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Eric Schlosser: ‘The people who are most anti-nuclear are the ones who know most about it’ via The Guardian

The American author tells Ed Pilkington about his six-year all-out immersion in the terrifying and surreal world of nuclear weapons for his latest book, Command and Control

In the autumn of 1999 Eric Schlosser was invited to Vandenberg Air Force base in California to witness the launch of a Titan II missile, the largest intercontinental ballistic missile America has ever built. At the time, he was a moderately well-known magazine writer, and Fast Food Nation, the book that would act as his personal rocket launcher propelling him into the literary stratosphere, was still two years away from publication.

“They let me go up into the tower and I found myself standing next to the missile. It was right there,” he says, stretching out his hand as though to touch the missile’s cool metal shell. “It was a deeply impressive thing.”

Schlosser was a child of the 70s and grew up with dire warnings of nuclear Armageddon ringing in his ears, largely dismissing them in his mind as fear-mongering and make-believe. “But my God! Watching that missile take off, seeing it soar over the coast of Mexico – it was visceral. These are real! They work! That ICBM was more powerful than any cold war story I’d heard.”

That shattering experience set Schlosser on a journey that has resulted, 14 years later, in Command and Control, his take on the terrifying and surreal world of nuclear weapons. The past six of those years have been spent in what he describes as “all-out immersion” in the subject. The writer is notoriously meticulous about his research, wearing out more shoe leather per book than most journalists do in a lifetime.

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