09 February 2017

FWS Topics: Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear War (Pt. 3 "Sci-Fi and the Bomb")


Humans have funny ways of dealing with stress and fear. For over forty years, the US and the USSR fought a war with words, money, politics, diplomacy, and espionage. This cold war was due to the extreme penalty that would have come about if the US and the USSR had engaged in actual "hot" warfare: the possibility of an nuclear exchange. For those of us that grew up with the possibility of a nuclear war looming over them, they sought to deal with that fear and anxiety. Often, creators and audience embrace that thing that generates fear and anxiety in the form of fiction that serves as both an therapeutic experience and as a warning (Doctor Strangelove). This was the nature of the relationship between science fiction and the bomb. However, there is something else. Does it not seems logical that nuclear weapons, with all of their power, used in space combat and be one of the best weapons for futuristic space warfare? Well, with science being the harsh mistress, she tells us differently. In this blogpost, FWS will explore science facts about the use of nuclear, atomic, hydrogen, and neutron weapon in both in planetary battlefields and space combat situations. In addition, we shall see how sci-fi creators used their talents to warn all of us about the horror that could be unleashed if the bomb was dropped. 

Nuclear Weapons and Warfare in Science Fiction 
The inclusion of nuclear weapons, nuclear war, and post nuclear holocaust fiction in sci-fi stories is a mainstay of post-war science fiction and while many believe it emerged after World War II, it is actually older than I originally believed with H.G. Wells; 1913 novel The World Set Free. When the power of nuclear weapons became common knowledge among the general public, stories about the use of atomic bombs and the world after emerged around 1947. These stories and settings only increased after the the successful Soviet atomic test, the world of sci-fi media responded with a host of post-nuclear holocaust tales with some being good like Alas, Babylon and A Boy and His Dog while others were nothing more than retrend of the trope to cash-in on its popularity and instant "hook" for a certain audience and time period
Either way, the advent of nuclear war between the US and USSR in the real-world made vastly popular in the realm of sci-fi. Why? Partly, it has to do with a excuse in dealing with the collective real fear of a thermonuclear holocaust, especially after the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Sci-fi allowed for an outlet to speak those fears and anxiety and it also allowed for the creator to voice an unpopular political message in the veil of a fictional tale during the Cold War when you could be labeled to one's own nation by speaking out against the amassing of nuclear bombs and missiles. Such were the times and even Star Trek: TOS got in on the action. Sci-fi nuclear war tales ran the gambit from serious to silly, and often the vanilla "after a nuclear war" trope was a vehicle for the creator to forge a new brave world out of the ashes of a nuclear holocaust. During the pulp era of sci-fi, the use of Space Age buzz words like "atomic" allowed for magazine publishers to milk the fear and the anxiety for sales, and there were a ton of them. Also, given the awesome power of the atom, nuclear testing, experiments, and accidents were a device to create monsters, superheroes (Spiderman), and leaps in science without the need for much in the way of explanation. It was simply accepted.     
Then came the 1980's and this was the apex of the nuclear holocaust fiction genre and there are three reasons for that occurrence: the election of American President Ronald Reagan, the release of Road Warrior, and the VCR. All three of these factors fused together in the very early 1980's to form a trend in mass media that stopped worrying and starting loving nuclear holocaust settings. With increased military spending and strong rhetoric coming from the Reagan Administration fueled increased fears of an all-out nuclear exchange between NATO and the Warsaw Pact was more likely in the public imagination. While nuclear holocaust fiction in films and television is nothing new in the 1980's, there is one film that propelled the trend to new heights of popularity: the sequel to Mad Max. Going by either Mad Max 2 or the Road Warrior, George Miller's follow-up to 1979's Mad Max was bigger, louder, and more engaging than the previous film.
For many of us, the Road Warrior was our introduction to the crazy world of George Miller's dark vision of a post-atomic world, and it influenced generations of creators and fans. It is the Citizen Kane of post-nuclear holocaust films, and it spawned imitators that lined the shelves of movie rental stores throughout the 1980's. I can remember wandering and absorbing the countless covers of those films while knowing that it could happen. This accessibility to post-nuclear horror films via cheaply made Road Warrior clones allowed the rental store to be the dealers for a generation of nuclear war junkies. And it was not just in America. Japanese anime and manga also used the influence of Road Warrior and the general fear of nuclear war to create works like Fist of the North Star, MD Geist, Akira, and even Appleseed. 
It was around this time in the mid-1980's, that computer technology allowed for the world of post-nuclear war video games to emerge and import virtual wastelands to the home market. However, these post-nuclear war video games would behind the times due to the technological limitation. It is still a popular explanation and setting even today as seen with the game Fallout series and Metro:2033. In addition to films, books, comics, and animation; there is RPGs. After the massive success of D&D, RPGs were also mining the post-nuclear war setting even more so. Many late 1970's and 1980's pen-and-paper role playing games allowed players to create characters and scenarios in the horror after an nuclear exchange such as ORGE, Aftermath!, and Rifts. In the end, the horrific aftermath of the use of the nuclear weapons have been the background and cause of many settings in science fiction for one simple reason: nuclear war is an accessible horror. Everyone, due to media saturation, seems to have a good idea of a post-nuclear war world, and that allows the ease-of-use of nuclear war device for many sci-fi creators for a vast array of works in the past, present, and future of the science fiction genre.

Will Hard-Science Warships use Nukes for Space Combat?
There is an assumption that since nuclear weapons are so lethal in endoatmospheric warfare that that power will transfer to exoatmospheric warfare between combat starships. But, is that true? I think the inclusion of nuclear weapons in the onboard arsenals of starships would be unlikely given that kinetic energy projectiles, like railgun rounds, would be far deadlier than a nuclear tipped missile or torpedo. The only reasons I can think to include nukes onboard warships is if the massive burst of radiation effects the sensory or electronics of an enemy warship, like a very expensive jammer or flash-bang, or that the nuclear weapons could be used to bully colonial worlds/enemies as seen BSG "the Eye of Jupiter" or to stop a xenobological threat as seen in ALIENS or Starcraft. Another factor working against spaceborne nuclear weapons is if they are banned on Earth. If the nations or government of Terra has completely disarmed, than allowing them to be manufactured for space combat only usage is highly unlike unless production was completely off-world. This could be compared to the situation with the Replicates being illegal on Earth after the bloody revolt on an off-world colony seen in BLADE RUNNER.  

Effect of Nuclear Detonation in Space
Since 1945, the general public has been keenly aware of the effect of nuclear weapons within the atmosphere of our planet, but once you take away the atmosphere, the true awesome power of the bomb is robbed in the vacuum. The issue is that 50% of a nuclear weapon's power is from the concussive force (the blast wave), which would not exist in the vacuum of space. 35% is heat, and rest (15%) is the series of nuclear radiation. Atmosphere is the conductor of the destructive power of a nuke, and once you take away that, you are left with a WMD that is only effective (to some degree) within one kilometer of the target! That is damn close in space combat, like living in the underwear of the person you're trying to kill. Not mention, that a nuclear device has to survive through the enemy warship's AAA defenses and any “space fighters” forming a screen.
Nuclear weapons in space would appear like a bright flash, no mushroom cloud, or wave of hellfire, just extremely bright light, a dense shower of gamma rays, beta particles, and neutrons. If a warship was in “ground zero” in the spherical nuclear explosion, it is likely that the starship would be showered in a bath of radiation, and depending on the level of shielding; it could affect the crew. If this was a risk, the crew could take cover in radiation shelters. However, given the risk of radiation exposure in normal travel, the hulls of starships would be lined and protected.  At that close proximity, there could be hull damage due to the shock wave; this could weak the hull enough to allow for less dwelling time for a directed energy weapons turret.

