Fri 27 Dec, 2002 07:06 pm
In light of N. Korea's renewal of nuclear development, I was reminded of a Frederic Brown short story but can't remember the name. A metaphor for nuclear armament, the story contians the final line "Only an idiot would give a loaded gun to an idiot" (or something very close). Anyone remember the story's title? Maybe it's time for a reprinting of the story.
It's called "The Weapon"! Thank you!
Brambits, if you can find the text of this story, why don't you post it, and we'll discuss it?
I spent a little time searching last night - no luck yet. It's only a two or three pager, I believe. I may try again tonight as I will be out for the day.
Frederic Brown - The Weapon
I was thinking again about Frederic Brown's very short story The Weapon and realised that it would now be out of copyright here in Australia. It was published in 1951 and copyright runs out after 50 years if I remember rightly. In USA your politicians have done you the service of recently increasing that period to 75 years, so if you are not in Australia then don't read this (note that it is not related to our present conflict):
by Frederic Brown (1906 - 1972)
The room was quiet in the dimness of early evening. Dr. James Graham, key scientist of a very important project, sat in his favorite chair, thinking. It was so still that he could hear the turning of pages in the next room as his son leafed through a picture book.
Often Graham did his best work, his most creative thinking, under these circumstances, sitting alone in an unlighted room in his own apartment after the day's regular work. But tonight his mind would not work constructively. Mostly he thought about his mentally arrested son--his only son--in the next room. The thoughts were loving thoughts, not the bitter anguish he had felt years ago when he had first learned of the boy's condition. The boy was happy; wasn't that the main thing? And to how many men is given a child who will always be a child, who will not grow up to leave him? Certainly that was rationalization, but what is wrong with rationalization when-- The doorbell rang.
Graham rose and turned on lights in the almost-dark room before he went through the hallway to the door. He was not annoyed; tonight, at this moment, almost any Interruption to his thoughts was welcome.
He opened the door. A stranger stood there; he said, "Dr. Graham? My name is Niemand; I'd like to talk to you. May I come in a moment?"
Graham looked at him. He was a small man, nondescript, obviously harmless--possibly a reporter or an insurance agent.
But it didn't matter what he was. Graham found himself saying, "Of course. Come in, Mr. Niemand." A few minutes of conversation, he justified himself by thinking, might divert his thoughts and clear his mind.
"Sit down," he said, in the living room. "Care for a drink?"
Niemand said, "No, thank you." He sat in the chair; Graham sat on the sofa.
The small man interlocked his fingers; he leaned forward. He said, "Dr. Graham, you are the man whose scientific work is more likely than that of any other man to end the human race's chance for survival."
A crackpot, Graham thought. Too late now he realized that he should have asked the man's business before admitting him. It would be an embarrassing interview--he disliked being rude, yet only rudeness was effective.
"Dr. Graham, the weapon on which you are working--"
The visitor stopped and turned his head as the door that led to a bedroom opened and a boy of fifteen came in. The boy didn't notice Niemand; he ran to Graham.
"Daddy, will you read to me now?" The boy of fifteen laughed the sweet laughter of a child of four.
Graham put an arm around the boy. He looked at his visitor, wondering whether he had known about the boy. From the lack of surprise on Niemand's face, Graham felt sure he had known.
"Harry"--Grab am's voice was warm with affection"Daddy's busy. Just for a little while. Go back to your room; I'll come and read to you soon."
"Chicken Little? You'll read me Chicken Little?"
"If you wish. Now run along. Wait. Harry, this is Mr. Niemand."
The boy smiled bashfully at the visitor. Niemand said, "Hi, Harry," and smiled back at him, holding out his hand. Graham, watching, was sure now that Niemand had known: the smile and the gesture were for the boy's mental age, not his physical one.
The boy took Niemand's hand. For a moment it seemed that he was going to climb into Niemand's lap, and Graham pulled him back gently. He said, "Go to your room now, Harry."
The boy skipped back into his bedroom, not closing the door.
Niemand's eyes met Graham's and he said, "I like him," with obvious sincerity. He added, "I hope that what you're going to read to him will always be true."
Graham didn't understand. Niemand said, "Chicken Little, I mean. It's a fine story--but may Chicken Little always be wrong about the sky falling down."
Graham suddenly had liked Niemand when Niemand had shown liking for the boy. Now he remembered that he must close the interview quickly. He rose, in dismissal.
He said, "I fear you're wasting your time and mine, Mr. Niemand. I know all the arguments, everything you can say I've heard a thousand times. Possibly there is truth in what you believe, but it does not concern me. I'm a scientist, and only a scientist. Yes, it is public knowledge that I am working on a weapon, a rather ultimate one. But, for me personally, that is only a by-product of the fact that I am advancing science. I have thought it through, and I have found that that is my only concern."
