Children of the Atom

Children of the Atom is a 1953 science fiction novel by American writer Wilmar H. Shiras, which has been listed as one of "The Most Significant SF & Fantasy Books of the Last 50 Years, 1953-2002."[1] The book is a collection and expansion of three earlier stories, the most famous of which is the novella "In Hiding" from 1948, which appeared on several "Best SF" lists. The book's plot focuses on superhuman children with immeasurably high intelligence who have to hide their youth, and work from hiding in order to get along in the less-intelligent world.

Children of the Atom
Children of the Atom first edition cover
Dust-jacket from the first edition
AuthorWilmar Shiras
Cover artistFrank Kelly Freas
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
PublisherGnome Press
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback)
ISBN0-9748895-0-4 (Reissue)

Plot summary

In the novel, much of which was originally published as a series of stories in Astounding Science Fiction magazine, hidden throughout a future America of 1972 are a group of incredibly gifted children — all approximately the same age, all preternaturally intelligent, and all hiding their incredible abilities from a world they know will not understand them.[2]

These children were born to workers caught in an explosion at an atomic weapons facility, and orphaned just a few months after birth when their parents succumbed to delayed effects from the blast.

Like the characters in the better-known X-Men series, these children are mutants, brought together to explore their unique abilities and study in secret at an exclusive school for gifted children, lest they be hated and feared by a world that would not understand them. The Oakland Tribune described it in 1953 as "the inevitable adjustments and maladjustments of minority genius to majority mediocrity".[3]

In Shiras' book, none of the children are given paranormal super powers such as telekinesis or precognition—their primary difference is simply that of incredible intellect, combined with an energy and inquisitiveness that causes them to figuratively devour every book in their local libraries, to speed through university extension courses, and to publish countless articles and stories all over the world, but all done carefully through pen-names and mail-order, to disguise their youth, and protect them from the prejudicial stereotypes that less intelligent adults continue to try and enforce on children.

The story comes to an abrupt end when a lay preacher speaks out against the children, and a mob forms at the gate of the school. Although the mob is dispersed, the children realize that they need to be part of the greater society in order to avoid these kind of situations. The book ends as they plan to rejoin public schools.


The book was hailed as another step in science fiction's coming of age, as it focused more in intellectual analysis and less on gadget-driven "space opera"[3]

One reviewer wrote, "What we find here is an inventive updating of Stapledon's famous Odd John (1935) in very sensitive, unsentimental terms, with the addition of a sense of community, a benefit that Stapledon's protagonist never got to fully experience. Shiras tells her story in simple yet affecting prose, a kind of blend of Sturgeon and Simak. "

The story, about the incompatibility between the superman and normal humans, strikes a chord with many children, who feel "different from the common herd, neglected, ridiculed, ignored, only to triumph when allied with others of our kind."[4]

Groff Conklin praised the novel for its "richness of character development."[5] Boucher and McComas, however, were disappointed by it, saying that while the stories it was based on were first-rate, the novel-length expansion had become "talkative, oversimplified, lacking in suspense or conflict, and, in short, just not adding up to an adequate novelistic treatment of a splendidly stated theme."[6] P. Schuyler Miller, despite acknowledging that the expansion was less effective than the original work, still concluded that it was "representative of the kind of thing science fiction does well."[7]


  1. ^ Top 50 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books, list by the Science Fiction Book Club
  2. ^ Children of The Atom - Information on the novel and author Wilmar Shiras
  3. ^ a b Nancy Nye (July 12, 1953). "How Orphaned Child Prodigy Reacts to Mediocre World". Oakland Tribune. pp. 2C. (note: Article includes photo)
  4. ^ Review by Science Fiction Weekly (dead link)
  5. ^ "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf", Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1953, p.85
  6. ^ "Recommended Reading," F&SF, September 1953, p. 101.
  7. ^ "The Reference Library", Astounding Science Fiction, March 1954, p.154


  • Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923-1998. Westminster, MD and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd. p. 301.

External links

1996 Kids' Choice Awards

The 1996 Kids' Choice Awards occurred on May 11, 1996. The award show was held at Universal Studios in Universal City, California. Whitney Houston and Rosie O'Donnell served as hosts. Houston became the first celebrity to host more than one Kids' Choice Awards.Mark Curry passed the torch to actress and rap star Queen Latifah and slimed her.

Blackbird (comics)

The Blackbird (also nicknamed X-Jet) is a fictional aircraft appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The plane is depicted as being used by the superhero team the X-Men. There have been several incarnations of this craft over the years, with Cyclops and Storm as the main pilots.

CP System II

The CP System II (CPシステムII, shīpī shisutemu tsū) or CPS-2 is an arcade system board that Capcom first used in 1993 for Super Street Fighter II. It was the successor to their previous CP System and Capcom Power System Changer arcade hardware and was succeeded by the CP System III hardware in 1996, of which the CPS-2 would outlive by over four years. The arcade system had new releases for it until the end of 2003.

Children of the Atom (supplement)

Children of the Atom is a role-playing game supplement published by TSR in 1986 for the Marvel Super Heroes role-playing game.