Internal Nuclear Explosion?
Endoatmospheric nuclear explosions are the stuff of doomsday scenarios and are awesome examples of mankind's technological and scientific progress. However, in the vacuum of space, nuclear weapons lose their fangs. This casts doubt on the utility of nuclear weapons in space combat, but what about an nuke explosion inside the hull of an starship? We've seen this used in the destruction of the Cloud Nine pleasure spaceship in BSG and the teleporting an nuclear warhead inside of a Wrath ship on Atlantis. If I had been in command of the when the Borg cube came calling, I would have tried to beam over a nuke with the words "assimilate this, fuckers!" That begs the question: would internal nuclear explosion would be more effective than exterior? Certainly.
If you smuggle in a nuclear device into a warship or space station that's no moon, than the full fury of the nuclear explosion would be generated internal for a second or two, until the hull is completely ripped apart and the nuclear explosion is exposed to the vacuum of space. In this moment, the target would be subjected to twin titanic forces at the same time, and few targets could stand up to a force of that magnitude. However, delivering the nuke into the warship, space base, or space station would be the most difficult part of the plan. In normal ship-to-ship combat, a direct nuclear missile strike would not be as effective as a clean kinetic round that would punch through the hull can cause all manner of secondary damage and could collapse the interior structure with just a single hit. While nuclear anti-ship missiles and smuggled warheads may not be the best weapon-of-choice for space ship-to-ship engagements, they could be highly effective in taking out space stations and space installations, like asteroid bases.

Future Weapons that could Replace Nuclear Weapons

Relativistic Kinetic Kill Vehicle Weapons (RKKV or R-Bombs)
One of the future weapons of mass destruction is the relativistic kinetic kill vehicle, a big brother of sorts to the familiar KEWs and could be a replacement to the nuclear weapons. The power of the R-Bomb comes for its mass and speed, which is near the speed of light (normally above 14% of lightspeed), achieved by some means of starship propulsion. These would be strategic weapons due to the amount of time and distance it would take for the RKKV to achieve desired. Given these conditions, the R-Bomb would be used against planets and other large non-mobile installations or stellar bodies. We could see a situation, like a interstellar Cold War, were two planets develop RKKVs and aim them at one another in a act of deterrence, because an R-Bomb could be an extinct-level event if they impacts on a planet. One of the best examples of an R-Bomb comes from the depressing, but great 1995 book: The Killing Star by Charles Pelligrino and George Zebrowski.

Matter/Antimatter Annihilation Explosives 

What happens when you combine one gram of hydrogen and one gram of antihydrogen? About 43 kilotons of explosive power and a possible replacement for nuclear weapons as seen throughout the Trek universe and been part of scientific research since 1950. While this may seem to a winner to most, but there drawbacks to the use of M/AM collision weaponry. First is that antimatter is extremely expensive, about $25 billion per gram, and it is difficult to contain and manufacture using modern, known means. Then there is the real kicker...there will not be 100% efficiency of the antimatter used for the explosive yield. This means if your photon torpedo, housing 1.5kgs of antimatter should yield 64.3 megatons of explosive yield, but it will not due to some reactions between being harmless and 100% of the antimatter being utilized, causing your torpedoes to be variable in yield. All of this adds up to antimatter weapons being a poor substitute for nukes.

Kinetic Orbital Projectile ("Rods from God")
Imagine a telephone pole sized tungsten projectile being hurled at a major city at Mach 10 speeds with an estimated energy output equal to 115 tons of TNT from orbit. This is the nature of a city-killer, non-nuclear weapon system that has been examined by the US military to be a way around the Outer Space Treaty and a way to deliver massive power without the horror of nuclear weapons and faster than an ICBM. While the science is solid, the economics are not. The monumental task of putting kinetic rod orbital weapons platforms into orbit would be only equal to its costs. This would be billions of dollars and for what? If the USAF used an "rod from god" on a enemy city, the response could be nuclear, because the damage coming from the impact of the kinetic projectile would be similar to a nuclear explosion, just without the radiation. This could mean that the orbital tungsten rods would be a deterrent...and we already have those rotting away.   


Other Uses for Nuclear Energy: 

Nuclear Pulse Propulsion
The means of future starship propulsion is a hot topic in sci-fi and research circles, and one of the most interesting and sort of crazy is the use of nukes to propel starships. In 1946, it was proposed by Stanislaw Ulam to use these new nuclear weapons as a means of spacecraft propulsion, which the concept of using high explosives as propulsion dates back to the 1880’s. The most famous theoretical spacecraft design using nuclear pulse propulsion is DARPA’s Project ORION that would use directional nuclear charges to push a large plate attached with shock absorbers.
This reaction propels the starhip at a velocity determined by the amount of nuclear charges used.  So, how long would it take for a Nuclear Pulse Population starship to get to Alpha Centurai? About 133 years with the need for 300,000 one megaton bombs. While nuclear pulse propulsion is possible with today’s technology, there are several issues. One being nuclear treaties that exist, another is the lifespan of the pusher-plate, along with  the risk to the crew, and lastly, that the starship would be need to be launcher from an orbital facility given that the nuclear pulse propulsion drive cannot be used endoatmospheric environments.  One of the few visual works on nuclear pulse propulsion was the 2009 Ronald Moore pilot Virtuality which is on DVD and very much worth checking out.

Asteroid Defense
One of the reasons to keep nuclear weapons around, scientifically speaking, has been to their rumored ability to be an asteroid defense weapon…but how true is that? NASA has looked into using a nuclear device onboard an robotic spacecraft  called an HAIV to be used against incoming asteroid without Bruce Willis’ help. The Hyper-velocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle asteroid slayer is a two-stage interceptor robotic vehicle that would be launched towards the target that could be detected months or weeks away. When the HAIV is about a minute away from impact, it deploys a kinetic impactor to create a crater to maximize the penetration of the stellar body and the effectiveness of the nuclear device.
Just a heartbeat after the kinetic impactor hit, the nuke inside of the HAIV (between .05 of an Megatons to 2 Megatons.) explodes, hopefully ending the threat. While feasible, the researchers wanted $500 million to research the HAIV asteroid killer spacecraft.  Another method of using nuclear weapons against incoming space rocks is to derive the path of the asteroid away from Earth. This could also be done by an kinetic impactor or even attaching an rocket boost module to the surface of the asteroid…or just call on Bruce to drill down.


Power Generation
Beside weapons, another use for nuclear energy is fairly common: power generation. It is not just here on Earth, but also used on space probes when solar panels, fuel cell, or regular batteries are impractical. While several satellites have flown with regular nuclear reactors, the radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) that uses the heat for radioactive decay to generate electricity (about 62 watts) for about 87 years.  RTGs have been fitted onto some of the most iconic space probes and Martian rovers throughout space exploration history.  Beside the Voyager space probes and the Mars rovers, there were several experimental stations on the Moon that were planted by Apollo missions. Some of the most distant man-made objects, the Pioneer and Voyager space probes are powered by several RTGs and will be for decades to come, around 2025. 

Nuclear Rocket Propulsion
Another application of nuclear energy for space travel is as a means of propellant via supra-heated hydrogen. Since the 1950's, there have been experiments into using a nuclear reactor to super heat some sort of gas, mostly hydrogen, and the expelling of the gas creates thrust. These nuclear thermal rocket motors could be single core, pulsed, liquid, or gas systems that all vary, but they do offer superior performance over conventional chemical rockets. It is believed that nuclear thermal rockets could carry us to Mars and the asteroid belt, but with anything nuclear there are concerns over safety, materials able to withstand the thermal load, and possible condemnation if there was an accident. NASA and the Soviet Union explored the use of nuclear thermal rockets over the years and while several were tested, none saw space flight. These were seen, by NASA, as a possible "drop-in" replacement on the Saturn V rockets, use as a space tug, and even a means to get to Mars during when NASA was seriously looking into launching a expedition to the red planet by itself. There are still testing, research, and experiments into nuclear rockets.

