Science Fiction Studies

# 9 = Volume 3, Part 2 = July 1976

Albert L. Berger

The Triumph of Prophecy: Science Fiction and Nuclear Power in the Post-Hiroshima Period

The writers of pulp-magazine science fiction found themselves in an ambivalent position after the explosion over Hiroshima of the first atomic bomb. On the one hand, they were acknowledged as prophets proven right by the course of events. Some of them began new careers as writers of popular science and as consultants and participants in government and university sponsored seminars on social and technological change. Even those who remained close to their roots in magazine fiction found themselves newly prosperous as a result of the increased attention the bomb had brought to "that Buck Rogers stuff." For the first time since Amazing Stories began segregating science fiction in 1926, mass-circulation magazines like Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post began to publish stories by writers like Ray Bradbury and Robert A. Heinlein, previously confined to the genre pulps, and the higher rates paid by such magazines, together with reprint royalties from the SF anthologies rushed into print by eager publishers, began to change the economics of the entire genre. While most SF writers remained part-time hobbyists or free-lance generalists, more of them than ever before were able to make their living solely by writing science fiction.

On the other hand, having in their fiction developed and controlled nuclear energy long before the Army got around to it, many of these newly affluent writers were both disappointed in and fearful of the ways in which the government proposed to handle its "ultimate weapon," ways very different from those the writers would have chosen, or even expected. Isaac Asimov, among the best known of that generation of writers, recalled in 1969 that he would rather have been considered a "nut" for the rest of his life than have been "salvaged into respectability at the price of a nuclear war hanging like a sword of Damocles over the world forever."’ Theodore Sturgeon, less well-known than Asimov outside the genre, was more analytical.

Sturgeon, like Asimov, had been one of the young writers cultivated by John W. Campbell in Astounding Science Fiction. Caught up in the general enthusiasm for nuclear energy, Sturgeon had a letter in the "Brass Tacks" column of the December 1945 Astounding in which he celebrated the possibilities of nuclear power for changing the world and contrasted the respect currently being paid to writers and fans with the scorn they had previously experienced. But he quickly became disillusioned both with public policies as embodied in the War Department sponsored May-Johnson Bill to control nuclear energy and with the attitudes of his fellow writers, whom he called "word-merchants" in the story "Memorial" (Apr 1946).2 He felt that the writers, who had given more thought to atomic energy than either the average man or the average politician, should have been more responsible in their evaluation of it than they had been in using it merely as a limitless source of power for background to a limitless source of story materials":

All of them were quite aware of the terrible potentialities of nuclear energy. Practically all of them were scared silly of the whole idea. They were afraid for humanity, but they themselves were not really afraid, except in a delicious drawing room sort of way, because they couldn’t conceive of this Buck Rogers event happening to anything but posterity.

A glance at several famous SF stories corroborates the accuracy of Sturgeon’s observation. A.E. van Vogt had used atomic energy in his popular serial "Slan"  (Sept-Dec 1940), but had set the story a thousand years in the future and had made nuclear energy the discovery of a mutant superman rather than of a normal human being. In Asimov’s Foundation stories (i.e., those published 1942-45 and thus written before Hiroshima), the use of atomic energy is similarly set thousands of years in the future. Of the many pre-Hiroshima stories dealing with nuclear energy in relatively contemporary settings, only one, Heinlein’s "Solution Unsatisfactory" (May 1941, as by Anson MacDonald), dealt with nuclear weapons. Perhaps the best example of the tendency to give such stories a distant setting is Cleve Cartmill’s rather routine adventure yarn "Deadline" (March 1944). Its routine character as a story has been obscured by the consequences of its description of a nuclear bomb that was sufficiently close to the one under construction at Los Alamos to earn both Campbell and Cartmill visits from security agents. But as close to contemporary reality as the author had unwittingly made his story, he had still, quite gratuitously, set the action on an alien planet rather than on Earth.3

