The 1980s were the final decade of the Cold War — but nobody knew that at the time. The Soviet Union looked unstoppable, and few outside observers saw its collapse coming. So it's not surprising that lots of 1980s science fiction included Cold War futures. Here are 1980s visions of a future where the Cold War never ends.
Written in 1982, this seminal Dredd story is about the invasion of Mega-City One by its Soviet counterpart East Meg One. After nuking the city, Soviet ground troops come flooding in, forcing Dredd and a team of Judges to fight a run-and-gun guerrilla war with them. Naturally, genocide and other war crimes are happily committed by both sides.
In Pournelle's series of future history novels (several of which were written in the 1980s), a timeline is established in which the Cold War doesn't end till the 2000s, at which point the United States and a still-strong USSR form the titular alliance, allowing them to jointly dominate the planet.
This 1985 novel posits a precarious political climate in 2005. The Cold War never ended, leaving the USA and USSR poised on the brink of nuclear war. The situation is further complicated when a mysterious asteroid enters near-Earth orbit, sparking off an international race to lay claim to its secrets.
In Robinson's 1984 debut novel, America is crippled by a 1987 Russian nuclear attack, giving rise to a semi-pastoral society whose development is restricted on an ongoing basis via onerous international treaties imposed by a triumphant USSR.
In Bova's 1985 novel, the early 21st century sees America withdraw from the space race, allowing the Russians to monopolize the material and strategic potential of the solar system. Only a roguish billionaire pirate named Dan Randolph has the chutzpah to tangle with the all-powerful Russians over the vast resources floating around in space.
Kicked off by 1985's Eclipse, Shirley's trilogy presents an early 21st century scenario in which America suffers an economic collapse, prompting a resurgent Soviet Union to invade Western Europe. The resulting sociopolitical chaos enables the ascendance of the Second Alliance, a private multinational with less-than-benevolent intentions.
In this gleefully prurient 1989 schlockfest starring Brigitte Nielsen, Julian Sands and Brian Cox, the Soviets and the Americans are still at each other's throats in 2104. Nuclear war and resource shortages on Earth have forced both nations to establish outposts and mining facilities on the moon. A murder at an American facility that overlaps with Soviet territory forces Nielsen's NASA cop to work with Sands' KGB agent. Tensions naturally flare.
The movie version takes place against a background of tension between the Americans and Soviets, making it significant that astronauts from the two nations are forced to collaborate in order to find out what happened to the ship from the first movie.
In Miller's paradigm-shifting 1986 comics miniseries, a grizzled and aging Bruce Wayne emerges from retirement to fight crime in a near-future, dystopian Gotham City. He faces just as much opposition from the US government as he does from the criminals, however, as the Cold War is still ongoing and America's clearly rolled back a civil liberty or ten in the course of fighting it.
Written in 1985 by Brian Stableford and David Langford, this is a fictional 'future history' book that gets some things right but also predicts that the Soviet Union would last till 2800 and remain a major global player.
In this 1987 ABC miniseries, the Soviet leadership detonates nukes in the ionosphere over America, creating an EMP that destroys national communications systems and cripples power grids. The resulting failure of defensive capabilities forces America to surrender. Within a decade of this defeat, the US is occupied by Eastern Bloc forces. The series glosses over the takeover, focusing instead on the plight of the American people in the years after it happens.
Doctor Who: Warriors of the Deep
This particular storyline (aired in 1984) sees the Doctor and his companion arrive on Earth in the year 2084, only to encounter murderous attack drones and underwater seabases bristling with nuclear missiles. It turns out that the Cold War is still on and all of human society has gravitated to one of two opposing 'power blocs'. Most of the arc takes place on one of these seabases as it prepares for what may be a drill or an actual nuclear strike. Naturally, these troubled waters are further muddied by the appearance of the Doctor's old friends: the Silurians and the Sea-Devils.
The Cold War is still ongoing in the background of John Carpenter's classic 1981 sci-fi actioner (set in 1997) in which the President's plane crashes into the maximum security prison that used to be Manhattan. His planned destination was a three-way summit with China and the Soviet Union, intended to defuse tensions between America and the Eastern Bloc powers. Soldier-turned-outlaw Snake Plissken is (forcibly) recruited to extract the President in time for the summit.
Thanks to AngrierGeek for pointing this one out! In Mike Baron and Steve Rude's Nexus comics, the Soviet Union not only didn't fall, it controls tons of planets as the Sov Empire.
Thanks to MuseZack for reminding us of this one — in William Gibson's original screenplay for Alien 3, the Union of Progressive Peoples (basically, a future Soviet Union) is the main opponent to the corporations that want to exploit the xenomorph biology. The UPP is trapped in a Cold War with the Colonial Administration, which is basically a continuation of the actual Cold War.