What Would Happen to Astronauts if there was an Nuclear War?
If there was an massive exchange of nuclear weapons, the international crew of the international space station and any other space vehicle/station would be safe from the nuclear warfare raging below but not the aftermath. Any astronaut in orbit depends on a lifeline of supplies and assistance from the ground and without those shipments, time for our brave explorers would be running out.  At some point, the astronauts would have to make the call to either die in orbit or take one of the capsules back down to the ruined planet and take their chances. Of course, if there is a nuclear war between say the US and the Russians, would the astronauts and cosmonauts engage in their own private war onboard the space station? There were several films about this scenario: Def-Con 4 (1985), The Aftermath (1982), and Survivor (1987).  I've seen all of these and they are terrible and cannot deliver on the promise of the basic setting.
  
From the Fox Mulder Corner: Ancient Atomic Warfare in India and on Mars?!
Confession time: I do watch Ancient Aliens, I own an Giorgio Tsoukalos t-shirt, and I've been interested in ancient astronaut theory since the 6th grade (1988). And yes, I do have a bachelor's degree in history. So take this next section with a grain of salt because when it comes to some of these theories they are just that: interesting theories. Mentioned alone with the modern prospect of nuclear warfare is "evidence" of an ancient atomic warfare that was the termination one of the great Indian civilizations lost to modern historical research.
Alternative history websites and the History Channel television show Ancient Aliens discuss clues of an ancient nuclear war waged around 3500 years ago with the ancient Indian cities of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa being wiped out by an ancient atomic assault. Ancient alien theorists point to 37 skeletons found on the streets, cryptic lines in the ancient Indian poem epics, and some local radioactive. Of course, no mainstream archaeological institution as backed up these claims. There also claims of the mythical Rama Empire being engaged in this nuclear warfare and that the Lonar crater lake was not formed by an meteor but by an nuclear explosion. While this is compelling and conjures up scenes from the rebooted Battlestar Galactica series, it is highly unlikely. Even modern nations like Iraq and North Korea have had issues with the development of atomic weaponry and those installations are a major footprint on the land and resources. If ancient civilizations had developed WMDs, there is no evidence of the industrial base needed for such a technological development or the power generation. If such technology was in the hands of our ancestors, it came from the stars.
Now we make the journey from Terra to Mars with some claiming, including Dr. John Brandenburg and Richard Hoagland, that ancient Martian nuclear war wiped out life on the Red Planet. He and others believe that certain craters in the Mare Acidalium region (where the Face on Mars is located) point to nuclear bombardment from orbit (was Ripley there?). Dr. Brandenburg also includes the high concentration of Xenon-129 in the thin atmosphere was the result of that nuclear strike. Who killed the Martians? Possibly another Martian faction that attacked from an warship or space station or even another alien race bent on conquest on the Red Planet. The odd thing is that NASA believes part of this theory...however, NASA and other mainstream scientists believe that a naturally occurring nuclear reaction happened around 180 million years ago that rendered Mars to the state it is now. We will only know if this theory is correct when we touch down on the red sands of Mars.

Examples:
Okay, there are tons of examples of nuclear weapons and war seen in sci-fi and I decided to pick across the board. 

World War III from the Mad Max Universe
The original 1979 Mad Max was some very unique in the post-Star Wars sci-fi cinema world and it would show a world on the edge of madness with gasoline running out and basic government serves collapsing. No hints of a limited nuclear exchange were mentioned or seen in that landmark film. Given the success of the first film (not in the US) and the sequel culture being in high gear, a sequel was begin to explore the world of Max deeper and with a great deal more money. With inspiration from The Hero with a Thousand Faces and input from Terry Hayes, Max's world became altered radically from the first film's world-on-the-edge to a world completely collapsed and in a state of anarchy.
To accelerate the madness and collapse from the first to the second film, Terry Hayes suggested the post-nuclear apocalypse angle to the sequel's story and this became the permit situation of the Mad Max universe. Much like On the Beach, Australia and New Zealand have largely been spared from the fate of North America, Europe, and Asia; but it is still grim. The nuclear war touched off by the US and USSR over dwelling oil supply crisis of the first film has resulted in the complete fall of conventional economics and government in the nations not directly affected by the nuclear strike.
This was the so-called “Fuel Wars”.  There is little detail about the nuclear war itself or if even Australia was hit directly (a ruined Sydney was seen in Thunderdome).  However, the altering of the weather pattern along with the complete loss of civilization is devastating enough to the land down under.  The second film is largely regarded as one of the greatest post-nuclear holocaust films of all time along with one of the strongest sequels. Road Warrior influenced most every nuclear holocaust film since and has spawned hundreds of imitators. While not an accurate representation of life in the post-nuclear apocalypse world, it is one of the most powerful.

The Family Atomics from the DUNE Universe
In the original DUNE novel from 1965, the great houses of the Landsraad owned a secret stockpile of atomic weapons that were described as “family heirlooms” from a long ago era, prior to the establishment of the government system presented in DUNE. These dusty and ancient WMDs were mainly used as a means to keep the great houses in check via our old friend deterrence, the actually use of atomics would have been a death sentence of the house that used them. Their capital world would be burned by overwhelming force. It is believed that the atomics of the great houses dated back prior to the Butlerian Jihad. These were a fail-safe method of preventing their world from falling into the hands of the thinking machines. These were used several times in the DUNE novels, namely the breaking of the Arrakeen shield wall and during the Butlerian Jihad. Under the rein of the God Emperor Leto II, the stockpiles from the Houses were removed at the beginning of the worm's rule and put into a safe place. 

Nukes vs. the invading alien bastards from War of the Worlds (1953) and ID4 (1996)\
One of the common usages of nuclear weapons in sci-fi is to defend the Earth from alien bastard invaders, and in the classic 1953 War of the World and Independence Day from 1996, we see just that: humans using nukes to blast the alien invaders. In the modern retelling of H.G. Wells’ classic that founded military sci-fi in 1898, 1950’s America is invade by superior aliens with flying saucer-like craft and not tripod walker mecha. When the conventional military could not stop the invaders, the atomic bomb is used via the Northrop YB-49 “Flying Wing” bomber, but the Martian energy shielding defeats mans’ greatest weapon. The leaders and scientists now believe that defeat is a matter of time. Given that this film was from 1953, this was one of the founders of the “nukes vs. aliens” trope. 
The big budget Independence Day alien invasion film was one of most successful films of the summer of 1996 and it drew from the War of the Worlds film, including the use of nuclear weapons against the aliens. As the alien marauders attack cities around the world, the US president orders the use of nuclear weapons with the first launch being against the alien craft above Houston.  This first nuclear strike was to be a test before the other members of the Nuclear Club launched their own nuclear counterstrike. To monitor the attack was a specifically outfitted armored recon vehicle.  In one of the best scenes in the film, B-2 “Spirit” bombers attack the City Destroyer UFO with nuclear missiles. In the ensuing chaos, the city of Houston is leveled, but it is learned that the UFO is intact, suffering no damage due to their energy shielding.  During the use of B-2 bombers armed with nuclear missiles over Houston, the production crew made a nod to War of the Worlds via bent street lights that resemble the Martian attack ships DEW tentacle.  

The Global Nuclear War from Out on the Beach (1959)
On the Beach is one of films made early into the Cold War and the public curiosity/horror with nuclear war. Based on a 1957 novel of the same name, On the Beach starred some heavy-hitters along with a good director, making this much more than the standard run-of-the-mill film. The nuclear war was wages in 1964, triggering the de-population of the western hemisphere and southern hemisphere offering temporary respite from mass extinction, naming Australia, New Zealand, and the tip of South America. 
Australia becomes the center of this new reality, and the last US Navy nuclear submarine, the USS Sawfish is sent on a mission to investigate a Morse Code picked up in San Diego and see if the arctic regions offer a shelter from the creeping radiation clouds descending on Australia. When those clouds arrive, the remains of humanity will die off, causing the government to issue suicide pills. Everyone dies and there is a banner that reads: “there is still time, brother”. This informs the audience that there is still time in the real world to avoid self-extinction. A sobering film to say the least and it reflected in the poor box office performance in 1959.  

