tag: After Nuclear War

The Great C

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
Buy it on Amazon
First published in Cosmos Science Fiction #1 Sep 1953

In a post-apocalyptic, far-off future an artificial intelligence responsible for the Earth’s nuclear destruction demands a yearly sacrifice from the planet’s surviving humans. A youth from one of the tribes makes the long trek out to speak to the Great C to attempt to stump it with three questions. The Great C easily answers these questions (where does rain come from, what keeps the sun moving through the sky, and how did the world begin) and the youth is dissolved in a vat of acid providing fuel for the Great C for another year.

Both Tibor and Pete encounter the Great C in Dick’s Zelazny collaboration Deus Irae, although in that book the Great C is more of a trickster trying to feed on passerby.

In 2018 Secret Location released a VR movie based on this story that also borrows the idea of the computer’s female avatar from Deus Irae

Cast of characters

  • Walter Kent – the tribe leader
  • Tim Meredith – that year’s sacrifice to the Great C
  • Bill Gustavson, Anne Fry, John Page – members of the tribe

The Defenders

Paycheck and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
Buy it on Amazon
First published in Galaxy Jan 1953

It’s been eight years since a nuclear war between Russia and the United States has left the surface of the Earth uninhabitable. All humans live and work below ground, sending weapons up to the leadies, robots designed to withstand the deadly radiation who continue to fight the war by proxy.

When the head of Internal Security for the Americans notices a visiting leady is non-radioactive for some reason he organizes a party to the surface to investigate. Once there they find there is no nuclear fallout and in fact no ongoing war. The leadies have been faking the entire thing, creating miniature destroyed cities and sending down ersatz war footage as life above ground (minus humans) is thriving.

The leadies decided if they kept a fake war going long enough the human’s hatred would burn itself out and then all of mankind could be united… or something like that. Their scheme seems kind of dubious to be honest but also kind of cute. The leadies trap these Americans, who now know the grand plan, on the surface, since it’s not quite time to expose the fake war to everyone. They are introduced to a small group of Russians who also ventured above ground at some point and also found out the truth, and together the two factions must learn how to get along.

Dick would reuse and expand this idea in his later novel The Penultimate Truth, although the circumstances of the phony war in that one are much more complicated.

In 1956 this story was adapted for NBC’s X Minus One radio series.

Cast of characters

  • Taylor – planner for the U.S. war program
  • Mary – Taylor’s wife
  • Moss – Taylor’s supervisor
  • Commander Franks – officer of Internal Security

Pay for the Printer

Second Variety and Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick
Buy it on Amazon
First published in Satellite Oct 1956

In this thinly veiled dig at 1950’s consumer capitalism, extraterrestrials called the Biltong settle on Earth after Earth’s nuclear war destroys much of civilization. These Biltong have the ability to create replicas of Earth items, and the human survivors use the aliens to rebuild their cities based around these ersatz goods. Soon the Biltongs begin to die from overwork. Anything they’ve copied starts to disintegrate, and so humans will have to relearn the lost art of building things with their own hands.

Cast of characters

  • Allen Fergusson – member of the Pittsburgh settlement
  • Charlotte, Ben Untermeyer – members of a settlement outside Pittsburgh
  • John Dawes – a survivor who has learned to craft a wooden cup

If There Were No Benny Cemoli

Buy it on Amazon
First published in Galaxy Dec 1963

“If There Were No Benny Cemoli” is a twisting story about the legend and myth of revolutionaries. Using fake news reports from the past about an agitator named Benny Cemoli, those on Earth who orchestrated a disastrous nuclear war keep a newly arrived intergalactic reconstruction crew (the Centaurus Urban Renewal Bureau aka CURB) occupied chasing this phantom and off their trail.

Cast of characters

  • John LeConte – a ‘politico’ on Earth
  • Mr. Fall – LeConte’s secretary
  • Peter Hood – CURBman from Centaurus
  • Joan Hood – Peter Hood’s wife
  • Rudolph Fletcher – Hood’s assistant
  • Otto Dietrich – the supreme police investigator from Centaurus who vows to make an example of the war criminals responsible for Earth’s nuclear war
  • Benny Cemoli – a supposed revolutionary who seized power of North America in a coup
  • Stavros – a Greek grocery store owner and supposed follower of Benny Cemoli

Captive Market

Buy it on Amazon
First published in If Apr 1955

Mrs. Berthelson, owner of a small country store in Northern California, has the unique ability to travel through time. Her ‘captive market’ is a group of desperate survivors of a nuclear war in the not too distant future where Mrs. Berthelson travels once a week to sell her goods at whatever price she chooses.

The survivors plan to leave Earth for Venus on a rocket they have constructed, but Mrs. Berthelson, not wanting to give up such a lucrative gig, selects a future where their rocket crashes on takeoff trapping them on Earth as her perpetual customers.

Cast of characters

  • Edna Berthelson – owner of a small country store
  • Jackie – Mrs. Berthelson’s grandson
  • Tellman, Gladys, Barnes, Masterson, Flannery, Patricia, Crowley, Dobbs – survivors of a nuclear war in the future

The Days of Perky Pat

Buy it on Amazon
First published in Amazing Stories Dec 1963

The underground-dwelling flukers* are all that remains of humanity after a hydrogen war leaves the land permanently uninhabitable due to radiation and feral mutated animals.

Members of the Pinole fluke pit in Northern California live off of care packages dropped by Martians and pass the time by playing a board game with a Barbie-like Perky Pat doll. When they hear about an Oakland fluke pit that plays a similar game with a doll named Connie Companion Norm and Fran Schein meet the Oakland flukers halfway in Berkeley to face them in a game where the winner receives the other flukers’ doll. The Scheins return to Pinole victorious, but when the rest of the Pinole flukers find out that Connie Companion is grown up, married, pregnant and has a job unlike the perpetual teen Perky Pat they get gravely offended (which I couldn’t quite grasp this overreaction), banish the Scheins, and Sam Regan decides to leave with them.

It’s an oddball story interesting mostly if seen as a sketch for one of Dick’s best novels The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

*because it was a fluke they survived

Cast of characters

  • Tod and Helen Morrison, Norm and Fran Schein, Sam and Jean Regan – members of the Pinole fluke pit. Same or similar names as the Mars colonists in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
  • Timothy Schein – the Schein’s ten-year-old boy
  • Fred Chamberlain – a child from the Pinole fluke pit
  • Hooker Glebe – mayor of the Pinole fluke pit
  • Ben Fennimore – member of the Berkeley fluke pit
  • Walter Wynn, Charley Dowd, Peter Foster – members of the Oakland fluke pit