If you remember CONELRAD . . .

If you remember CONELRAD, you’re somewhere around my age. And if you’re around my age, you might like a couple of works I’m reading:

  • Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank (1957). I read this novel in high school, and it holds up pretty well fifty years later. The Soviet Union and the United States fight a nuclear war, and the protagonist learns how to keep his family and community alive in the aftermath. One great scene: an unsympathetic minor character hoards a looted pile of radioactive jewelry, constantly gloating over it and running his hands through it. His hands rot and he dies, which sounds like a metaphor.
  • “The Cuban Missile Crisis: Second Holocaust” by Robert L. O’Connell (in What Ifs of American History, 2003). This alternate history short story shows the 1962 standoff between the USA and the USSR going the other way. Through human error and command-and-control failures, World War III begins, decimating America and causing a near genocide in the Soviet Union. Bonus: The writer frames his story as a 2002 report written by the Archivist of the United States, none other than . . . wait for it . . . Newt Gingrich.
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