Alien Nuclear Wars from the Classic Doctor Who Universe
Throughout the classic Doctor Who universe and storylines, nuclear weapons and war have been present and central to galactic history. The planet of origin for the Daleks, Skaro, was embroiled in a thousand year war that resulted in the liberal use of nuclear weapons between the Kaleds and the Thals. This fueled the need for the creation of cyborgs known as the Daleks and the Thals being pacifists. Despite the vast of time that past on Skaro, it was often depicted as a grey, rocky, dead world. Minyos was another example of an alien nuclear war that had profound effect on the Gallifrey society and governmental policy. 
The more technological advanced Gallifrey uplifted the Minyos civilization, looking up to them as gods. Then the table turned and they kicked the Time Lords off of their world. Soon after, the planet Minyos was rendered nearly uninhabitable due to a nuclear war. This theme runs through a great many of the nuclear war stories on classic Who. In the comics of Doctor Who Weekly reprinted by Marvel Comics in the 1980’s, there was one that had an Cybermen expedition discovered the legendary homeworld of the Deathsmiths of Goth and encounters the “Apocalypse Device”. After all of the Cybermen are destroyed, save for one, it realizes that the Apocalypse Device wanted to get off-world and the Cyberman commander activities the self-destruct to their ship, creating an nuclear explosion on the dead world of Goth.   

The 1992 Nuclear Holocaust from The Planet of the Apes Universe
In the original film timeline, it is believed that the nuclear war was fought around 1992, after the events of the 1972 3rd film Conquest of the Planet of the Ape and before the terrible 1973 Battle for the Planet of the Apes. The causes for this nuclear war are never spelled out and while many believed that a nuclear war was the original of the ape takeover of the Earth after man had blown themselves up, after the 3rd and 4th films, we now know that it takes place after the ape revolt. The first two films mine heavily the visual and collective fear of a post-nuclear war world, and were quite effective. In regards to the new POTA films, there will not be an nuclear holocaust angle given the viral-borne holocaust. 

World War III from the Akira Universe
One of the most famous animes films of all time is Akira and both the manga and the1988 anime film discusses a worldwide nuclear exchange that begun hours after the incident in Tokyo due to the experiments that led to Akira. This event was interpreted by the world nuclear powers as a prelude to all-out nuclear assault, and much like the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that started World War One due to the alliance system, World War III started due to the US being allies with Japan and assuming it came from a hostile power like China or North Korea.  The film is set 31 years after World War III, which makes the nuclear war and the animated film to share the same date: 1988. The tagline “31 years after World War III” was recycled continuous for the adverting for the Akira magna and anime. I still can remember that advising tagline being used in Marvel’s Epic Comics reprint of Akira that lasted over the course of 38 issues.  

The Tuckanka Nuclear War from the Mass Effect Universe
The homeworld of the Krogan is a planet that has borne may scars at the hands of the Krogan and their violent behavior. In the Terran years of 1900 BCE, the Korgan of old discovered nuclear weapons and proceed to wage a nuclear war followed by a nuclear winter that forced the remaining population down into deep underground shelters. For over 2,000 years, the population of the Krogan was kept low to the extreme weather conditions and the lack of resources. It was not until the species was uplifted that their population stabilized, but Tuckanka is still a scarred wasteland of a world. 

 World War Terminus from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
In this 1968 work by Phillp K. Dick that was mined for the 1982 sci-fi classic (and my favorite sci-fi film) BLADE RUNNER mentions a global atomic conflict called "World War Terminus", and the character of Rick Deckard  in 1992 (2021 in the later re-printings) discusses war a few times, mostly about the effect of the atomic fallout on the weather and the city of San Francisco. This atomic conflict is the reason for the lack of animals, off-world colonization and the elevated status of animals in the society over the people that cannot or would not emigrate to the off-world colonies. While I like elements of the original Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep story, especially the effect of a nuclear war that is the genesis for off-world space travel and colonization (like The Martian Chronicles). However, the book pales in comparison to the 1982 film BLADE RUNNER.  If you are a fan of the 1968  PKD novel, then check out BOOM! Comic Studio's Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep limited series, which marries some of the 1982 film with the 1968 text.





The Limited Nuclear Exchange from World War III from Twilight: 2000
Twilight: 2000 was a masterpiece of a Cold War-era military conflict RPG which my brother and I played in the late 1980's and very early 1990's. In the story, USSR and China waged a war in 1995 that leads to a global World War III, where the Warsaw Pact (remember them?) and NATO square off in Europe in both a conventional war and nuclear. There was an limited nuclear exchange around Thanksgiving 1997, splinting the US government into two rival entities: civilian-led and one that was run by the survivors of the joint chiefs. While the home nations recover from the nuclear conflict, the military units in Europe are still fighting, despite the lack of support and orders. This game is very dated by today's military technological standards, but the story is completely fascinating, thrilling me even today. This work was very influentially on me as a writer. I recently created a book idea based on Twilight:2000 with elements of Harold Coyle 1987 masterpiece  Team Yankee, where a far futuristic Martian armor vehicle company is trapped on a contested colonial world after a limited exchange of nukes. It is, at present, titled the Fourth War.

Judgment Day from the Terminator Universe

Here we are, one of the best examples of nuclear war ever featured in popular media or sci-fi cinema for that matter. The original film did not prescribe certain to the nuclear conflict set off by Skynet, but it was named and seen on-screen during the 1991 sequel: Judgement day.  The day of days was set to happen on August 29th, 1997 when Skynet decided to touch off a nuclear war in an act of self-perseveration against the humans at Skynet headquarters in Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado from unplugging the defense computer. 
In that exchange, the T-800 informs Sarah Conner that 3 billion are killed. In the wake of the nuclear fire survivors were scattered here and there with all bearing the same question in mind: why? When the first machine servants of Skynet began probing the ruins, the survivors got their answers. In the years that followed, the blackened ruins of the world became a battleground between the human resistance and the machines in a savage war that ended around 2029. The rise of revolting killer robots, god-like computer programs, and nuclear holocaust were an intoxicating mix for 1980’s audiences. The skill that Cameron pulled it off with skill and horror that it created a world that we would revisit again and again via books, more films, an television series, and comics.    

The Lunar Nuclear Waste Disposal Site from the Space: 1999 Universe
According to the 1970's sci-fi TV show Space:1999, one of the reasons for mankind going back to the moon was to develop safe off-world nuclear disposal sites. In the mythology of the show, in 1994, Luna was opened up to dumping nuclear materials, moved from Earth to the Moon via the Eagle class transport shuttles. It was massive nuclear detonation of these stored materials that flung the Moon along with Alpha Base on its long, strangle, groovy trip out of the solar system into misadventures in the galaxy of the 1970's British sci-fi television. There has talk lately of a reboot called Space: 2099.    


The Nuclear War from the TMNT RPG Supplement "After the Bomb"
Back in the 1980's, pen-and-paper RPGs ruled many a kitchen table and basement with D&D being the "patient zero" of the genre's popularity in many ways. During this time many RPGs were developed as an extension of another product, like ROBOTECH or the DC universe, or even 2001: A Space Odyssey...and that even applied to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In 1985, Palladium Book got the rights to create an RPG game from the original B&W TMNT comic book developed by Eastman and Laird in 1984. We have to remember that is prior to the redevelopment and package of the TMNT universe that led to the uber-successful cartoon series and the current understanding of the franchise. An 1986 supplement to the original game was "After the Bomb" when the TMNT RPG was taken to a post-nuclear holocaust where surviving humans battle evolved animals. As with many settings like this, there is a nuclear war and the mutant animal, resulting from an bio-weapon virus and transhuman experiments being blaming on either side. In the rubble several factions fight for control of the entire planet, orbital space, Luna, and even Mars. This interesting post-nuclear war world was rebooted by an 2001 update that is not quite as 1980's insane. I actually knew of this suppliemnt in the 1980's due to Starbase 21 and Time Warp Comics, both in Tulsa, having copies and I thought the inclusion of an post-nuclear holocaust to the TMNT universe to be arresting...plus the cover art is 1980's RPG awesome!  

