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From the Far Out to the Right On - Science and Fiction in the Fifties



From the Far Out to the Right On - Science and Fiction in the Fifties
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   8.39

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    half-human, homicidal, mad-scientist, nasty-tempered, nucleic, prophetic, sharp-eyed, unfathomable, unforeseen, voiceover, murderous, visitation, luminous, revelation, mid-Fifties, moviegoers
     content words:    Incredible Shrinking Man, Amazing Colossal Man, Destination Moon, Rocketship X-M, Star Trek, Star Wars, Cold War, In The Thing, Another World, Body Snatchers


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From the Far Out to the Right On - Science and Fiction in the Fifties
By Toni Lee Robinson
  

1     The world of the 1950s was on the edge of an explosion in science and technology. The universe had begun to seem less like an unfathomable mystery than a frontier to be conquered. Before, diseases like polio had seemed like angels of death. They had swooped down and ravaged helpless populations. Now bacteria and viruses began to seem more like B-movie villains that could be beaten with the proper weapons. Space travel was beaming itself from the realm of fantasy into the area of a logistics problem.
 
2     People of the fifties were fascinated with science in various forms. This interest sparked a boom in the field of science fiction, where the "far out" had begun to creep into the sphere of the believable. At the end of WWII, the world had seen the all-too-real effects of the A-bomb in the devastation of two Japanese cities. It seemed like a horror movie come to life. What dreadful unforeseen consequences might there be to playing with such an awesome power?
 
3     Stories and films explored the question. Movies like The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) speculated about monsters created by accidental exposure to atomic blasts. The Beast told the story of a giant reptile, sort of a T-Rex/'gator cross, that was none too pleased at being awakened from Arctic ice by atomic testing. Them (1954) featured huge, nasty-tempered ants hatched at a nuclear test site in the desert. They swarmed into storm drains and went on to menace the world.
 
4     Two interesting variations on the same theme were The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) and The Amazing Colossal Man (1957). Both were about men exposed to nuclear radiation. One man shrank and was at the mercy of a sharp-eyed cat and a big, black bully of a spider. The other man grew 50 feet tall and became a raging homicidal maniac.

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