Phoenix from the Ashes: The Literature of the Remade World

By Carl B. Yoke | Go to book overview

8
FUTURE IMPERFECT: LEIGH BRACKETT'S THE LONG TOMORROW

Donna M. DeBlasio

One of the first successful female science fiction authors, Leigh Brackett was known mainly for her exciting, adventure-filled stories like The Sword of Rhiannon ( 1953), The Big Jump ( 1955), and the "Eric John Stark" series. Recently, her reputation received a new boost, posthumously, for her work as coscreen- writer of The Empire Strikes Back ( 1980)--even though it is also in the vein of her sword-and-sorcery swashbucklers. All of these works are well written and full of the descriptive imagery that was a hallmark of her style. Yet, as good as they are, they only hint at the full range of her talents.

One novel, her finest work, stretched her skills to a much greater degree. This is her stunning postholocaust story, The Long Tomorrow ( 1955). It is a fascinating book in several respects. The story itself is good and moves well; at the same time, her ideas come through without being heavy-handed or obvious. There are also elements in it which reveal a great deal about the author herself, including her fascination with the Amish, interest in the American West, and love for freedom of expression. All of these combine to make The Long Tomorrow one of the most interesting and insightful treatments of postholocaust earth.

The setting for The Long Tomorrow is America, some two generations after the "Destruction" (that is, nuclear war). Those who survive the conflict understandably turn their backs on science and technology because these were the things that brought on the conflagration. This rejection of science heralded a reversion to the agricultural, medieval life style of the Amish. Indeed, the thirtieth amendment to the Constitution forbade the formation of communities of more than one thousand persons or the erection of more than two hundred buildings to the square mile within the United States. 1 Not everyone is thrilled with the

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