The SADM Mission from Apoclypse Meow Manga (1998)
Okay, Apocalypse Meow is not military sci-fi per se, but it a military manga unlike any I've read or seen. Creator Motorfumi Kobayashi forged a unique modern war manga series that via anthropomorphism animals taking place during the Vietnam War and the Cold War. The primary character is Sgt. "Packy" Perkins, an elite recon special operator that performs black operations for the US special recon team "Cat Shit One". In this reality, the Americans are rabbits, the Viet-Cong are cats, and the British are rats. In the last Cat Shit One mission in the war, Sgt. Perkins is to undertake a unusual mission: the deployment of an SADM (Special Atomic Demolition Munition) to the Ho Chi Minh trail to stop incoming enemy forces and supplies. Thankfully, the mission is aborted before Cat Shit One can deploy the weapons of mass destruction. This is one of the rare examples of an SADM in fiction, let alone in Japanese comic books.  Apocalypse Meow is totally worth a read and one day FWS will cover this oddity of military comics.  





The Nuclear War of 2045 from DC Comics' HEX (1985-1987)
One of the most oddball of the post-nuclear war apocalypse comics is DC Comics' Hex that ran from 1985 to 1987. For decades after the 2nd World War, the Western genre reigned supreme over much of American media with the legions of books, comics, movies, and television to prove it. Then cracks started to appear in the mid-1960's and by the the time the 1980's rolled around, the Western was in massive decline. One of the products of the Western era was the DC Comic book series and character Jonah Hex. First appearing in 1971 and gaining his own series in 1977 showing the Old West adventures of a scarred ex-Confederate soldier-turned-gunslinger Jonah Hex. His skills with his dual .44 Colt Dragoons become legendary in the Old West along with his scar given to him by a Native American tribe chief for dishonorable combat. For 92 issues, it was all Old West settings and events...then he disappears in summer of 1878 in a ray of light. That light was Jonah Hex being teleported to the year 2050 by a warlord collector Reinhold Borsten. He escapes into the wasteland that this post-nuclear war America trying to find a way back to 1878. This Mad Max ripoff ran for eighteen issues until cancelled by DC Comics for low sales, taking the character along with it, ending one of the last comic book Western heroes. The reason behind the nuclear war of the 21st century was never fully explained in the few issues I read back in the day.
In issue number #4, Stiletta, who  is Borsten's daughter that is also an armed biker chick that has taken up with Hex, explains how the world came to be in the shit state it is in. Reinhold was a national security liaison assigned to a US government time machine project in the year 2042. After they send the first time traveler several years into the future, 2045, he returns one night covered in radiation burns and near death. He tells Reinhold that a global nuclear war erupts in 2045 and the world is gone. Seeing an opportunity for true power, Reinhold gathers supplies and technology, travels to 2047 to become a great leader in the wasteland leaving his wife to die in a nuclear impact and his daughter to be raised by her grandparents in the world after. With clean water being the most precious commodity in the post-apocalyptic world, Reinhold's company makes the new currency, the "soames"water purification tablet.
So, how did Jonah Hex find himself in post-nuclear wasteland 2050? For much of the life of the gunslinger DC Comic, it was under the helm of Michael Fleisher and it was clear to him that his beloved scarred outlaw was about to be cancelled around 1983, Fleisher needed to new angle to keep Jonah Hex around. There are two stories how Jonah Hex became Hex. One involved Ed Hannigan drawing the title text of "Hex" in bold pink (hey, it was the 80's!) and Fleisher began to wander about a new setting for Jonah, and no doubt that Road Warrior, Escape from New York, and Beyond Thunderdome factored into the decision to place Jonah Hex into the world of 2050 in a Mad Max like MFP jacket. Others have pointed to a letter from a fan named Doug Taylor back in Jonah Hex#76 being the genesis. He felt that the world of the Western had grown stale and Jonah Hex needed to be thrown into new situations to livening up the comic. In September of 1985, Hex#1 would be released among some advertisement and promotion by DC Comics. I can remember these ads appearing in the DC Comics Star Trek comics I collected and given that I loved the Mad Max movies, I decided to buy the first few issues.
This sense of curiosity, bold cover art, along with visual connection to Mad Max, the first issue sold well. Despite the strong first three issues, they began to slide into bullshit stories and weak art, causing a decline in sales and cancellation. During the limited run of Hex it would gain some brief popularity, some buzz, and even an adventure module for the DC Heroes RPG system called "Hex: Escort to Hell". The original Western Jonah Hex would return in 1993 in a limited series followed by a second monthly series in 2006. While forgotten by most, the popularity of the Jonah Hex character kept Hex from disappearing. This is still of the odder nuclear war stories that appeared in American comics.

The Post-nuclear "science-fantasy" world of the Gamma World RPG from TSR
TSR is best known as the publisher of D&D and Star Frontiers, bu they also had a post-nuclear holocaust "science-fantasy" game called Gamma World. First released in 1978 and being updated most recently in 2010, Gamma World was an TSR RPG I played back in the day, but I believe my brother did. How I discovered Gamma World was via the TSR published Chose-You-Own-Adventure-Books called "Light On Quests Mountain", which starts directly on the back of the 1983 book that this is a post-nuclear holocaust world where the light coming Quest Mountain has inspirited you to embark on a dangerous quest in a dangerous world. The setting of Gamma World was created by not one, but two nuclear wars hundreds of years apart. The first one was in the late 21st century and the second was 2309-2322 while the game takes place in the 25th century among the ruins and twisted reality. Since the game first was released in 1978, the cause for the setting of the game universe has been altered, but the post-nuclear holocaust applies to someone that grew up in the Cold War era. This game is not as well remembered as D&D nor Star Frontiers.

Nuclear Weapons from the Rebooted Battlestar Galactica Universe
Nuclear weapons are a critical element of the entire storyline of the rebooted Sci-Fi Channel Battlestar Galactica show that ran from 2003-2009. Nuclear weapons were the tool of mass extinction of the machines vs. their human creators on the Earth, Kobol, and the 12 Colonies. In the series, we see a number of nuclear ship-to-ship missiles being used in space battles, against planetary targets via space-to-surface MIRV missiles, as an act of terrorism onboard the Cloud 9, and as agent of mass extinction through the show's history.
While the haunting views of an blackened bombed out Earth are captivating along with the Cylon's liberate use of nukes to destroy the 12 Colonies, it is their use in space combat that is odd. The majority of nuclear weapons use in the show within planetary atmosphere and inside ships is accurate, it is the space battles that get nukes all wrong. While it is very cool to see the Galactica get pounded by outer space nuclear explosions that wash over the old lady, the real ship-killers would be the Galactica's KE cannons.  Still, the use of nukes in this space opera was an element of real world doomsday fear that give the BSG reboot a somber hard tone.    

The Post-nuclear world in the Aftermath RPG by FGU
Among post-holocaust-of- all- kinds-RPG from the Golden Age of the pen-and-paper variety, is the much maligned, Aftermath! By FGU.  This 1981 complex RPG is a framework for players and the DM to embark on post-end-of-the-world scenarios and the survival of the players in these wastelands. These scenarios include post-nuclear war holocaust and even invasion of dragons…seriously. For years, I heard and read that despite the framework of Aftermath! being a great, the game itself was unwieldy and overly complex, and the investment in time for entry-level players.  To most players I knew that played this (not I), they often set it in a post-nuclear exchange world. One group that played in Tulsa I knew, actually set their games in a post-nuclear holocaust Tulsa with using city maps and the location of Starbase 21 comic book store as their HQ. 