The reaction of SF writers to the appearance of nuclear weapons in the real world took place in the midst of the campaign Campbell had been waging to raise the quality of science fiction above the rudimentary level of cowboy or spy stories set in space, and by the end of the war his efforts were beginning to have the intended effect. "Children of the Lens" (Nov-Feb 1946-47) by E.E. Smith, once the most popular of all Astounding writers, was published to a popular and critical acclaim both severely diminished, and was the last of the Lensman stories to appear in Astounding. Henceforth Smith, and such adventure writers as Edmond Hamilton and Jack Williamson, would be forced either to change their styles, as Williamson did, or to sell their stories to Campbell’s less munificent competitors. Although Campbell’s intention was to make SF respectable by promoting stories set in the near future and based on extrapolations from existing technology and scientific theory,4 many of the stories actually published in the post-Hiroshima period were concerned with new "ultimate weapons," for both Campbell and his writers felt that the unexpectedly early success of the atomic bomb had made it plausible to place other apparently far-fetched devices into relatively contemporary settings.5

Sturgeon’s "Memorial," cited above for its acid comments on his fellow science-fiction writers, is one of the many stories published in the years after Hiroshima on the imminent possibility of a nuclear war and the ways in which such a destructive war might be prevented or, if necessary, fought. Believing that the military would control and restrict nuclear research if the May-Johnson Bill was passed, Sturgeon adapted traditional SF imagery to his purpose, including the lonely scientist-hero and the secret desert laboratory. Grenfell, the hero, develops a means to "totally annihilate" atomic mass, producing far more energy than the partial annihilation of mass in the fission of uranium. He hopes that the eternal radioactive pit resulting from his explosive test will serve as a permanent warning against the destructive results of nuclear war. Although clearly sympathetic to Grenfell, Sturgeon evidently believed that such an explosion would convince the United States that it was being attacked. The retaliatory war triggered by Grenfell’s explosion destroys all life on earth, in a clear throwback to the pulp caricatures of mad scientists and things-man-was-never-meant-to-know.

Sturgeon, along with Philip Wylie, who destroyed the planet itself in a similar story, "Blunder" (Collier’s, Feb 12, 1946), was very critical of the professional ego that would not only permit but also drive a scientist to proceed with a potentially disastrous investigation regardless of the costs or consequences. Nevertheless, both authors directed their polemic as much at the military security system as at the scientific ego. Although the unfettered individual scientist was clearly not socially safe (Wylie’s plot hinges on the inability of the international scientific community to check his hero’s figures), both stories are bitterly critical of the need to work within the cumbersome research institutes and the restrictions placed on free research by various governments.

This last was part of a larger paradox characteristic of SF in the late forties, especially in Astounding. Campbell’s writers tried to be true to his formula developing contemporary situations into the near future, and the natural tendency of most of them was to celebrate the possibilities being opened up, but most of the probable consequences of nuclear development appeared extremely gloomy— appeared, indeed, to lead directly to disaster.

One writer, Chandler Davis, later an editor of Mathematical Reviews and a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies, took considerable pains to detail, in "Nightmare" (May 1946), the dilemma of civil-defense workers in New York City trying to detect the components of nuclear weapons smuggled into the city. Davis’ hero believes that the city should have been decentralized, to make the largest concentrations of industry and population too small to be economical targets for the expensive nuclear weapons of the day. However, in the face of a device assembled in the city, evacuation and decentralization would only cause panic and make smuggling easier in the chaos of dislocation. Eventually, Davis imagined, the pressures of a constant watch against both secret and open nuclear attack would lead to a totally intolerable and insoluble political situation. In "Nightmare" the spies escape, because to capture them or even reveal their existence would itself force the United States into a war. In "Cold War" (Oct 1949), a story dealing with a series of nuclear-armed space stations, Kris Neville saw the pressure in psychological terms, with even the best testing methods unable to prevent crewmen from becoming homicidal and launching a devastating assault.

It was, Davis wrote in "Nightmare," like driving a truck down a winding and increasingly narrow mountain road at too great a speed. It was clear that neither science nor business nor government could provide the truck with brakes. As a result of decisions that Davis felt had already been made by 1946, there was no way to prevent an eventual disaster.

Along with many of his colleagues, Davis had seen the situation primarily as an insoluble technical one, how to defend against an irresistible weapon, rather than as the essentially political problem faced by Congress and the atomic scientists, the maintenance of peace. Few SF writers thought that war could be prevented. Many spent their efforts devising ways of fighting man’s inevitable wars without using nuclear weapons. In one such story, George O. Smith’s "The Answer" (Feb 1947), an odd weapon is placed at the disposal of the United Nations, which for the purposes of the story is denied the right to use force directly. Smith felt that potential aggressors would ignore the orders of the UN and that the slow workings of its democratic organization would prevent its acting rapidly enough to halt the construction of military nuclear facilities. Yet Smith’s Secretary General is able to enforce his ultimata against a would-be aggressor by using what appears to be only a massive, worldwide letter-writing campaign: the dictator’s bureaucracy pays only enough attention to the letters to file them away, until the plutonium with which the paper is impregnated reaches critical mass and explodes.

