Tag Archives | Science Fact

How the U.S. Military Protects Our Freedom

When Worlds Collide

Science fiction and mystery author Philip Wylie sounds, from his Wikipedia page, like an interesting guy. His stories and novels (When Worlds Collide is the best known, and the only one I’ve read) have been credited with inspiring some of popular entertainment’s most famous characters – Superman, Flash Gordon, Doc Savage, and Travis McGee. He’s been both hailed as a feminist and condemned as a misogynist for his writings on women (I haven’t read the writings in question and so can’t render a verdict).

But my present concern is with the following rather alarming anecdote:

As early as 1939, [Wylie] had written a story about the Germans making plutonium bombs in a cave in Colorado. “The Paradise Crater,” written for American Magazine, was, as Sam Moskowitz points out, rejected as “too fantastic,” but later was accepted by Bluebook, which turned the magazine over to Washington for approval. When Washington balked, the editor of Bluebook returned the manuscript to Harold Ober, Wylie’s agent, who had “already been contacted by the CIA.” Wylie, who had been put under house arrest, was told by an aggressive major that he [the major] would take Wylie’s life if necessary, to plug the leak. Wylie agreed to tear up the manuscript. But the decision was made to hold back publication instead. According to Moskowitz, “Four months later, the Atom Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Bluebook asked to have the story back. It was published in the October, 1945 number.” Wylie, through his own research, had learned enough about atomic weaponry to become a security risk [John W. Campbell, Jr., editor of Astounding Science Fiction, went through a similar experience when one of his authors submitted a story featuring an atomic bomb].
(Clifford P. Bendau, Still Worlds Collide: Philip Wylie and the End of the American Dream, pp. 42-43; brackets in original. The reference to the CIA must be a mistake for the OSS.)

The Lovely Bones

Viking skull

I see that Jesse Byock’s 1995 article “Egil’s Bones” is now online. (See also this earlier piece.) The article helps to support the historical reliability of the Icelandic sagas by showing how an aspect of Egil’s Saga once considered fanciful – the protagonist’s skull’s invulnerability to axe-blows – may have a basis in fact.

As of 2005, Byock was seeking Egil’s grave for confirmation; I’ve heard nothing since, though the project seems to be active.

Float Time, Part 3

It’s not every day that I wake up to find Patri Friedman being quoted in my local newspaper; but this story actually made the Opelika-Auburn News this morning.

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