The World War III/ Post-Atomic Horror of the 21st Century from the Star Trek Universe
One of the things I still respect about the Star Trek universe, despite my recent self-imposed exile from it, was the foundation of the Earth's socialist society seen in the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th centuries. During the 21st century, the nations of Earth waged an atomic or nuclear conflict (depends on which series was telling the story), generally called World War III. This global limited nuclear exchange was given around 2053 in Star Trek: First Contact, and after the 1990's (!) Eugenics Wars, costing 600 million lives. The conflict seems to originated from the fallout of the Eugenics Wars, due to Colonel Green's statement that the post-atomic horror was touched off by factions, not nations. This is possible because the Augments seized power in 40 nations of Earth in the 1990's, and presumed created new kingdoms, where these Superman ruled like kings over millions of subjects.
This would cause the world in the post-Eugenics Wars to be possible still under the banner of their old deposed genetic superman lord's kingdom, or that new normal human groups were rising to power in the vacuum created by the Eugenics Wars, which could account for word "factions". Given the time period that the original Star Trek was created, 1966, the world was very much in the grip of possible full-scale nuclear exchange and this reflected in the subtext of the Post-Atomic horror period of Terran history. What is interesting about the nuclear war is that it directly led to the founding of the united world government, the first warp ship, and first contact. It some ways, the nuclear war was the fire that gave birth to the phoenix that was the Federation. 

The Krytol Nuclear Strike on the Zardon from the Missile Command Video Game
One of the icons of arcade gaming and the early years of home video game consoles is 1980's Missile Command. This game was a common sight in friends' homes, my own 2600 collection, and the arcade. Born out of the apex of Cold War, Missile Command despite the sci-fi story in the 2600  manual was a game created and defined by 1980 America living under a mushroom cloud and the six cities being defended by the counter-missile battery where nicknamed by the programmers from the six major California cities. It is said that the programmer for the game, Dave Theurer, was plagued with dreams of nuclear war.
The arcade and the home console ports vary, and the 2600 version with the mushroom cloud explosion and the single anti-ballistic missile battery (the acrade had three batteries). In both versions, the alien Krytol warriors launch ICBMs, single warhead, and bombers against the cities of planet Zardon, who launch anti-ballistic missiles to defend themselves. One of the cool things about the arcade cabinet is that it had the track-ball that was so much fun and this game was the inspiration for the SDF-1 "pinpoint barrier system" and it controls seen in ROBOTECH and Macross.

The Great War of October 23rd, 2077 from the Fallout Universe
Throughout the history of sci-fi and the bomb, there are tons of video games concerning nuclear war and the wasteland in the aftermath. But, there are few that could compare to the Fallout series. While the nuclear war was set in 2077, the pre-war world is a retro-futurism of the late 1950's and early 1960's that is due to alternate timeline of events, allowing for an very different 21st century. In this alternate timeline, a global fossil fuel storage sets off a conventional war between the major nations from 2052 to October 23rd, 2077, when the Great War sets off a nuclear exchange that destroyed much of the planet and killed much of the population.
The lucky ones had already taken cover in the massive shelter system or "vaults" that allowed for two very different societies to spring up: the ones inside the vaults and the ones outside in the post-nuclear horror. About 122 vaults were constructed beginning in the year 2045, but they were intended for the protection of American citizens, but rather for dark experiments that costs the lives of the vault survivors. With the massive and continued popularity of the Fallout series that can be seen in the mainstream television ads, it is often cited as one of the primary examples of nuclear war in science fiction, but the Fallout franchise is like most science fiction tales of nuclear war, it is more about the aftermath than the brief war itself.

Nuclear Weapons from the Stargate Universe
Even if you are casual viewer of Stargate, Stagegate SG-1, and Stargate Atlantis, you can see that nuclear weapons play a major part in the storylines, especially the season finales. In the original 1994 film, Jack O’Neil was given a nuclear device as a failsafe measure in case a threat to the Earth was found on the other side of the gate. When it turns out that there was a massive threat in Ra, the nuclear device was set, but was discovered by Ra’s personal guard. Given the history between Ra and the Earth, he adds Naquadah, a critical mineral to the technology of the Goa’uld, and increased the power of the Mark III nuclear device by an hundred fold.
This addition of Naquadah to enhance the lethality of nuclear weapons was theme that ran through the Stargate universe. This device was turn against Ra with the use of the transport rings to destroy Ra’s mothership. To defend the Earth from the Goa’uld,  an ground-to-space  nuclear-infused Naquadah missile called the “Goa’uld Buster”. This massively overpowered anti-ship missile was said to be one million kilotons, or about the same energy released in a 9.2 earthquake and more power than an average Star Trek photon torpedo or the largest nuclear bomb, the Tsar Bomba. These missiles were fitted with the same stealth technology as the F-302, and two were launched during the invasion of Earth by Goa’uld Ha’tak warships. These failed to penetrate their energy shielding.
During the run of Stargate Atlantis, nuclear weapons were used to defeat the Wraith in the Pegasus Galaxy and defend the city of Atlantis. The city used alien-sourced atomic bombs from the Genii and nuclear mines to prevent the Wraith invasion of the city. The plan, after the destruction of the nuclear mines, was to tie the drone control chair systems into a cloaked puddle jump shuttle armed with the Genii nuclear bomb inside the Wraith capital ships.
In order to combat the new threats, the new BC 304 American warships were developed with Terran weapons technology and alien FTL and defensive systems.  Among the offensive systems was two types of nuclear devices: the Mark VIII ship-to-ship missile and the Mark IX “gate buster” that had an explosive yield of at least 10 gigton that was accomplished via normal thermonuclear warhead and Naquadah. During the battle between the Daedalus and the Wraith fleet, the aliens were inception the incoming nuclear missiles, so the warheads were stripped off and the alien transporter was used, with the some convincing, to teleport the bombs directly into the belly of the beast. This was something that I’ve wanted to see Star Trek for years.  It worked a few times until the Wraith blocked the teleportation, and when it did not, F-302 fighters to transport the nukes to the Wraith hive-ships. While I respect the creative use of nukes and teleporters, the Stargate universe is such soft-serve science fiction that the rail guns mount to the BC-304 class American warship would be more effective than the nukes and super-nukes.  

Nuclear War from Pebble in the Sky and Foundation and the Earth by Isaac (God) Asimov
The greatest writer of sci-fi, Isaac Asimov, forged a distant future where Earth was nearly destroy by an ancient atomic war that was at some point after the events of I, Robot and the bulk of the Robot novels. Perhaps, that once the Spacers left, then the Settlers left, the remains of Earth society that cannot or would not escape off-world, fought over Terra, and resorted to nuclear weapons. Which is an interesting point, that Mr. Asimov raises, that nuclear conflict is possible at any time, ever after we've developed space travel that can escaped the Sol system. By the time of the Galactic Empire, Earth is a wasteland of 20 million people are housed in remote regions of the planet under great domed cities, as depicted in Pebble in the Sky. The limited resources, and lack of interest by the Galactic Empire causes Earth to be a poor and backwater imperial world. Despite Earth being the home to mankind, current Imperial society loath them so much, that even the Imperial guards stationed there won't even hit on the local Earth girls! By the time of Foundation and the Earth, when the Foundation citizen Golan Trevize goes on a search for the mythic home of the human race, Earth. However, it has been 20,000 years since the novel Caves of Steel, and Earth's radioactive has rendered the world unhabitable, an silent dead world standing monument to the sins of the past.

Nuclear Weaponry from the Starship Troopers Universe
Atomic, nuclear, and the H-bomb are all discussed and used by the M.I in both the original 1959 novel and the 1997 film. The novel features powered suits firing micro-atomic grenades from a launcher system during their raid on the Skinny homeworld. The inclusion of nuclear weapon and even the genesis of SST was due to a Heinlein being a public supporter of nuclear testing, despite the rift that this formed between him and his fellow sci-fi writers. He used SST to spell out his political and military theory in black-and-white.
In the Paul Verhoeven film, the M.I troops use a shoulder-fired rocket launcher with a cone-shaped warhead that glows red, and it is referred by the M.I. troopers as a "nuke". Of course, this could be trooper slang, or the weapon could be a ultra-low-yield sub-kiloton fission munition, like the real-life M-28 'Davy Crockett' tactical nuclear recoilless gun developed by the US in the nuclear-happy days of the 1950's/1960’s. On the starship troopers wiki, the nuke launcher is called the “M55 rocket launcher” and it uses “MN2 tactical oxygen nuclear warhead projectile”, which is a 4th generation pure fusion nuclear weapon. In the film, the Mobile Infantry use the RPG-like weapon to close “bug-holes”. 

