chapter  13
13 Pages

War and the bomb

Destruction of the world by poison gas, or more commonly by nuclear explosion, is a quite frequently encountered ending of Japanese science fiction stories, as it is in many western science fiction stories too. Phosgene gas has all but destroyed the world in the early science fiction story 'The wedding shrouded in grey' by Kizu Tora,· and in 'The investigators' by Hoshi Shin'ichP a gas from another planet is used to wipe out a human civilization thought dangerous to the well-being of other inhabitants of the Universe. Nuclear explosions are, it seems, the preferred method of destroying the planet and the point of such stories is usually to illustrate with the maximum force possible the potentially disastrous consequences of some particular variety of human folly. Pomposity and pride are pinpointed in 'The investigators', whereas public credulity and the slick, greedy immorality of salesmen, representing the evils of commercialism, are the causes of the Earth's destruction in Hoshi's 'Shinyo-aru Seihin' ('Reliable products').3 In other stories such as 'O-miyage 0 Motte' ('With souvenirs in their hands') also by Hoshi,4 the reasons for the Earth's demise are more diffuse and the demon of destruction is nothing more specific than human nature itself. A party of explorers returning from a distant planet is bringing back several products and secrets of that remote advanced civilization, including what is arguably the most precious discovery of all - the secret of immortality. But immortality is a useless gift: the Earth has already destroyed itself before they get back. Nothing but the weakness of human beings is responsible for this - in combination, of course, with their possession of weapons of mass destruction. It is a sombre warning for the world.