Steam bird by Hilbert Schenck

A novella and a short story. The title novella recounts the story of an eccentric Air Force Colonel’s campaign to get the US Government to fund and build a nuclear-powered bomber for no better reason than that it would be powered by steam. It degenerates into a story about pointless bureaucracy and the oxymoron of ‘military intelligence’.

The second story is a near-future tale of weather control by crude cloud-seeding techniques. It is built around a single joke about a pair of gay water-bomber pilots who call their aeroplane the ‘Gay Enola’ (for those who don’t get that, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima was called the ‘Enola Gay’ after the pilot’s mother-in-law.)

Two slight stories, each based around a single premise, and overall an interesting curiosity. Vincent di Fate’s cover art, though, steals the show with a rendition of the nuclear-powered bomber which looks like a giant mutant cross between a Handley Page Victor and a Convair B-36 – one of the latter was used as a flying atomic test-bed aircraft and demonstrated that the concept of a nuclear-powered aeroplane was utterly unworkable.

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