The Lucky Strike

The Lucky Strike is a novella-length story written by Kim Stanley Robinson and first published in 1984.


Alternate history, Hiroshima 1945 (to complete)

PM Press release

The Lucky Strike is a publication by independent publishers PM Press released on October 1st, 2009 featuring Kim Stanley Robinson as part of their "Outspoken Authors" series. It contains the novella The Lucky Strike, the short story A Sensitive Dependence On Initial Conditions and an interview with Robinson. Its contents are:

  • the short story/novella The Lucky Strike;
  • the short story A Sensitive Dependence On Initial Conditions (previously published in the short story collection Remaking History (1991));
  • "A Real Joy To Be Had", an interview with Robinson conducted by fellow science fiction writer Terry Bisson;
  • a bibliography of Robinson's works.

The book description from PM Presss is the following:

Combining dazzling speculation with a profoundly humanist vision, Kim Stanley Robinson is known as not only the most literary but also the most progressive (read "radical") of today’s top rank SF authors. His bestselling Mars Trilogy tells the epic story of the future colonization of the red planet, and the revolution that inevitably follows. The Years of Rice and Salt is based on a devastatingly simple idea: If the medieval plague had wiped out all of Europe, what would our world look like today? His latest novel, Galileo’s Dream, is a stunning combination of historical drama and far-flung space opera, in which the ten dimensions of the universe itself are rewoven to ensnare history’s most notorious torturers.

The Lucky Strike, the classic and controversial story Robinson has chosen for PM's new Outspoken Authors series, begins on a lonely Pacific island, where a crew of untested men are about to take off in an untried aircraft with a deadly payload that will change our world forever. Until something goes wonderfully wrong...

Plus: A Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions, in which Robinson dramatically deconstructs "alternate history" to explore what might have been if things had gone differently over Hiroshima that day. As with all Outspoken Author books, there is a deep interview and autobiography: at length, in-depth, no-holds-barred and all-bets off: an extended tour though the mind and work, the history and politics of our Outspoken Author. Surprises are promised.

Product description from Barnes & Noble:

Combining dazzling speculation with a profoundly humanist vision, this astounding alternate history tale presents a dramatic encounter with destiny wrapped around a simple yet provocative premise: the terrifying question of what might have happened if the fateful flight over Hiroshima had gone a bit differently. An extensive interview with the author, offering insight into his fiction and philosophies, is also included.

Publication history

  • 1985 The Year's Best Science Fiction, Second Annual Collection, ed. Gardner R. Dozois, Bluejay
  • 1985 Terry Carr's Best Science Fiction of the Year #14, ed. Terry Carr, Tor
  • 1985 Nebula Awards 20, ed. George Zebrowski, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
  • 1986 The Planet On The Table, Tor
  • 1986 Alternate Histories, ed. Charles G. Waugh & Martin H. Greenberg, Garland
  • 1991 There Won't Be War, ed. Harry Harrison & Bruce McAllister, Tor
  • 1993 The Norton Book of Science Fiction, ed. Ursula K. Le Guin & Brian Attebery, Norton
  • 1994 Remaking History And Other Stories, Tor/Orb
  • 1996 The Way It Wasn't, ed. Martin H. Greenberg, Carol Publishing Group/Citadel Twilight
  • 2006 ParaSpheres: Extending Beyond The Spheres Of Literary And Genre Fiction, April 2006, Omnidawn
  • 2009 The Lucky Strike, PM Press
  • 2010 The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories, February 2010, Robinson Publishing, ed. Ian Watson and Ian Whates
  • 2010 The Best Of Kim Stanley Robinson, Aug 2010, Night Shade Books, ed. Johnathan Straham






While I enjoyed "The Lucky Strike" as a written work of fiction, it is sadly typical leftist (which Kim Stanley Robinson freely admits he is) revisionism that the nuclear attacks on Japan at the end of World War 2 were unjustified, and that a demonstration of some sort would have sufficed to convince the Japanese to surrender.

This seriously misreads the Japanese character at the time of the attacks. They still had millions of men under arms in the home islands as well as thousands of aircraft for use in kamikaze operations, and their analysis of intelligence resources available to them at the time indicated that the United States was unlikely to be willing to sustain the sort of casualty rate expected to occur during a successfully prosecuted invasion. They were therefore perfectly prepared to engage in a battle of attrition in the home islands that would have killed many more people on both sides than the combined total killed in the nuclear strikes, because they believed, wrongly, that the United States would flinch from the bloodletting and would agree to a negotiated settlement that would at least preserve the core Empire. Of course, the United States would have been aghast at the bloodletting, but there was a determination to defeat the Japanese at any cost which the Japanese themselves did not correctly understand and which would have continued the fighting regardless of the human toll.

It was only the sudden, mass casualties at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the realization that they had occurred due to the actions of only one aircraft and one weapon, that gave Japanese moderates within the Imperial Cabinet, such as there were, an opening to force the militarists to agree to an Imperial proclamation that would end the war. Even so, it was a closely run thing, and there was very nearly a coup to topple the Emperor and continue the war regardless. Luckily, this did not happen.

The atomic attacks were horrific events at the end of a horrific war. However, it is highly probable given the circumstances of the time that they in fact did save many more lives than they cost. This is no comfort to those killed and injured during the strikes, but it is a serious misinterpretation of history from the distance of sixty-four years to presume to think they were not necessary.

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