiastically praised the film for its depiction of 'colossal paranoids and criminal incompetents' as being the 'only way possible to characterise the policy itself (Mumford 1964: 8). The whole point about Ripper, Turgidson and others is that they are not exceptions within the system. Two voices articulate reason but they are both outsiders to the American military: Mandrake, the seconded RAF officer who manages to find the bombers' recall code; and the President Merkin Muffley whose name makes a ribald contrast between female pubic hair and the President's baldness. From the perspective of the military hawks his very moderation (modelled in style and appearance on Adlai Stevenson) feminises him; but it is his rationality not the action of the military, based on the dangerously irrelevant scripts of movie roles, which almost saves the situation. Almost, but not quite.

The climax of Strangelove realises the rumours in the film's opening scene of the Soviet Union building an 'ultimate weapon, a doomsday device'. The latter concept, as we saw in Chapter 3, was popularised but not originated by Herman Kahn whose description is closely followed in this narrative: the use of cobalt-coated megabombs buried deep in a mountain range triggered by computer (see Kahn 1961: 145).

The detonation of the device (ultimately uncontrollable) brings not tragedy since the President's queries about the fate of the population are drowned out by the possibility of a surviving remnant (men, of course) who would descend into mineshafts with women 'selected for their sexual characteristics' (George 1979: 144). At this point in the film Strangelove's prosthetic right arm springs erect in a multiple sign of a Nazi salute, displaced penis, and (pace Bernard Wolfe) aggression; the Cold War will continue, if only as a race to avoid a 'mine-shaft gap'. It is this ending, this 'strange love', which functions as a prelude to Suzy McKee Charnas's Walk to the End of the World (1974) which describes a post-holocaust world where the nuclear shelters have become the site for a gendered play of power. After the 'Wasting' the men project their guilt on to their women, reinventing an enemy-as-scapegoat, and reducing the women to slaves. (8)


The absurdist mode of Strangelove has been used in a number of subsequent narratives of nuclear war. Norman Spinrad's 'The Big Flash' (1969) has a countdown sequence to describe the rise of the new Californian pop group, the Four Horsemen. Their performances use sound and image to induce a pre-verbal desire for death, building up to an orgasmic climax with the sound of an explosion and - like the finale to Strangelove - slow-motion shots of nuclear blasts. Political despair is given an apocalyptic packaging which both uses and becomes spectacle; each performance contains news footage of burning Vietnamese villages, inner-city riots and similar scenes. The group's chants orchestrate a deathwish phrased as a yearning for escape: 'before we die let's dig that high that frees us from our binds ... the last big flash, mankind's last gasp' (Miller and Greenberg 1987: 56).

Again as in Strangelove, language proves unavailable for rational control of the impulse to die which Spinrad demonstrates through the moment before apocalypse where characters feel to be on the verge of revelation as they chant 'DO IT! DO IT!' The popularity of the group increases public support for nuclear weapons and even leads to the detonation of a device at one of their concerts. Their televised performance vicariously arouses a missile silo crew ('my own key was throbbing in my hand alive' [Miller and Greenberg 1987: 63]) to the point of launch. Spinrad's extension of the countdown into the social context works well since the story demonstrates a circulation of images of destruction from the military through the news and then pop media back to the military. In that sense 'The Big Flash' paints an even bleaker picture than Strangelove since society as a whole falls prey to the contagious lust for destruction.

Complicity too is the main issue in James Morrow's This is the Way the World Ends (1986) which one review declared 'begins where Dr. Strangelove ends'. (9) This future-war novel frames its main narrative with a predictive section where Nostradamus foresees a 'conflagration of human design' (Morrow 1989: 7). Morrow uses mock-picaresque chapter titles to flag in advance the experiences of 'our hero', a New England gravestone mason who buys his daughter an anti-radiation suit shortly before war breaks out. The sales contract is the main document of the novel since in it Paxton admits recognition that the suits encourage American 'society's leaders to pursue a policy of nuclear brinkmanship' (Morrow 1989: 45).

When the bombs drop, Paxton is half-blinded, shot and then carried off in a us nuclear submarine whose crew assume he is a member of the designated survivors elite (the 'Erebus' plan). Intermittent realism is used by Morrow to springboard the reader into temporary fantasy realms to capture the lunacy of nuclear confrontation. Thus Paxton buys his radiation suit from the MAD Hatter, otherwise known as the 'Tailor of Thermonuclear Terror'. Playing on the notorious policy acronym for Mutual Assured Destruction, Morrow depicts a surreal figure who combines the multiple roles of salesman, diplomat, manic chorus and even the weaver of humanity's fate. He is also the first in a series of figures to pass through the novel from Alice in Wonderland, reflecting an evident conviction by Morrow that the nuclear issue can only be dramatised through fantastic means.

