Science, technology, and the environment

Book Section

© Cambridge University Press 2015. On August 6, 1945, change radiated from Hiroshima, Japan, a major urban port city with military and industrial significance and a population of a quarter of a million. Survivors' descriptions of the first military use of an atomic weapon sound like something out of science fiction. Two miles from the blast site, Mr. Tanimoto, a minister, saw a sudden flash of light followed by an eerie silence, while a fisherman at a distance of six miles heard a deafening roar. Morning turned to night for the minister as a cloud of dust and debris engulfed the city, and a dazed population surveyed the devastated landscape. Shadows that had once been people and animals haunted the city, and the unprecedented heat had burned clothing patterns directly onto people's skin. In an effort to lift a wounded woman into a boat, Mr. Tanimoto gently took her hands only to watch in horror as “her skin sloughed off in huge, glovelike pieces.” As he sought to move the “slimy living bodies” out of the way of further harm, he had to keep reminding himself that these were human beings. A new world order arose from the ashes of Hiroshima and, three days later, Nagasaki. Humankind had harnessed, in the words of President Harry S. Truman, “the basic forces of the universe,” and now faced questions about its own nature and fate with new urgency. For prize-winning New York Times military editor Hanson Baldwin, “another chapter in human history [had] opened,” turning “the weird, the strange, the horrible [into] the trite and the obvious” and “Americans” into “a synonym for destruction.”

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Wald, P

Published Date

  • January 1, 2015

Book Title

  • The Cambridge Companion to American Science Fiction

Start / End Page

  • 179 - 193

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9781107280601

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/CCO9781107280601.018

Citation Source

  • Scopus