WAR STARS: The Superweapon and the American Imagination by H. Bruce Franklin

WAR STARS: The Superweapon and the American Imagination

Email this review


Heavy-handed cultural criticism from Franklin (English and American Studies/Rutgers), author of Back Where You Came From (1975) and The Victim as Criminal and Artist (1978), among others. Franklin takes as his theme the propensity of the American imagination to conjure up all manner of superweapons as a means of putting an end to warfare, referencing fact (such as Robert Fulton's conceptions of his steamship, torpedo, and submarine as saviors of humanity from the scourge of then-existing seapower) and fiction (over 200 novels and movies through the past century and a half) to make his point. Franklin sees the superoptimism of past American dreamers, coupled with a strain of cultural chauvinism, as the direct antecedents of Reagan's pronouncements on Star Wars. Franklin seems to be on sounder ground here than in some of his previous works, which were suffocated by a radical sensibility. However, his critiquing of countless science-fiction works to buttress his point occasionally comes across as stretching the point; the world of reality would have sufficed, what with Fulton's fulminations; Woodrow Wilson's simplistic ""war to end all wars""; Billy Mitchell's mythic desire to use air power to bring peace; or the Strategic Air Command's own motto: ""Peace is our Profession."" But Franklin finds significance in everything (even in a 1984 video game, ""1942,"" that instructs players: ""Your objective is to destroy Tokyo""). In the end, then, Franklin bludgeons his point to death, engaging in the sort of literary overkill that he criticizes in the military realm.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0195066928
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press