04/21/2014 03:48 pm ET Updated Jun 21, 2014

9 Science Fictions of the 1950s and the Terrible Truths Behind Them

Thanks to shows like Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver, the 1950s often get branded as the dorky, straight-laced counterpoint to the cool, wild and free 1960s. But in my new book, I beg to differ:

"In retrospect the 50s were a furnace by comparison: bankers, academics and politicians experimenting with LSD and magic mushrooms; submarines and electric cookers being powered by atomic reactors; and there were strange technological objects orbiting the planet for the first time - whether these objects originated on Mars or the Soviet Union was a different matter of course. It was a complex decade, riven with paranoia, division and dissent."

Welcome to Mars weaves an intricate web of Cold War politics, UFO scares, psychedelic research, and 1950s pop culture--a feedback loop in which real technological advances and government experimentation gave rise to science fiction that then fed new innovation and research.

Focusing on each year of the decade in chronological order, I explored 1950s fantasies like contacting life on other planets, the "red terror" invoked by flying-saucer movies, creepy tales of eugenic utopias that hinted at the darker side of suburbia, and mind control stories suggesting the public's fear of government experiments in "brainwashing" and altering consciousness with LSD. From suburban planning to the space race, Welcome to Mars makes startling connections between science fact and science fiction.

Here, to whet your appetite, are 9 science fictions of the 1950s and the terrible truths behind them!

9 Science Fictions of the 1950s and the Awful Truths Behind Them