Bureaucracy, the hallmark of all modern nations, was seized upon as a symbol of the totalitarian state in a similar story, "The Perfect Weapon" (Feb 1950), by Poul Anderson, then beginning his long career as a successful science-fiction writer. Like Smith, Anderson felt that a dictatorship’s mania for paperwork was its weak spot, and postulated a weapon that would destroy only paper, assuming that a free society would need less paperwork to survive since it had fewer laws to enforce.

Although both of these stories are set in an explicitly political context, neither indicates any awareness of political realities, and both indicate a profound distrust of government and the political process. While Anderson’s hero, a pacifist physicist, does demonstrate a talent for diverting bureaucracy by using his grant for bomb research to build a non-lethal weapon, Smith’s hero, supposedly a political and diplomatic figure, is presented as a combination of international moralist and jut-jawed American magazine hero in the classic style. He is capable of calling forth a massive protest on short notice, using a secret weapon and a complicated plan of attack, when by the terms of the story itself his organization, the UN, is too much bogged down in democratic procedures to mount a straightforward military assault.

This naivete about politics and preoccupation with technological solutions was the obverse of the prevailing SF distaste for politics. Politics had always had a bad press in the science-fiction magazines, being portrayed as the captive of technologically, if not socially reactionary special interests. The appalling scientific ignorance and prejudice displayed by Congress after Hiroshima, and its general unwillingness to be educated, merely compounded the problem in the eyes of science-fiction writers and readers. This distaste for politics was testified to not only by letters-to-the-editor in Astounding and the fan magazines but also by an article by W.B. de Graeff, "Congress is too Busy" (Sept 1946), detailing with a gleeful contempt the most mundane and ridiculous chores of a member of Congress.

By 1950 even an old stalwart like E.E. Smith could take up nearly a third of a novel—First Lensman (not serialized; Fantasy Press 1950)—with a detailed account of an election in which military heroes act both as police forces and as candidates arrayed against a corrupt political machine. The use of conspicuously armed poll watchers and what amounts to a military coup are justified by the criminal tactics of the opposition. Smith’s villains are supposed to be the pawns of a sinister conspiracy of aliens, but their methods are described as normal American practice.

Much of the political commentary in SF in the post-war years was limited to a fictional restatement of the wartime fear that the Nazis would develop nuclear weapons before the Americans did. "Enemies" were usually portrayed as the personal dictatorships of men who resembled Adolf Hitter, psychopathic and immune to any counterarguments except overwhelming force. Most, like the Master in Arthur C. Clarke’s "Exile of the Eons" (Super Science Stories, March 1950), were described as the embodiment of ambition, lust for power, cruelty, intolerance, and hatred. Caught up in the prevailing attitude toward Hitler, as one would expect a popular literature to be, science fiction was taking cognizance neither of the sources of conflict between Germany and her neighbors (which might have brought on a Second World War even without Hitler) nor of the prewar speculations of one of its most important writers. In fact, the level of political awareness in these post-war stories was far lower and less analytical than in Robert A. Heinlein’s 1941 serial, "If This Goes On—" (Feb-March), which describes a dictatorship run by the manipulation of popular beliefs rather than by sheer personality, recognizing that even a figure as singular as Hitler (or as the Prophet of the story) must have roots among a country’s people, or must appeal to their most basic emotions, in order to rule them. Not only were most science-fiction dictators unaware of such political facts of life, but their creators’ pro forma fear of dictatorships was not sufficient to interfere with their creation of heroes who solved political crises with the traditional elements of charismatic leadership and violence far closer to the totalitarian ideal than to the democratic.