Martian Atomic War from Rocketship X-M and Davanna Nuclear War from Not of this Earth
In the 1950’s, Hollywood attempted stories about nuclear war via realistic films like On the Beach and sci-fi films. In the two films in question Rocketship X-M and Not of this Earth both tell the outcome of alien nuclear wars on the red planet and Davanna. In the 1950 Rocketship X-M, a human exploration mission to Luna is diverted to Mars where our intrepid explorers find out that the red planet suffered from an atomic war that forced the Martians back from the “Atomic Age to the Stone Age”.   After a rather violent encounter with the savage Martians, the astronauts leave back to Earth. To form the native Martian culture, they used islander culture modified. Another thinly veiled nuclear weapons warning was from 1957’s Not from this Earth, where the alien world of Davanna suffered under a nuclear war and caused the population to contract a blood disorder. An alien agent is set to Earth to see if Terran blood is compatible with Davanna biology While both of these films were in a much maligned area of sci-fi cinema, they were attempt by then-creators to deal with the Cold War’s risk of MAD.

The DeLorean DMC-12 Time Machine from the BTTF Universe
In the original 1985 Back to the Future film, the DeLorean DMC-12 time machine by Doctor Brown is power by a plutonium-fueled nuclear reactor that is needed to generate the massive power requirements, the 1.21 gigawatts. The DMC-12 time machine became an icon of nuclear power in science fiction and allowed the crappy but cool, DeLorean DMC-12 gullwinged coupe to be fondly remembered and connected forever to the Doc Brown creation. While it is not a nuclear weapon example, it is an example of nuclear power in sci-fi that has remained an example for generations.

Nuclear Weapons, World War III (2080-2084), and the Great Burn from the Babylon 5 Universe
In the 1998 TNT TV-movie Thirdspace, an ancient Vorlon Jumpgate was discovered floating in Hyperspace, and when the device is restored by a private Terran firm,  the gateway to an  another dimension was opened. What came through was a terrible enemy. Overwhelmed by these advanced unknown xenos, the various alien and Terran ships around B5 attempted to open a hole in the device's energy shield, while Captain John Sheridan (in a EVA spacesuit) plants a "Model 501/6 Mk XI Thermonuclear Charge".
Also, fusion bombs were mentioned in the series during the Narn/Centauri War, along with some of the Earth Force warships being armed with nuclear missiles. Of course, the most famous example of nukes being used in Babylon 5 is when during the Earth-Minbari War, when Sheridan destroyed the Minbari flagship Drala Fi (AKA: “Black Star”) by stripping his wounded vessel of its nuclear warheads and mining the asteroid around their vessel with the nuclear charges. It took two danger-close nuclear explosions to rip the Drala Fi apart. In the backstory of Earth history hardly mentioned in the B5 television series was the nuclear war resulting from World War III.
This was war brought about the Earth Alliance, but was started by a India/Pakistan war that dragged in Asia and then the rest of the planet. There was one more nuclear war in Earth's future, the Great Burn of the 2nd Earth Alliance Civil War. In the 28th century, the Earth Alliance was ripped apart by another civil war over their involvement with the Interstellar Alliance. One faction on Earth believed that the ISA was preventing off-world colonization and fought to break away from the ISA. This civil war led to the Earth being bombarded by nuclear weapons ("The Great Burn") reducing the overall technologically to pre-industrial levels. It took years to rebuild the Earth and her society that fear technology. It is likely that this resulted in a split between the Earth and her colonies that were spared the nuclear fires.

The UNSC Nuclear Weapons from the HALO Universe
Through the war with the fanatical Covenant, the UNSC relayed on nuclear-based munitions through the war and even back further in the complex lore of the HALO universe. Used for both planetary and space-based engagements, along with civilian asteroid mining via commercial sales…no shit.  Out of the list of UNSC military nuclear devices, two  major nuclear devices seen or discussed in the HALO universe: the HAVOK tactical-nuke and the Shiva missile. I firmly believe that nuclear weapons use in the HALO universe to be both a symbol for the desperation of the humans' war effort and the how technologically outclassed the UNSC was. Of course, the designers at Bungie also wanted the weaponry of humanity to be more "future-current" and the use of bullets and nukes were a way to tie the 26th century to the 21st and set them apart from the Covenant.
During the awesome live-action 2010 "Delivery Hope" trailer for HALO: Reach, features the Noble Team deploying the 30 megaton HAVOK “medium fusion destructive device” to destroy a CCS-class alien cruiser above the city of Fumirole. Throughout the bloody war with the alien collective, the UNSC used nukes many time The majority of UNSC warships are armed with the tactical Shiva class nuclear missiles, and Nova class space nuclear mines. The most powerful is the HAVOK 30 kiloton nuclear weapon, which was seen used by the Pillar of Fire during the events of the HALO Wars video game and the novel HALO: the Fall of Reach. The commonly seen and used UNSC nuclear weapons is multi-role Shiva class variable yield nuclear missile. Deployed via the Prowler class strike starfighters or launched as nuclear missile fired starship tubes, it is often used against enemy warships or on-planetary targets.

Twilight Zone Episode"Time Enough at Last" (1959)
This is one of those Twilight Zone episodes that has was based on a short story has become part of the society and it has been mimicked and referenced by The Simpsons, Futurama, and Fallout. In this early episode, a bookish Henry Bemis, is liberated from constrains of workday everyday life and the people that popular and annoy him by a nuclear war. What saved him from the nuclear explosion was that Mr. Bemis enjoyed taking his lunches in the vault to avoid his coworkers while he read. After the nuclear war, Bemis learns that despite the destruction of human civilization the books are still there and he believes that his dream has come true…until he breaks his glasses and his dream shatters. Of course, if this happened today, you would be screwed given the amount of computerized books. That is why the official FWS bomb shelter has real books and spare part of glasses!

The 1987 Nuclear War from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979)
During the 1979 pilot/movie for the modern reboot of the old sci-fi franchise of Buck Rogers, the world that Captain Rogers, a NASA astronaut flying one of the deep space missions in the Ranger 3 shuttle, left in 1987 was not the one he came home to five hundred and four years later. For one, the USSR and the US fought a nuclear war on November 22nd, 1987, which was called "the holocaust". Much of the world was devastated and even 500 years, the Earth has never fully returned to what it once was. Beyond the few rebuilt futuristic cities controlled by computerized intelligences and under the flag of the new Earth government, Earth of 2491 is a dangerous place with radiation, rusting crumbling ruins, aggressive mutants, and lower temperatures at night. The nuclear holocaust of 1987 was really only explored in the original pilot. While the Buck Rogers franchise has always been comprised of a destroyed America, the nuclear war angle was in keeping with current events when the concept was relieved in the late 1970s.

