Nobody Wants a Nuclear War by Judith Vigna (Albert Whitman & Co., 1986)

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Read the rest at Awful Library Books. It’s actually quite touching, and immediately recalled a fascination and terror I haven’t felt in 25 years: just one more reminder of the idiocy and decadence underlying the giddy sheen of the 1980s. I just hope that my kids don’t ever feel the need to read books addressing the very real possibility of nuclear annihilation.

17 Responses to “<em>Nobody Wants a Nuclear War</em> by Judith Vigna (Albert Whitman & Co., 1986)”


  1. 1 welshpiper March 1, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Nobody? Hyperbole much, Judith?

    The prospect of nuclear war was either the worst example of military-industrial excess or the most brilliant fear tactic of the 20th century. No matter what one’s political bent, social outlook, or economic stratum, every American was united by the fear-theme of nuclear war during the Reagan Era.

    As an 80’s teenager, it scared the crap out of me, but it was too terrible a prospect for our leaders to allow it. Strangely, we feared most what many (most?) believed could never happen. Was that a cause or an effect of the 80’s as our national transformation into a throwaway society that lauded style more than substance?

    • 2 2W2N March 1, 2016 at 6:12 pm

      A strange time. I think it’s easy to say now that it never would have happened. When you’ve got your finger on the trigger all the live long day, there’s always a chance, however slight, that the gun is going to go off, by design or by accident.

      What’s equally strange is that I was fascinated by the idea as well as terrified. I used to draw mushroom clouds on my books and folders, and I’d watch and read everything I could find on the subject.

      • 3 BJB March 1, 2016 at 6:28 pm

        Now we know there were a couple times when the button was almost pressed. It is interesting to read about Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov and Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov. Luckily I didn’t hear about this when I was young or I would have been worried even more!

      • 4 welshpiper March 1, 2016 at 7:24 pm

        I should have said that *I* somehow never believed it would actually happen – but I do have a marked tendency to under-react, so maybe I was just being dismissively teen-aged.

        I also characterized the decade poorly. What I was aiming for was the idea that the 80’s seemed like the decade when Americans started to switch their attention from the community to the individual. As one pundit (whose name I’m afraid I’ve forgotten) put it best when he called the 80’s the decade when we went from “We the People” to “Me the Person.” The point is debatable, but I tend to agree with the sentiment (indeed, the present age of human connectedness via technology and not emotion is the logical extension of this trend).

        Did that happen because everyone recognized – but was powerless to influence – that the fate of the entire SPECIES rested in the hands of elderly men who happened to be sworn ideological enemies? I mean, if your continued existence was based on the resolution or escalation of any given argument between your parents, how selfish would you end up?

        • 5 2W2N March 1, 2016 at 8:03 pm

          I don’t think I believed it would happen until I saw The Day After. After that I was haunted, but still retained a degree of fascination. The fear was free-floating but palpable. It wasn’t like the visceral fear of getting my ass kicked by the bigger kids.

          I think you’re right about the decade overall. The middle class started to decline in the ’70s, but Reagan’s economic policies in the ’80s buried it. I think a major reason kids in the ’70s/’80s had such a degree of freedom is because so many parents were off “finding themselves.”

  2. 6 BJB March 1, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    I was scared of this during my early teen years also, and even more so when we moved to a house located near a high value target, so I knew there would be no avoiding it.

    This wasn’t helped by the TV movie “The Day After” I am sure!

    I think relief came in the late 80s when the German Berlin wall fell and the cold war seemed to be at an end.

    • 7 welshpiper March 1, 2016 at 6:26 pm

      I was scared of this during my early teen years also, and even more so when we moved to a house located near a high value target, so I knew there would be no avoiding it.

      Heh…I hear you. Most of the people in my hometown were employees of the Bethlehem Steel in Pennsylvania. I recall a front page newspaper story in the mid-80’s that explained the Steel was a high-value target and they included a map with concentric circles around the plant to show how screwed you’d be depending on your distance (we were less than 5 miles, so our screw level was very high).

      Like you, I didn’t feel the fear-tide ebb until my senior year, when the Berlin Wall fell and Communism was on the outs. Must’ve been that picture of Dukakis in the tank… 😉

  3. 8 narvo March 1, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    Man that whole nuclear holocaust thing was super ’80s. I dunno, it was so pervasive in TV (“The Day After,” “Threads,” etc.), movies (“The Atomic Cafe”), and even music—my Frankie Goes To Hollywood “Two Tribes” 12″ single had a whole chart on the back that had the same concentric circle infographic which showed how screwed you’d be depending on how far away you were from ground zero. How about Men At Work’s “It’s A Mistake” and Fishbone’s “Party At Ground Zero” …it was all over the place.

    With me turning 10 in 1980 and coming of age in that decade, the whole nuclear weapons scare was more of a geeky military fascination for me rather than something I lost sleep over at night. I mean, I knew it would be horrible for everyone, but at the same time I figured if I just stood outside when the bomb hit, I’d just be instantly vaporized and wouldn’t even know what hit me. I dunno, I guess I was macabre like that (and still am).

    Speaking of books, there was one particular book that came out back then that was totally nuts—it was a whole collection of childhood drawings and essays done by kids that survived the aftermath of Hiroshima/Nagasaki. I’ll never forget the images that I saw.

  4. 11 His Friend J March 2, 2016 at 4:51 am

    Cheery topic. The kids are doing it wrong, however. I’m sure 2W2N remembers the air raid drills when we were kids and we were taught to hide under our desks like it was an earthquake. Not very helpful. To paraphrase Dr. Stephen Falken from WarGames, “A millisecond of brilliant lights, and we’re vaporized. Much more fortunate than the millions wandering sightless through the smoldering aftermath. We’ll be spared the horror of survival.” They are just better off moving to the most likely spot in their town to be hit by the bomb. The survivors will either die from radiation or starvation, if they are lucky. The unlikely ones will most likely become food.

    • 12 2W2N March 2, 2016 at 5:11 am

      We did watch War Games a few hundred times. And I do remember the silly drills.

    • 13 welshpiper March 2, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      “Much more fortunate than the millions wandering sightless through the smoldering aftermath. We’ll be spared the horror of survival.”

      I think this sentiment became my default position on how I’d deal with nuclear war – just run out and let everyone see my skeleton before I turned to ash. I wasn’t gonna end up like Jason Robards.

      • 14 2W2N March 2, 2016 at 2:45 pm

        Or those poor bastards in Testament. Fuck that!

        • 15 narvo March 3, 2016 at 8:41 pm

          Testament (1983)? Man, yet another movie that evaded my radar…right smack in the middle of the nuclear hype, at that.

          Oh and remember the “other” scare proposed by Red Dawn…a ground-force assault by the Soviets instead of a nuclear attack? I remember that trailer so well…and wondered what it would be like if that happened to my friends and I while we were in school. lol. WOLVERIIIIIIINES!!!

  5. 16 Tim May 27, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

  6. 17 Tim May 28, 2016 at 3:53 am

    What an incredibly depressing childrens’ book. My high school library had a copy of When the Wind Blows, which was pretty disturbing as well.


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