Many of these stories demonstrated their roots in the traditional emphasis on individual effort which had always marked science-fiction along with the larger field of pulp fiction generally. In a number of the anti-military stories of the post-war period, for example, even though the chain of command and high ranking officers are the villains, it is the junior officers and conventional heroics that produce such happy endings as there are. Either the high command deliberately provokes a nuclear war, or, as in Sturegon’s "Thunder and Roses" (Nov 1947), mechanically prepares to retaliate after a nuclear attack even though retaliation would be of no benefit to the already destroyed United States and would lay waste the rest of the world. Although undoubtedly sympathetic to the military, Heinlein, a former naval officer, was prepared, in "The Long Watch" (American Legion Magazine, Dec 1949), to consider the possibility that nuclear weapons at a base on the Moon could be used by an officer bent on world domination to blackmail the Earth. The dispute was political (the officer’s intention was to remove control of the world from politicians and place it in the "scientifically selected" hands of the military) but the scheme was thwarted in a non-political way by a junior officer who manually dismantled the weapons even though he knew that exposure to their radioactive innards would kill him.6

Davis, also a former naval officer, envisioned a similar situation on a Colorado missile base. Deeply suspicious of the military as an institution in a way Heinlein was not, Davis has a sympathetic scientist, a veteran of the Manhattan Project, attack the very building of nuclear missiles as the equivalent of the country’s "putting a chip on its shoulder"; "no one puts weapons like these into actual production unless he intends to use them. Offensively." Accusing the military of forcing Congress to build "fires that must be met with fire," the story argues that either through Congressional ignorance or misunderstanding, or through deception of Congress by the military, a nuclear war could be deliberately provoked without the approval of the country’s elected officials. However, while recent political events give evidence of the truth of these observations, they also demonstrate the limitations of Davis’ vision and that of most science-fiction writers. Davis’ story, "To Still the Drums" (Oct 1946) is primarily an adventure story, a young pilot’s discovery of the plot and his melodramatic flight to Washington to present his evidence to a friendly senator. Davis evidently felt that public exposure alone, without further activity, would thwart such a plot and cause the arrest of the culprits. In reality, of course, such exposure is far more often the beginning than the end of a scandal or crisis.

On those occasions when science-fiction writers dealt with organized political activity, their distrust of politics and politicians often acquired sinister overtones, even before the advent of nuclear weapons. The allegedly democratic underground in A.E. van Vogt’s "The Weapon Shops" (Dec 1942) and its sequels is just as structured, bureaucratic, and disciplined as the corrupt Isher Empire it fights. In Heinlein’s short story "The Roads Must Roll" (June 1940), the supervising engineer of a transportation district has the authority to override the instructions of a state governor in order to use violent and authoritarian methods to suppress a strike. Graphic symbols and costumes strikingly reminiscent of those adopted by the Nazis helped to transform H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things To Come into a disturbingly authoritarian film in 1936. The acceptance of quasi-military organizations of scientists as political governing bodies runs through science fiction long past the days of E.E. Smith and his all-embracing Galactic Patrol. The persistence of the popularity among science-fiction writers and readers of the overdramatic costuming and the romantic grandeur of the graphics that characterized both the Nazis and the film Things to Come has been great enough to inspire much of Norman Spinrad’s 1972 novel, The Iron Dream (Avon Books), a parody of the science-fiction adventure story purportedly written by an Adolf Hitler who, instead of rising to become dictator of Germany, migrated to the United States and became a science-fiction illustrator and Hugo-winning author.7

Things to Come based its anti-war critique on the widespread carnage in Europe during the First World War and the epidemics and social upheavals that followed in its wake. Even though it does not envision the use of nuclear weapons, the film vividly portrays the absolute destruction of all government and civilization above the village level. Following the same lead, L. Ron Hubbard suggested in "Final Blackout" (Apr-June 1940) that a military dictatorship would take power in Britain after the Second World War (then only recently begun) had ended, after generations of war, in the exhaustion of all parties.