Dave Lapp

Dave Lapp is a cartoonist who lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He worked at a city drop in center, but has been creating alternative comics for more than ten years.

Duality (Captain Murphy album)

Duality (stylized as DU∆LITY) is the debut mixtape from Captain Murphy, the animated rapper alter-ego of experimental musician Flying Lotus. It was initially released as a 34-minute short film featuring songs performed by Murphy as well as archived cult footage (including footage involving Heaven's Gate co-founder Marshall Applewhite), pornography, cartoons and 1980s films. A deluxe edition was released for download on November 28, 2012 with tracks separated, as well as bonus tracks and instrumentals.

Marvel Super Heroes (video game)

Marvel Super Heroes (マーヴル・スーパーヒーローズ, Māvuru Sūpā Hīrōzu) is a fighting video game developed by Capcom. Originally released in the arcade in 1995 on the CPS-2 arcade system, it was ported to the Sega Saturn and PlayStation in late 1997. The game, alongside Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes, was also included in the Marvel vs. Capcom Origins collection, released digitally for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in September 2012.

Marvel Super Heroes is loosely based on "The Infinity Gauntlet" storyline of the Marvel Universe. It is the second Capcom fighting game based on characters from the Marvel Comics line, following X-Men: Children of the Atom, and was later succeeded by the Marvel vs. Capcom series.

This game was dedicated to the memory of Jack Kirby, with character artwork based on his old designs.

Marvel vs. Capcom

Marvel vs. Capcom is a series of crossover fighting games developed and published by Capcom, featuring characters from their own video game franchises and comic book series published by Marvel Comics. The series originated as coin-operated arcade games, though later releases would be specifically developed for home consoles, handhelds, and personal computers.

Its gameplay borrows heavily from Capcom's previous Marvel-licensed fighting games X-Men: Children of the Atom and Marvel Super Heroes; however, instead of focusing on single combat, the games incorporated tag team battles. Players form teams of two or three characters and, controlling one fighter at a time, attempt to damage and knock out their opponents. Players can switch out their characters during the match, allowing team members to replenish their health and prolong their ability to fight. The series' gameplay is also distinguished from other fighting game franchises due to its character assist mechanics and emphasis on aerial combat.

The Marvel vs. Capcom series has received generally positive reviews from critics, who have praised its fast-paced gameplay, animated visuals, and wealth of playable characters. On the other hand, the games have been criticized for their lack of content, especially more recent installments. The series has enjoyed broad appeal, especially in markets outside of Japan, selling a total of 8.9 million units as of September 30, 2018.

Sentinel (comics)

The Sentinels are a fictional variety of mutant-hunting robots appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. They are typically depicted as antagonists to the X-Men.

The Sentinels played a large role in the 1990s X-Men animated series and have been featured in several X-Men video games. The Sentinels are featured prominently in the 2014 film X-Men: Days of Future Past while simulated versions made brief appearances in the 2006 film X-Men: The Last Stand and the 2016 film X-Men: Apocalypse. In 2009, The Sentinels was ranked as IGN's 38th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.

Street Fighter Alpha

Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors' Dreams is a 1995 fighting game by Capcom originally released for the arcade for the CP System II hardware. It was the first all new Street Fighter game produced by Capcom since the release of Street Fighter II in 1991. The working title for the game was Street Fighter Legends.

The game introduces several new features, expanding on the Super Combo system previously featured in Super Street Fighter II Turbo, with graphics drawn in a similar cartoonish style to the one Capcom employed in Darkstalkers and X-Men: Children of the Atom. The plot of Street Fighter Alpha is set after the original Street Fighter but before Street Fighter II and thus the game features younger versions of established characters, as well as characters from the original Street Fighter and Final Fight, and a few who are new to the series.

Wilmar H. Shiras

Wilmar House Shiras (1908–1990) was an American science fiction author, who also wrote under the name Jane Howes. Her most famous story was "In Hiding" (1948), a novella included in the anthology, The Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

X-Men vs. Street Fighter

X-Men vs. Street Fighter is a crossover fighting video game developed and published by Capcom. It is Capcom's third fighting game to feature Marvel Comics characters, following X-Men: Children of the Atom and Marvel Super Heroes, and the first installment in the Marvel vs. Capcom series. As the title suggests, the game includes characters from Marvel's X-Men franchise and the cast from Capcom's Street Fighter series. Originally released as a coin-operated arcade game in 1996, it was ported to the Sega Saturn in 1997 and the PlayStation in 1998.

X-Men vs. Street Fighter features gameplay similar to Street Fighter, but incorporates dual-character selection and tag team-based combat. Each player selects two characters to compete in a one-on-one battle, attempting to defeat the opposing team. The players are given the ability to switch between their characters at any point during the match. The game also incorporates numerous elements from X-Men: Children of the Atom and Marvel Super Heroes.

The game was released to generally positive reviews, with critics praising its gameplay and sprite animation quality. While the Sega Saturn port received praise for maintaining the experience of the original arcade version, the PlayStation port was met with mixed to negative critical reception for removing several features, such as tag team battles. The changes were done in response to the technical limitations of the PlayStation. A sequel to the game, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, was released in 1997.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.