The apocalyptic fiction
Shaping the future in the Cold War
in Understanding the imaginary war
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The cold war was under the spell of an apocalyptic fiction, the vision of a total extinction of mankind by nuclear weapons. The chapter explores the history, functions and motives of this fiction, and the way it became politically operative. Initially dreamed up in the context of World War I, it was the idea of a military technology to ultimately end war. Throughout the Cold War, "the bomb" was perceived as a fiction that has become reality. The doctrine of "mutual assured destruction" is based on the credibility of this fiction. Cold war popular fiction, however, can be seen as 'metafiction' to analyze this political structure. Looking at stories, novels, and movies from H.G. Wells, Leo Szilard, Stanley Kubrick and Sidney Lumet, the chapter shows how they elucidate both the political functions of the apocalyptic fiction as well as its underlying "obscene" phantasies.

Understanding the imaginary war

Culture, thought and nuclear conflict, 1945–90


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