Hubbard, who later became famous, or notorious, as the founder of Dianetics and Scientology, was among the best of the new writers Campbell brought to Astounding, a fact reflected in the rapid pacing and crisp prose with which he sketched a devastated Europe and the wanderings of a British Expeditionary force reduced to a few companies of foragers. He created a completely isolated hero, a nameless officer born in an air-raid shelter and raised as a soldier, who at the age of twenty-three leads his army back to England and overthrows the established Communist government. Once in power, the Lieutenant—Hubbard’s archetype of an active, as opposed to a headquarters, soldier—makes Britain over into an anarchic society with a military command at its center until it is overthrown by a corrupt cabal of the surviving politicians and a United States grown rich and rapacious by reaping profits from neutrality. In ending "Final Blackout" with a farrago of betrayals and assassinations, Hubbard indicts not only such scheming politicians as those who force the Lieutenant to abdicate, but also the industrialization and organization of society which both the hero and his creator seem to hold responsible for the war. "Machines," says the Lieutenant, only make unemployment and, ultimately, politicians out of otherwise sensible men.... When each man does his best with his materials at hand, he is proud of his work and is happy with his life. Hatred only rises when some agency destroys...those things of which we are most proud—our crafts, our traditions, our faith in man. (June, p. 139)

In "Final Blackout," however, the war is only an extended replay of the First World War, with no expectation that technological advance would make a second world war different in kind from the first. It was a common spectre in post-war and post-Hiroshima stories: a war fought until the parties were too badly damaged to continue. After Hiroshima, Hubbard wrote another serial, "The End Is Not Yet" (Aug-Oct 1947), which, while it does not predict such a totally destroyed world, suggests that no possible alternative is much better.

On the surface Hubbard uses stock elements: a handsome, brilliant hero who is both a physicist and a secret agent, pitted against the caricature-like leader of an international bankers’ conspiracy. With a hero named Charles Martel and a villain named Fabrecken, it would seem that Hubbard is continuing the struggle between the virtuous and democratic French and the Nazis, but he blurs the distinctions by putting several former Nazi scientists on Martel’s side and the head of the Allied War Crimes Commission, an American banker, on Fabrecken’s. Moreover, Fabrecken, with a name redolent of the I.G. Farben chemical cartel and in a role calling for him to be the personification of evil, has the only coherent philosophy in the story. Martel and his associates, on the other hand, are driven only by personal motives or by a philosophy of democracy that Hubbard undercuts in the story’s finale. Although accused by Martel of giving the secret of the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union in order to provoke a nuclear war, Fabrecken’s ideals are presented as stability and unity and are made to seem relatively praiseworthy. "Remember," Fabrecken warns his associates,

that we are putting an end to the anarchy of industry and with that the anarchy of nations. And all we have to fear is the wild-eyed fool with a two-penny idea who will stampede the world against us—the only ones who can bring stability to the hell on earth men have been calling life. (Aug. p. 38)

In the end Martel’s forces win their revolt against Fabrecken, though Martel dies in the final assault, just like the Lieutenant in his final confrontation with his enemies. Neither could have been permitted to live, since, while invested with all the attributes of the heroic, their activities are only partially acceptable. Martel dies in the crossfire between an ambush he has set for Fabrecken and one Fabrecken has set for him, an ending that clearly places the nominal hero and the nominal villain on the same moral plane. More important, after his death and the establishment of an ostensibly democratic government of scientists in his name, Martel’s two closest friends and allies realize that their government will be no different from Fabrecken’s, except that with Martel’s scientific weapons it will be stronger and more pervasive. They then quit the scene, announcing they are "going to China to sing songs of Kubla Khan."

It hardly seems necessary to comment on the shortsightedness of a political novel in 1946 that would have its heroes seek their hedonistic retreat in China. That error, however, was part of the novel’s larger pattern: the discounting of both politics and technology as forces changing the quality of human life. Like Heinlein, who had argued in "Solution Unsatisfactory" (May 1941) that a worldwide military dictatorship might be the only way to bring peace to a world armed with nuclear weapons, Hubbard seemed to believe in the necessity of elite, if not military, control. By expressing the desirability of order through the mouth of a nominal and otherwise conventional villain and by undercutting his hero’s democratic beliefs, Hubbard seemed to argue that elite control was what the human race deserved. But he was hardly enthusiastic about the proposition, for he had discovered that all forms of power were to be distrusted, whether scientific or political.

Thus Hubbard’s use of the escape motif in his conclusion was something more than simply a restatement of the traditional flight from civilization that has marked much of American literature, for it added new dimensions to the SF conventions of the secret laboratory, the renegade scientist, and the mysterious device. Hubbard valued order and group loyalty, but none of his leaders could live in the groups they led. Their lot was either exile or death. Martel and his allies could find the freedom they needed for their own ideas and devices only in their retreat in the Atlas Mountains, and when they moved out into the real world, it was only to have the fatal flaws in their democratic opposition to Fabrecken revealed.

