The Long Loud Silence Critical Essays

Wilson Tucker


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

In 1950, Wilson “Bob” Tucker submitted a short story, “The Very Old Badger Game,” to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Editor Anthony Boucher rejected it because the story seemed more like the culmination of a novel than a self-contained tale. Accordingly, Tucker expanded it into The Long Loud Silence. It is his most unrelentingly grim work.

Because it was written in the years immediately following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, The Long Loud Silence is one of the first science-fiction books to envision destruction of the planet brought about by human means. Earlier classics in the post-holocaust genre, from Mary Shelley’s The Last Man (1826) to Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie’s When Worlds Collide (1933), had envisioned natural causes, such as plague, flood, and earthquake. Tucker’s story, moreover, is distinguished by its coldly objective view of nuclear holocaust. Through its dispassionate tone, tersely efficient prose, and careful buildup of details, readers share with Corporal Gary the dawning horror at the situation. Readers never learn more than a few details concerning the bombing attack itself and do not discover who launched it. Tucker’s chief concern is with the depiction of the struggle for survival among the victims of war.

Unusual in stories of this kind are the antiheroic attitudes and actions of the protagonist, the tough, ruthlessly opportunistic Corporal...

(The entire section is 541 words.)