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NOTE: While taking a moment to decide whether I would just use referenced links in the post while writing something condensed for you or rather string it all out in a line. No, I will not be using only links and condensed writings to reference things or attempt to write something that simply skips the surface leaving you in yet another vat of skim milk, instead I will allow you to follow my train of research. The form I will take will cover a myriad of things surrounding what Philip Wylie, including quotes, what he wrote to attract the attention of the USA government and how that worked out for him in the end. Sadly, for now, because of time constraints and the ever impounding requirements of a life in pandemic, this article will purely cover what I find on the internet.
Today, along with me turning 37 years old, 🥳 ( Happy Birthday to me ) let’s see what we can learn from the internet ( and maybe learn from more, who knows? ) about one of the most important things we should pay attention to: History. In order not to repeat it, but instead liberate ourselves from falling into a worn-out hole.
During my cohort to find an accurate cover image for my copy of Philip Wylie’s The Smuggled Atom Bomb on Bookshelf #1 and Beef with Potatoes, an interesting fact stood out while scanning the source of the image’s page at Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, & Creased:
“Wylie was put under house arrest by the FBI after writing a novel with a post-War Nazi plot to use atomic weapons—cutting a little too close for comfort given that the Manhattan Project had yet to conduct its first live test.”[ Source: Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, & Creased ]
Philip Wylie is tugging my attention: while he wrote a book titled The Paradise Crater, then he was put under house arrest by the FBI for talking about atomic bombs:
“During World War II, writing The Paradise Crater (1945) resulted in Wylie’s house arrest by the federal government; in this work, he described a post-WWII 1965 Nazi conspiracy to develop and use uranium-237 bombs,”[…][ Source: Wikipedia.com ]
Who is Philip Wylie?
“Born in Beverly, Massachusetts, he was the son of Presbyterian minister Edmund Melville Wylie and the former Edna Edwards, a novelist, who died when Philip was five years old. His family moved to Montclair, New Jersey and he later attended Princeton University from 1920[-]1923. He married Sally Ondek, and had one child, Karen, an author who became the inventor of animal “clicker” training. After a divorcing his first wife, Philip Wylie married Frederica Ballard who was born and raised in Rushford, New York; they are both buried in Rushford.
[…][ Text Source: fantasticfiction.com ] [Image Source: floridamemory.com ]
Wylie also adamantly refused to allow himself to be labeled. In 1948 he wrote, “I am not a Protestant, or a Catholic, or a Jew; I don’t belong to any church or union. I am not and never have been a communist, fascist, leftist, liberal, tory, or rightist.”[ Source: believermag.com ]
Wow! That’s a lot. This man certainly was busy, and he didn’t like getting put in any sort of box except his house. Bad joke? I’ll let you decide.
What is the Manhattan Project?
“The Manhattan Project was a research and development undertaking during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom (which initiated the original Tube Alloys project) and Canada.”[ Image and Text Source: wikipedia.org ]
What was the problem with The Paradise Crater and why did that get him in trouble with the FBI?
From what I gather, at the time, no one was supposed to know anything about Uranium isotopes or atomic bombs in general. It was a secret government project and there was a bit of an arms race itself over who would publish the first story about atomic bombs. Let’s see what Washington State University has to say about it:
“Author Philip Wylie, not fortunate enough to be working for the privileged Campbell, found that when he wrote a story depicting a Nazi conspiracy to rule the world through atomic bombs he could not get it published. According to records in agent Harold Ober’s files, Wylie submitted “The Paradise Crater” to him on January 13, 1944; Blue Book, a popular men’s fiction magazine, bought the story, then canceled its publication. A note dated July 3, 1945 explains the cancellation as prompted by security considerations: “War Dept. objects to the use of this. President Conant of Harvard is working on something similar. He promised not to offer to any magazine. Cancel sale.” (James Conant was chairman of the National Defense Research Committee and very much a part of the Manhattan Project. The source of the quote is a letter from Alice Miller of Harold Ober Associates.) According to H. Bruce Franklin, Wylie was placed under house arrest and even threatened with death for his indiscretion (see Countdown to Midnight, p. 15). A month later, the magazine repurchased the story, and a note was added to the file reading, “Atomic bomb released on Japan Aug. 6, 1945.” So Blue Book accomplished the coup of publishing the first atomic bomb story after Hiroshima even though it had been written over a year and a half before. Thus inadvertently began Wylie’s long collaboration with the government’s nuclear weapons planners which was to result in four short stories and three novels relating to nuclear war.
“The Paradise Crater” is an unexceptional counterespionage story in which the hero sabotages the Nazi villains’ store of atomic bombs. An enormous explosion results: flames shoot forty thousand feet into the air; an earthquake wreaks havoc throughout much of the western United States and Canada; a tidal wave roars west from the shores of California and inundates thousands of “Japanese savages on distant Nippon” (the defeated Asian enemy having evidently reverted to barbarism). The mountain within which the bombs were built becomes a crater two miles deep and thirty across. Ever since writers began to grasp the significance of Einstein’s E = mc2, they had been enthusiastically predicting that a cupful of coal could power an entire city. It is not surprising that Wylie supposed that the detonation of a large number of nuclear weapons would create a cataclysm.”[ Source: Washington State University ]
There is one big question sitting in my mind right now:
Unanswered: How in Hades did Philip Wylie know about atomic bombs before everyone else was suppose to know about them?
EDIT: As Tales From the Neon Beach has pointed out in the comments, this question may be irrelevant.
And, unfortunately I have run out of time for today to cover this subject. Let’s see if we can find out next time I publish this series, and if you wish to contribute at all by what you know in your head or what you can find out, inside or outside the internet feel free to to join in by posting a comment below or sending it straight to me via the contact form. Next time in this series I will focus on the following ( subject to change ):
- When did atomic bombs become public knowledge?
- How did Philip Wylie know about atomic bombs before everyone else?
- Locating the short story that got him in hot water.
- What happened to Philip Wylie after his house arrest.
- How his involvement with the government worked out for him.
Guys and gals, until next time – may you find all the happiness that your life can fit in it’s happy spot – S.D. McKinley.