"The End Is Not Yet," then, encapsulated the attitudes of many science-fiction writers of the post-Hiroshima period. Only in a retreat from the world was it possible to resolve differences among scientists. Although they might rule themselves democratically, and want the entire world to share their situation, human nature was diverse and order required coercion or a political activity they despised. If they actually took power, as in the Hubbard story, they would be tainted and lose the freedoms which they, rather than the common man, knew how to put to proper use. Those closest to the democratic ideals that Martel symbolized could preserve them only by turning their backs on both technology and the real world and lighting out for the Territory of a mythical Cathay.


1. Isaac Asimov, Opus 100 (Houghton Mifflin, 1969), p 148.

2. The dates given in the text are for the issues of Astounding Science Fiction in which the stories appeared—except, of course, when some other magazine is named.

3. Other important stories dealing with atomic energy and published in Astounding before Hiroshima: Lester del Rey’s "Nerves" (Sept 1942), Heinlein’s "Blowups Happen" (Sept 1940), Clifford Simak’s "Lobby" (Apr 1944).

4. Campbell expressed these views in a series of editorials that began in May 1939 and continued throughout his tenure at Astounding/Analog until his death in 1971. Of particular interest are Nov 1945, Oct and Dec 1946, and Nov 1949 editorials. For a more extended treatment of these editorials, see my "The Magic That Works: John W. Campbell and the American Response to Technology," Journal of Popular Culture 5(Spring 1972):867-942.

5. In his November 1945 editorial Campbell expressed the belief that within weeks the atomic bomb would be joined by another science-fictional device, the "force field," which would keep both physical objects and radiation from reaching a protected object. One has to evaluate this unseemly enthusiasm with care. Before release of the news from Hiroshima, the atomic bomb itself would have been treated by the general public with scorn, and in the first days afterwards nearly anything would have seemed possible. And Campbell was in good company. After completing the General Theory of Relativity during World War I, Albert Einstein spent the rest of his life defying nearly every intellectual trend in physics in the search for a "unified field theory" that would, if it existed, relate gravity and electromagnetic fields to each other and thus provide a possible basis for such a device as Campbell proposed.

6. In "Solution Unsatisfactory" (May 1941) Heinlein had been willing to accept as a necessary evil precisely the sort of dictatorship that is thwarted by the hero of "The Long Watch."

7. Although Wells wrote the script for Things To Come, the film derived its character from the costuming and graphics, products of United Artists Studios. In The Iron Dream, see especially pages 9, 247-48, 255. The costumes described in E.E. Smith’s Lensman books are a particular case in point, as are those in the "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet" series of juveniles published by Grossett and Dunlap under the house pseudonym, Carey Rockwell. This tendency toward authoritarianism was noted and criticized from within the SF community by Robert Bloch in remarks to a 1957 symposium on science fiction at the University of Chicago; see "Imagination and Modern Social Criticism," in The Science Fiction Novel, ed. Basil Davenport (Advent, 1959), pp 126-55.



The pulp writers of science fiction found themselves in an equivocal position after the explosion over Hiroshima of the first atomic bomb. On the one hand, they were acknowledged as prophets proven right by the course of events. On the other hand, many were both disappointed in and fearful of the ways in which the government proposed to handle its "ultimate weapon," ways very different from those the writers themselves would have chosen. Isaac Asimov recalled in 1969 that he would rather have been considered a "nut" for the rest of his life than have been "salvaged into respectability at the price of a nuclear war hanging like a sword of Damocles over the world forever." Theodore Sturgeon thought that sf writers should have been more responsible in their evaluation of atomic energy, which they had been in using in their stories merely as a "limitless source of power." This essay considers the portrayal of nuclear energy during the pre- and post-Hiroshima years, focusing mainly on pulp sf. Included is discussion of (among others) Van Vogt’s "Slan" serial and "The Weapons Shop," Asimov’s Foundation series, Heinlein’s "Solution Unsatisfactory," E. E. Smith’s Lensman series, Sturgeon’s "Memorial," Philip Wylie’s "Blunder," Poul Anderson’s "The Perfect Weapon," and L. Ron Hubbard’s "Blackout."

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