The Atom, the Sublime, and the American Southwest

by Lovely Umayam and Tammy Nguyen
a project of Bombshelltoe and Passenger Pigeon Press

This book is dedicated to the sunrises and the sunsets in the American Southwest. May we continue to honor and protect this land and its people. 


Some things in this world hold so much power and splendor that they shake the soul. They are visual manifestations of pure awe that it leaves the mind unmoored, marooned between the sensations of pleasure and terror. Those who are lucky to encounter such a sight often struggle to describe their experience to others – it transcends words, it cannot be adequately expressed in any language. Others go so far to say that it conjures the spiritual, the closest they’ll ever get to feeling the presence of God.

Scholars of our time call this phenomenon the sublime.

Atomic Sublime
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The Atomic Sublime is a book about the landscapes that captivate and haunt us, not only because of their ineffable beauty and scale, but because of the dark nuclear histories they hold. The book centers around two places in the American Southwest– the Grand Canyon and the Nevada Test Site -- and the role they played in developing U.S. nuclear weapons. The book is part of the Illuminating Radioactivity project, which blends policy, technical, and creative expertise to produce compelling resources about nuclear science, policy, and history.

Essays by Lovely Umayam 
Art by Tammy Nguyen
Technical Advice by Karen Hogue and Jennifer Wagner 
Creative Advice by Adriel Luis 

This book was produced by Passenger Pigeon Press using the technologies of photocopy, laser cutting, and hand-set type with foil stamping.   Everything was hand assembled. The fonts used include Futura, American Typewriter, and Caslon in multiple styles and sizes. The papers used include cardboard, 90 lb. white cardstock, 20 lb. white textweight, 60 lb. Astrobright Cosmic Orange and Fuschia.  The production was overseen by Téa Chai Beer and art direction/ design by Tammy Nguyen. This was an edition of 250.   

Sincerest gratitude to all those who provided encouragement and counsel along the way: Michael Krepon, Alex Wellerstein, the Center for Book Arts, and various friends and family who have been anticipating the fruition of this nuclear project. Special thank you to Téa Chai Beer and Katrina Fuller for helping with the production of this book. 

This is a creative project by Bombshelltoe and Passenger Pigeon Press. The research, writing, and editing of this project is facilitated through the Stimson Center. Financial support generously provided through the Stevens Institute - Reinventing Civil Defense Project.