War Stars

War Stars

The Superweapon and the American Imagination

Book - 1988
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Shortly after H.G. Wells published War of the Worlds, in which Martians decimate humanity, an American author countered with a buoyantly optimistic sequel, Edison's Conquest of Mars--the great Thomas Edison invents a disintegrator beam which exterminates the aliens and unifies Earth behind America. This may seem a harmless fantasy, but as H. Bruce Franklin points out in War Stars, an eye-opening analysis of the superweapon in American culture, Edison's Conquest epitomizes a pattern of thought that has beguiled Americans since the 18th century: the belief that miraculous new weapons will somehow end war and bring global triumph to American ideals.
___Franklin begins his analysis with Robert Fulton, who first articulated this belief by claiming that an Age of Reason--including an end to ignorance, monarchy, and war--would be ushered in by his three purely "defensive" military inventions: the submarine, the torpedo, and the steam warship. Franklin then traces this treacherously seductive idea as it weaves through American culture in many forms: the flood of "future-war" novels appearing between 1880 and World War I, in which made-in-America superweapons (including the first nuclear arms) keep the world eternally safe for democracy; Billy Mitchell's use of newsreel and popular magazines to promote air power as a weapon for peace; the animated Disney feature "Victory Through Air Power," which concludes with Japan in ruins while "America the Beautiful" plays in the background; a 1940 novel in which America uses atomic bombs to win World War II and establish a Pax Americana along the lines of the 1946 Baruch Plan; and such material prducts as the intercontinental bomber and missile, the atomic and hydrogen bomb, and "defensive" space weapons guaranteed to make previous superweapons "impotent and obsolete." Franklin explores over two hundred movies, rediscovering obscure works that directly influenced later decision-making and reinterpreting such modern classics as Catch 22, Slaughterhouse Five, and Dr. Strangelove. More important, he shows how American cultural images shape the imagination and discourse responsible for the actual superweapons looming over human destiny.
___Vividly written and filled with provocative insights, War Stars offers a sweeping account of two centuries of American cultural and military history. This groundbreaking volume provides a new perspective on the debate over nuclear weapons, defense policy, and the future of the earth.
Publisher: New York : Oxford University Press, 1988
ISBN: 9780195052954
0195052951
Call Number: 355.82 F854w
Characteristics: 256 p., [22] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm

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