Smokin’ Rockets

The Romance of Technology in American Film, Radio and Television, 1945–1962


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About the Book

Science and technology had a significant influence on American culture and thought in the years immediately following World War II. The new wonders of science and the threat of the Soviet Union as a powerful new enemy made science fiction a popular genre in radio, television, and film. Mutant creatures spawned by radioactive energy and intergalactic dictators unleashing horrific weapons upon Earth were characteristic of science fiction at the time and served as warnings to the very real dangers posed by the atomic age.
This work examines science and science fiction in American culture beginning in the year World War II ended and going to 1962, the year of John Glenn’s orbital flight and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The radio work of Arch Oboler and the significance of his “Rocket from Manhattan,” which aired only one month after the dropping of the first atomic bomb and asked serious questions about the use of atomic energy, are examined. Other topics are the conflict between the free world and the Communist world in the context of science fiction plot lines, the dangers of science as shown in films like Godzilla, Them!, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and radio and television programs, the flying saucer phenomenon and the treatment of such stories in the media (with special attention given to the 1956 documentary UFO), the changing and more positive depictions of scientists, television programs like Flash Gordon and Space Patrol, the shift in the balance of world power due to the successful launching of Sputnik I by the Russians in 1957, the “end of the world” theme in science fiction, and the American journey into space.

About the Author(s)

Patrick Lucanio lives in Springfield, Oregon. Gary Coville has written on Jack the Ripper and coauthored several books on film and television. He lives in Dallas, Oregon.

Bibliographic Details

Patrick Lucanio and Gary Coville
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 268
Bibliographic Info: appendix, filmography, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2002
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1233-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction     1

1 Imagine That!      5

2 Manhattan Martians     43

3 The Flying Disc Men Are Everywhere     81

4 The Critical Masses     101

5 Crashing the X Barrier     115

6 The Atomic Twonky     140

7 Dr. Research     169

Epilogue     195

Appendix: Radio and Television Logs     205

Select Filmography     211

Bibliography     231

Index     237

Book Reviews & Awards

“bravo…[the authors] manage to imbue the subject with freshness and intelligence…really well written and thoughtful”—Classic Images; “recommended”—Interzone; “scholarly”—Midwest Book Review; “fun reading but with a serious side as well”—Communication Booknotes Quarterly; “thoroughly researched, thought provoking…every SF fan will want”—Cult Movies.