Today, June 15, in 1950, Judith Merril, published her novel, Shadow on the Hearth.
The novel is considered to be one of the first to deal with nuclear war from the perspective of a suburban family – a trope that has become common place in the speculative fiction and science fiction genres.
Shadow on the Hearth deals with a woman in Winchester and her two children after a series of nuclear attacks occur in New York. She started the political commentary as a short story. In regards to its beginnings, Merril said, “When it reached ten thousand words… I began to understand that it wanted to be a novel.” Doubleday editor Walter I. Bradbury read the incomplete draft and bought the novel.
Merril concentrated on the believable nature of her characters which lent to the novel’s impacting story. It was considered to be a masterful example of sensitive and perceptive story telling. In doing so, Merril released a book, June 15, 1950, that resounds in our minds and our media to this day.
According to Lisa Yaszek, President of the Science Fiction Research Association and Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies for the school of Literature, Communication and Culture at Georgia-Tech, “Shadow on the Hearth, is one of the only postwar holocaust narratives that manages to work its way out from under the paralyzing shadow of the mushroom cloud and to imagine the possibility of women — and men — working together to build a more peaceful and rational future.”