tag: After Nuclear War

Recall Mechanism

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First published in If July 1959

Ever since he was a child Paul Sharp has suffered from a fear of falling. As an adult he seeks treatment from a psychoanalyst for this worsening problem. His analyst Humphreys uncovers repressed memories and figures out Sharp is a latent precog due to the radiation from the nuclear bombs that detonated in Northern California when he was young. Unaware of his abilities, Sharp’s fear comes from a vision of his own death at the hands of a man named Giller (also from Northern Cali) who wants Sharp, through his job at the Division of War Destruction Salvage, to rebuild Petaluma-Sonoma which was destroyed during the war. 

Although he doesn’t tell Sharp this, Humphreys decides there is nothing he can do for him. The story ends with Giller meeting with his own psychoanalyst and complaining about the compulsion he’s always had for great heights and the irresistible urge to push people. 

Cast of characters

  • Paul Sharp – suffers from a fear of heights and falling
  • Humphreys – Sharp’s psychoanalyst
  • Giller – wants Sharp to rebuild the Petaluma-Sonoma area in Northern California

Survey Team

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First published in Fantastic Universe May 1954

After nuking Earth’s surface an entire generation of humans grow up living in underground bunkers to hide from the radiation. A small crew of explorers is sent to Mars with the hope the neighboring planet can sustain human life, since their subsurface existence is slowly driving everyone mad.

On Mars this survey team finds abandoned cities and resources that have been mined and completely depleted. They uncover reports though that the Martians discovered a lush, green planet to escape to just like the humans hope to do. The team wants to follow them there, confident they can overtake anyone if necessary, until they realize this new verdant planet is the one they came from and already destroyed.

Cast of characters

  • Halloway, Young, Van Ecker, Carmichael, Doctor Judde, Captain Mason – the survey team exploring Mars

Planet for Transients

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First published in Fantastic Universe Oct-Nov 1953

A human named Trent sets off across the radioactive surface of Earth from an underground settlement in Pennsylvania, where food and oxygen supplies are dwindling, in search of another human settlement that can help them survive. On his trek he encounters three different groups of mutants who have adapted to thrive in that environment in the three hundred and fifty years since the nuclear war. 

He eventually finds another settlement, and they let Trent know the hard truth that humans have made Earth inhospitable for themselves and forfeited their right to live there anymore. The Earth belongs to all the mutants, and the humans deserve this for nuking the surface. They are leaving for good in search of other planets in a rocket they have constructed, and they agree to take Trent’s group with them. 

Cast of characters

  • Trent
  • Jackson and Earl Potter – friendly mutants Trent runs into on the surface. They also show up in the wasteland of Deus Irae.
  • Norris – a human in the settlement leaving Earth

Jon’s World

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First published in Time to Come 1954

The robotic humanoid “claws” the United States built during their war with the Soviets in 2051 gave them the upper hand in battle, but soon the claws turned against the humans that created them, driving the majority of people off the planet to the safety of the Moon, before fighting and destroying themselves. 

Years later, League member Caleb Ryan and the businessman Kastner are selected to travel back in time to retrieve papers documenting the artificial brain that powers the claws from a scientist named Schonerman who invented it, so that the humans on Earth can use this knowledge to construct worker robots in the present day that can help rebuild the planet.

In the meantime Ryan’s son Jon is having visions of increasing intensity where he sees an entirely different peaceful reality untouched by war. Before leaving Ryan decides to have his son lobotomized, a rather extreme, albeit successful, “solution” to his son’s visions. 

Schonerman is accidentally killed when they go back in time, and since the claws had never been invented, when Ryan and Kastner return to their present time they find the peaceful world exactly as Jon had described it.

Dick wrote this just after “Second Variety”, his story about the robotic claws and the humans fighting them just after the war.

Cast of characters

  • Caleb Ryan – League member selected to travel back in time
  • Jon Ryan – Caleb Ryan’s son
  • Kastner – United Synthetic Industries Combine member who travels back in time
  • Walter Timmer – the medical director
  • Schonerman – scientist who developed the principles for the first artificial brain 

Psi-man, Heal My Child!

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Imaginative Tales Nov 1955

A nuclear war between the Soviets and the United States wiped out U.S. cities decades ago, and by 2017 an entire generation has grown up in militarized underground communes. 

The few who have psionic powers live outside the communes and struggle with how to guide normal humans toward a working society when the humans don’t want their help. Jack repeatedly travels back in time and tries to warn the U.S. chief of staff of the armed forces about the outcome of the war, but he doesn’t have any luck preventing what will happen. The other psionics in present day are more concerned with how to sustain peace going forward. 

In the end the communes stop the free flow of civilians to the village where the psionics live. Anyone who leaves the shelter of the commune won’t be able to return, and only time will tell if the humans will accept the help of the psionics to rebuild civilization. 

Cast of characters

  • Ed and Barbara Garby – a couple with a sick child in the commune
  • Porter – a precog
  • Jack – a time traveler
  • Thelma – a healer
  • Doris – a parakineticist
  • Stephen – a telepath
  • General Earnest Butterford – chief of staff of the U.S. armed forces before the war

To Serve the Master

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
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First published in Imagination Feb 1956

A post-apocalyptic mail carrier named Applequist stumbles on a heavily-damaged war-time robot in a ravine over a hundred years after all the robots had supposedly been destroyed. Applequist doesn’t understand the robots role in the great war, and his superiors won’t explain it to him. 

The robot tells Applequist the war was fought between two factions of humans, the moralists and the leisurists. According to the robot, the moralists, who believed God intended men to live lives of toil, overcame the leisurists and with no need for robots eliminated them all.

A life of leisure greatly appeals to Applequist, so he helps repair the impaired robot. Only then does Applequist finally find out from his supervisors that the war was actually fought between the robots and humans, and that the robots had killed millions of humans before the humans rallied to defeat them. By that point the repaired robot has escaped from the ravine leaving the humans scrambling to track it down. 

Cast of characters

  • Applequist – a lower class mail carrier
  • Jenkins – Applequist’s assistant supervisor
  • Director Laws – Applequist’s boss