The Nuclear Strike on District 13 from the Hungry Game Universe
The America of the Hungry Games is one that is unrecognizable to us and the America we knew is now Penam (coming from the Latin phase for “bread and circuses”), and it is divided up into economic districts that serve the government in the capitol city. The world of Penam rose out of the ashes of a nuclear war and while most civilizations that came out of that would be weary of nukes, the government in the Capitol are not. District #13 was responsible for graphite mining, nuclear production, and weapons. During the 1st Rebellion against the Capitol, it was believed that District 13 was nuked for disobedience with film footage to prove it. It was a lie, of course. In reality, District 13, which would be located in present day Lake Huron, signed a non-aggression pact with the Capitol and their society disappeared underground. Why would the government of Penam need nukes? From some research on this topic, it was a matter of deterrence, as is the case today.  District 13 had nukes, the capitol had nukes, and there could have been other governments and factions that also possessed nukes.
World War III from the Metro: 2033 Universe 
Metro: 2033 is a video game based on a Russian post-nuclear apocalypse 2003 novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky that deviers from the typical Western post-nuclear horror setting of America or Europe, and instead takes us to post-war Moscow. After the nuclear war of 2013, the survivors take shelter into the underground subway system. Here several new societies develop and battle for control of resources, hearts, minds, and bodies. Showing the dangerous nature of Metro 2033, ammunition is used as a form of currency among the survivor communities.  It is not just the other human factions one has to worry about, there is also rats, mutants, and after effects of the nuclear exchange...then there are the Dark Ones. Overall, the Metro:2033 franchise is nice break from the dominate post-nuclear war wasteland video game franchise: Fallout.  

The Use of Nuclear Weapons from Oblivion (2013)
In 2013, Tom Cruise would release one of his two sci-fi film, Oblivion, showing a drone repairman on an abandoned Earth scarred by a war with an alien species. By now, we all know the big plot twist, but it still does not change the fact that at some point during the alien invasion, that humanity resorted to the use of nuclear weapons to defeat the invaders. In the cover story, the Earth was scarred and ravaged by nuclear war to destroy the invaders, however, in reality, the Earth lost with a survivors of the nuclear horror take shelter in underground structures, hiding from the drones and their repairmen. Still, I've wondered if the use of nuclear weapons was not done by the aliens in the Tet? Either way, I very much enjoy Oblivion and watch it from time to time.

The Nuclear Apocalypse of 2052 from The 100

In the American television show The 100, there is a nuclear war that is the catalyst for the space station habitat called The Ark.  This combination of 12 space stations and platforms was the home to the last believed population of human beings in the cosmos...about 2400 souls. The nuclear apocalypse was waged about 97 years ago on May 10th, 2052. The cause of the nuclear war was the AI ALIE...a cousin of Skynet...who launched the nuclear missiles to solve the problem of "too many people". The show is based on the post-nuclear war world as the 100 criminal teenagers from the Ark attempt to prove that the Earth is survivable. Why do so many teen shows and books have the plotpoint of nuclear war?

The Nuclear Counter-strike from Rein of Fire (2002)
This is one of those odd-ball films that has modern humanity society battle against an invasion of resurrected dragons. Despite massive firepower of modern armies, the dragons are winning and humanity retaliates with the last their weapon: nukes. This does not demise the dragon population and instead reduces humanity to nearly extinct levels. By the time the film opens in 2020, things are looking bad as the dragons rein over the ash pile of the Earth. Okay, I had to add this one to the list of examples because its nukes vs. dragons with Matthew McConaughey thrown in...you just have to include that!

The Nuclear Counterstrike from ALIENS Dark Horse Comics
In 1988, Chicago-based Dark Horse Comics released one of the most influential comics of my childhood:  the original ALIENS black-and-white six-part series. In this continuation of the ALIENS storyline, we see the fates of Hicks and Newt after LV426 (before Dark Horse re-con’ed the series).  The primary ill of the issues was major corporation, BioNational embarking on a mission to the xenomorphs homeworld to capture samples of their bio-warfare division. During this, a live sample was recovered from an attached pilot of a deep space cargo vessel, and that queen became the obsession of an fanatical religious movement.  When they raided the BioNational compound to be joined in Holy Communion with the aliens, they released the species upon the Earth. By the time Hicks and Newt arrive back to Earth from the military mission to the xeno homeworld, the Earth forces are overrun and planning an escape to the off-world colonies. It was there that Hicks and Newt discover that the nations of the Earth are planning on waging a nuclear counterstrike to either halt their advance or destroy most of the planet and rob them of their breeding stock. The brass believes that this will be a good thing to bring about a clean slate to the Earth and allow a recolonization and transform Earth back into a paradise. As Hicks and Newt leave the Earth, the bombs fall, and the survivors of the strike battle both the remaining aliens and the new hostile environmental conditions.  

The Last Word Goes to Captain Kirk...













Next Time on FWS...
Quite recently, a reader reached out to me about a blogpost concerning cybernetically enhanced soldier and while this blogpost heading had been on my draft list since the founding of FWS, I had not thought about it in years. Well, wait no longer! In the next update to FWS, we will be exploring and explaining not only cybernetically enhanced soldiers, but also their counterparts: the biologically enhanced soldiers...so sort of an "hardware" vs. "software" apporach to the matter of upgrading the soldier not via training or condition, but by science and technology. This blogpost will have some bleed-over from the older Super-Solders blogpost from 2012


9 comments:

  1. A fine ending post to a good series on nuclear weapons.

    But I must say that I am really looking forward to your next post on artificially enhanced soldiers. That is very much a topic to explore especially now that CRISPR has in the words of one of my favorite Halo fan-fictions,

    "Finally, mankind had conquered an obstacle that had been hitherto insurmountable: its own genetic destiny."

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  2. Thanks for the kind words...I wish I could have devoted a little more time to this one, but my life is crazy at the moment. I have to admit that I had to google what "CRISPR" is. Embarrassed. Been too long since my A&P classes at university.

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  3. You should checkout out Children of a Dead Earth, for another take on the feasibility of nukes in hard-scifi space combat.

    Nukes have a variety of uses, from long-distance flares that ensure most of the incoming missile swarm is mission-killed, to either chomping large bites out of drone waves or forcing them to spend dV dodging, to stripping exposed subsystems off enemy capital ships.

    After all, nukes do their damage in a sphere, whereas missiles, even explosive-tipped ones, do theirs in a narrow cone in the direction their travelling. It is really easy to force misses from them. Not so much with nukes.

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  4. What about nuclear pumped x-ray lasers? IIRC David Weber uses these -extensively- in the Honor Harrington books. I think ultimately nukes are just too difficult to keep around and make really nasty biohazard messes when something goes wrong.

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  5. The Space: 1999 Universe has one other potential reference for a nuclear war. In the episode “The Rules of Luton,” Commander Koenig tells Maya about the devastating global war of 1987, during which he lost his wife, who was “remarkably like Helena.”

    In reference to your “star Trek” comment; how many exiles like us do you think there are?

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  6. I should have addressed the bomb-pump laser...it was just with the chaos of my life and breaking my time between Dallas and Austin...yeah.
    I have run across a few hardcore fans that watch DS9 and TNG with a tear in their eye and have rejected the recent JJ Abrams reinvention. Many fans I know are okay with the Kelvin Universe films and the new show coming back to CBS. To me, the fan made productions of Star Trek Continues and Axandar are the best new stuff out there for the real Trek universe.

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  7. While a great read as always kinda surprised you did not mention the TV movie "The Day After" from late 1983 IIRC. It premised a limited exchange escalated from conventional conflict in Europe. It was set in and around Lawrence, Kansas. The ground breaking thing about it was the missiles flew half way through and after that there were no commercials until the end. Until that point it was a regular movie with people going about there daily lives with stories of the growing tensions playing in the back ground on TV and the radio, no net in those days which I remember (born 1964).

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  8. I remember watching it when it originally aired and even watched it later as a older child and it scared the hell out of me. It effected US nuclear policy just as much as Threads from the UK. I originally had both on the list and decided to cut them for other examples. I plan on composing an Top 10 blogpost and include these. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  9. Interesting blog entry as always, William. Though I do have to admit that I have dabbled with the idea of thermonuclear holocaust as a historical period for many a setting such as my own space opera one which is a rather convenient "reset" button.

    As for nukes in space, considering that you made mention to the Orion Project I'm surprised that you didn't make any mention to Casablanca Howitzers. Granted, a good chunk of the information is classified if what Atomic Rockets said was true, but I figured that they would have some sort of mention. Especially since they're effectively shaped charge warheads on ATOMIC STEROIDS!

    Sorry, had to get that 1950's meme out of my system. What with the subject matter and all.

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