Paxton accordingly is carried from life to death on a rite of passage where he is shown the destruction by fire of America, this last then rendered in narrative as an inset anti-scripture on the text 'In the ending Humankind destroyed the heaven and the earth' (Morrow 1989: 115). The culmination of Paxton's journey comes in Antarctica, the location of the Necropolis of History, an overgrown marble city like a vast monument surcharged with pathos by the impending death of the future. When Paxton and others query the sanity of events the Hatter points the moral of discredited rationality, screaming : 'They called the Joint Chiefs of Staff sane! They called the National Security Council sane!' (Morrow 1989: 125). Morrow acts on such declarations by denying Paxton (and the reader) a stable level of reality within the narrative; there is no area of his subjectivity exempt from the moral impact of nuclear war. Events shade into dream, but never at the expense of ongoing debate over the war, defence policy, or survivors' guilt. The concluding section describes the trial of the survivors by the 'unadmitted', what Jonathan Schell calls the future generations 'cancelled' by nuclear war. Paxton has by this point become the 'prisoner of the murdered future', alive but sterile. (10)

These chapters interrogate the whole situation of nuclear confrontation, like Leo Szilard's 'My Trial as a War Criminal' drawing comparisons with the Nuremberg hearings. Speaking with the viewpoint of history Justice Jefferson pronounces as final verdict the judgement: 'Each of you in his own way encouraged his government to cultivate a technology of mass murder, and, by extension, each of you supported a policy of mass murder' (Morrow 1989: 218). Paxton is of course an adult and therefore denied the buttressing of Alice's childhood innocence. Both Spinrad and Morrow implicate their protagonists and by extension their readers in the contagion of deathlust or in acquiescence to .1 culture of mass destruction. The next chapter will examine two narratives which investigate the cultural narratives Leading to that destruction after nuclear holocaust has occurred.


1. In 1957 Heinlein was offered the chance to write a screenplay for Work's novel, which he refused on the grounds that the book was a 'philosophical tract packaged as a fantasy' (Heinlein 1989: 116).
2. MS note from Stanley Kubrick to Heller, 30 July 1962, Heller Archive, Brandeis University.
3. The US edition of George's novel was retitled Red Alert, and the book was praised by Herman Kahn as a clever presentation of an 'ominous possibility' (Kahn 1962: 44) see Abrash 1986 for a discussion of the hidden logic within deterrence in this novel and Roshwald's Level 7. George dedicated his second nuclear novel, Commander-1 (1965), to Kubrick. For commentary on Fail-Safe and the preventive system of its title see Seed 1994b. The scenario of a madman launching a weapon against the Soviet Union is described in Andrew Sinclair's The Project (1960).
4. The treatment of the telephone is not mere fantasy. At that time the us military depended on public lines for their communication; and when Kennedy moved into the White House the hot line was disconnected and removed during redecoration (Ford 1986: 28-9).
5. Cf. Brustein 1964: 4, and John W. Campbell: 'All our former concepts of strategy and tactics must be thrown out and an entirely new order of things instituted' (Campbell 1947: 243).
6. J. K. Galbraith described Lemay as 'the most prominent figure in the culture of destruction' ('Timewatch', BBC2, 8 October 1996).
7. Charles Maland sees in him elements of Edward Teller and Henry Kissinger as well as Kahn (Maland 1979: 709-10). The subtitle combines Norman Vincent Peale with an article by Leo Szilard: 'How to Live with the Bomb and Survive' [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists [February 1960]).
8. Charnas has explained that her novel was provoked by an article about an underground nuclear command facility for the us government which suggested that the 'very cretins who cause the destruction of the world [would be there] with lots of nubile young women' (Charnas 1998: 6). The 'mine-shaft gap' parodies the misperception of a 'missile gap' in favour of the Soviets which played a role in the 1960 presidential campaign.
9. The Philadelphia Enquirer, quoted in the fly-leaf of the 1989 reprint. A Strangelove figure named Dr. Randstable is among those tried for war crimes.
10. Cf. Schell 1982: 168: 'Of all the crimes against the future, extinction is the greatest. It is the murder of the future'.

In: American Science Fiction and the Cold War: Literature and Film. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press (2006), pp. 145-156.

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