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Literature / Sometime Never: A Fable for Supermen

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"Nowadays the world is filled with people who have killed in the war. None of them ever feels guilty, however they wouldn't hesitate to report a fellow men if he were to cheat at cards. I am a peoplekiller. I've tried to feel guilty, but I can't seem to make myself. I would feel very guilty if I cheated at cards."
Dahl, on the "Supermen", i.e., soldiers around the world

Sometime Never: A Fable for Supermen is a 1948 Science Fiction novel by Roald Dahl, and quite possibly the first post-World War II novel to address the shiny new possibility of full-scale nuclear war.note  The plot is divided into two parts, the wartime adventure of RAF pilot Peternip during the Battle Of Britain and the plan of the Gremlin Leader to outlive humanity in an alternative Cold War. It is the most obscure of Dahl's books, but still can be found in some libraries in the U.S and Britain.

Tropes featured in Sometime Never: A Fable for Supermen include:

  • Alternate History: The Cold War went boiling hot in this one, folks. World War III (and IV!) broke out, and no country was spared. In-between the two World Wars, the Gremlins make the following survey:
    • The Soviet Union was the material winner of the war, and despite 30 million or so casualties, has occupied most if not all of continental Europe. (Britain and the nearby islands are implied to be such an ash-heap that nobody has even bothered claiming them.)
    • The United States was also badly battered (21 million casualties), but remains too big and distant for any other nuclear power to feasibly occupy, giving it all the time in the world to (re)build its own arsenal for retaliation.
    • India sustained relatively light casualties, got united under a theocratic dictator, and became Asia's rising star along with...
    • China, now controlled by a dictator with hypnotic speaking skills.note 
  • Apocalypse How: Long paragraphs are used to describe the atomic flash and shockwave, plus the sensation of burning.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: Downplayed. The Gremlin Leader promises his scouts Snozzberries from his personal orchard as a reward for the aforementioned survey of post-World War III humanity. After they successfully do so, he has to be prodded into keeping his word; and as soon as the scouts are out of sight, he tells his steward to give them slightly higher-quality berries from the public orchards instead.
  • Crapsack World: If you are not a Gremlin after the shift.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The humans.
  • Expy: There is a character named Stuffy who's completely an Expy of a character with the same name from Dahl's previous child-friendly Gremlin book, The Gremlins. It's the same with the other two protagonists: Peternip is Gus, Progboot is Jamface. In fact, this book itself is a Darker and Edgier version of it.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: In the book, there is a kind of virus that targeted only designated victims.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Inverted, if you can believe it. Initially it's not clear if the Gremlins are real or just the pilots' imaginations and superstitions (the scene where they all discuss the various "types" of Gremlins, in particular, sounds a lot like a tall-tale contest fueled by lingering adrenaline on one hand and tons of beer on the other), but about halfway through the story starts being told from the Gremlins' perspective, revealing they're Real After All... until the last few chapters, where it turns out they need human imagination to exist. So: magic and mundane?
  • Mythology Gag: The main food of the gremlins are snozzberries. They are later referred in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and My Uncle Oswald. This word means "head of dick" in the latter.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The pilots are addressed exclusively by their call-signs, in both dialog and narration (a good deal of these are ironic, like the most boyishly handsome of the squadron being called "Ugly") — even after World War II ends and they return to civilian life.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Roald Dahl is in fact the first person to suggest that radiation can make people mutate into zombies. Though he is Not Using the "Z" Word, just wrote that people became mad when they are exposed to radiation. Later, there are some virus developed to drive people mad and bite each other until death.
  • Puff of Logic: The Gremlin leader finds out if there's no humans, no one can imagine Gremlins, and so they cease to exist. Poof.
  • Shown Their Work: Roald Dahl describes a nuclear blast in a surprisingly detailed and graphic way and how it "broiled" the protagonist alive. Also, he predicted the inventing of "dirty" neutron bombs.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The Gremlin Leader did create a peaceful world without class, money or machinery among gremlins after there are no humans.
  • Ur-Example: The first book to suggest humanity can end the world by themselves.

Alternative Title(s): Sometimes Never A Fable For Supermen