You’re not going to believe this.  The guy who wrote Dr Strangelove was from Treorchy

Yes, I know; mad isn’t it?!

Distracted, as usual from the matter at hand (in this case writing the chapter on C19th science fiction) I thought I’d take a peek ahead to the next chapter I’m responsible for:  The Atomic Age.  Now, in theory, this chapter will look at Cold War and post-apocalyptic film and fiction between 1940 and 1960.

And you just can’t ignore Kubrick’s marvellous film.

Its a brilliant satire of the cold rationality of science behind military technology.  The prevailing consensus that a nuclear war was inherently unwinnable and suicidal was illogical to physicists-turned-strategists Herman Kahn, Edward Teller and John von Neumann. They estimated how many human lives the US could lose and still rebuild economically.  Kubrick is unrelenting in his lampoon – his fictional physicists provide the president with an estimate of the outcome of a pre-emptive nuclear war: “Now I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed, but I am saying no more than 10 to 20 million killed. Tops!” Fantastic.  So what’s my problem?

Dr Strangelove was made in 1964.

Alright, I know what you’re thinking.  Does it matter?  And even if it matters, does it matter that it matters?  Well maybe not.  But following the logical of my own ‘Ages of Science Fiction’, fuzzy as they are, I did a little research to see if I could drag Kubrick back into the 1950s.  And bingo, I found it!  The film is based on a book called Red Alert by a guy called Peter Bryan George who was from Treorchy, a place, as many of you locals will know, does not immediately spring to mind when you think of international power politics and the Cold War.  Just goes to show.  And so on.

Peter George in fact wrote the screenplay for the film (in collaboration with Kubrick and Terry Southern), and was displeased with the overall satirical feel of the movie.  You would have thought he would have noticed earlier!  Apparently, he also wrote a novelisation of the screenplay after the film was released and dedicated it to the director.  Maybe to apologise for being such a grump?

Two years later he died by his own hand. 

One comment


    May 18, 2006

    I only recently discovered the fact that Strangelove was written by a Welshman. And now I read this!

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