I'm looking for the name of a story where the main character (possibly the only one) is watching news on TV with a nuclear conflict unraveling before his eyes. Oddly enough, hardly anyone notices as the explosions occur in some wastelands in Alaska and Siberia.

3 Answers 3


There was a Twilight Zone episode (called Shelter Skelter) where a divorced man, watching the news of nuclear escalation, freaks out when a explosion is heard and heads for his bunker.

It turns out it was limited to only his town, an accident however he thinks the world has ended and still lives in his bunker, unaware that life (and his ex-wife) are fine in the outside world.

  • Great, I haven't seen that episode and will try to find it. I remember another one where a man finds out that he can stop time. It proved very empowering until the day a nuclear exchange occurs and he is powerless to do anything as a missile is frozen mid-air in the sky.
    – James P.
    Aug 1, 2012 at 22:43
  • 1
    That was Shelter Skelter actually, from the New Twilight Zone series.
    – Mr Lister
    Aug 12, 2012 at 19:44
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    @JamesPoulson: You're probably thinking of the Tales of Tomorrow adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke's short story "All the Time in the World".
    – user14111
    Dec 27, 2014 at 23:35

This is The Secret History of World War 3 by J.G. Ballard, ISFDB link here. The news about war gets sidelined in favour of second-by-second updates on Ronald Reagan's health.

Relevant quotes, one from near the beginning:

The other extraordinary feature of World War 3 is that I am virtually the only person to know that it ever occurred. It may seem strange that a suburban paediatrician living in Arlington, a few miles west of Washington DC, should alone be aware of this unique historical event. After all, the news of every downward step in the deepening political crisis, the ailing President's declaration of war and the following nuclear exchange, was openly broadcast on nationwide television. World War 3 was not a secret, but people's minds were addressed to more important matters. In their obsessive concern for the health of their political leadership, they were miraculously able to ignore a far greater threat to their own well-being.

When war breaks out:

"... psychomotor seizures, a distorted sense of time, colour changes and dizziness. Mr Reagan also reports an increased awareness of noxious odours. Other late news - blizzards cover the mid-west, and a state of war now exists between the United States and the Soviet Union. Stay tuned to this channel for a complete update on the President's brain metabolism..."

And from near the end:

Of course, Susan had no idea that the war had ever begun, a common failure among the public at large, as I realised over the next few weeks. Most people had only a vague recollection of the unrest in the Middle East. The news that nuclear bombs had landed in the deserted mountains of Alaska and eastern Siberia was lost in the torrent of medical reports that covered President Reagan's recovery from his cold.

  • I forgot about this story! Thanks for the reminder Sep 19, 2023 at 19:46
  • Interesting! Not familiar with this Ballard story. What was the point of a nuclear exchange in the desert, what did it accomplish?
    – Andres F.
    Sep 20, 2023 at 13:10

Not a short story, but somewhat similar to the plot of Blast from the Past (IMDb, Wikipedia) with Brandon Faser and Alicia Silverstone. Fun movie!

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