"But, Dr. Graham, is humanity ready for an ultimate weapon?"
Graham frowned. "I have told you my point of view, Mr. Niemand."
Niemand rose slowly from the chair. He said, "Very well, if you do not choose to discuss it, I'll say no more." He passed a hand across his forehead. "I'll leave, Dr. Graham. I wonder, though . . . may I change my mind about the drink you offered me?"
Graham's irritation faded. He said, "Certainly. Will whisky and water do?"
Graham excused himself and went into the kitchen. He got the decanter of whisky, another of water, ice cubes, glasses.
When he returned to the living room, Niemand was just
leaving the boy's bedroom. He heard Niemand's "Good night, Harry," and Harry's happy " 'Night, Mr. Niemand."
Graham made drinks. A little later, Niemand declined a second one and started to leave.
Niemand said, "I took the liberty of bringing a small gift to your son, doctor. I gave it to him while you were getting the drinks for us. 1 hope you'll forgive me."
"Of course. Thank you. Good night."
Graham closed the door; he walked through the living room into Harry's room. He said, "All right, Harry. Now I'll read to--"
There was sudden sweat on his forehead, but he forced his face and his voice to be calm as he stepped to the side of the bed. "May I see that, Harry?" When he had it safely, his hands shook as he examined it.
He thought, only a madman would give a loaded revolver to an idiot.
In light of Iran...
In light of Iran, this story seems particularly appropriate (I said the same thing in 2002 about N. Korea...).
So four years later, here we are again. The story has been posted - what do you think?
I wonder if we can really call this a short story. Nobody learns anything. Nobody changes. Nobody gains any new insight.
Mr. Graham blames Niemand, calling him an idiot.
This seems more like a parable to me. It is a story with a moral or lesson at the end which may influence the reader, but as far as the reader can tell, Graham has not responded to the lesson. Except that he'll probably be more careful in the future about who he lets into the house.
I wonder, too, if the lesson is fair and universally applicable. Ought we to suppress all inventions that might cause harm if they fell into the hands of "idiots"? How about the automobile?
I realize that Brown is talking about an ultimate weapon, but what is an ultimate weapon? How do you define it, and who gets to define it. If Graham doesn't build it, maybe someone more idiotic than he is will.
Although the lesson seems at first glance to be a good one, it may turn out, upon examination, to be simplistic.
I don't think " Corky " "Gets it" at ALL...... shame.
Wow. Speaking of "idiot", Corky... Brown is calling the use/invention of nuclear weaponry mad (or crazy). The story isn't LITERAL, you fool, as no "story" is. Did you FAIL Lit. in high school/college? I know that this response is 3 years late, but I hope that you occasionally check up on this so that you can ******* learn something, Guy. It is a METAPHOR. The scientist(s) who created and continue to create weapons of mass destruction are the "madmen" who put "loaded guns" in the hands of "idiots" who are the human populus. As, dear, you have SO aptly proven in your infallible ignorance. You strove, with your meager words, to prove a point that your poor brain utterly failed. Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids. Leave the real thinking to the rest of us.
All commentary aside, I enjoyed the story. I have just purchased a used copy of The Science Fiction Century, Volume Two, edited by David G Hartwell. I missed lots of good sf the last thirty years of the 20th Century and want to make up some of the deficit.
I know this is quite some time down the road from the date of the thread, but I came across it recently looking for the original short story that I had adapted in High School into a video. I always thought it was fun and engaging although some people apparently haven't. So for one, thank you "blanzcs" for posting the story and a little bit of history of the author. I am looking to possibly secure the rights to this so that I can take another swing at it as a short film for festival submission. I of course would be re-adapting it as opposed to using the script I wrote about ten years ago in high school.
Anyway, if anyone is interested I'll try and give the link of my video, just for you're own entertainment. Edit [Moderator]: Link removed
I'm lost and need advice. I am remembering a science fiction short story that I read as a child, back in the '50's, probably published in one of those annual compendiums entitled "SF 1958" or such. I thought the title was, "The Weapon", but the story recounted here is not the story I am thinking. Let me describe what I remember about it:
An individual astronaut has been sent, alone, to occupy a planet until a company of space pioneers can relieve him. He lives in his space-ship, and goes out to explore and (I think) cultivate a garden. The planet is already inhabited by packs of voracious animals, wolf-like, in my recollection, but he is prepared for this danger, and he is armed with the ultimate personal weapon, a pistol that silently de-materializes any target. What he shoots, simply, quietly, evaporates. He is confident of his firepower, until reality intervenes.
On his excursions outside his spacecraft, the wolves attack him daily, and at first he is cocky, easily evaporating them with every pull of the trigger. But the horrible realization soon comes to him that they do not stop, they are not frightened of him, because his weapon is so perfectly efficient, so silent, that his targets do not seem to make any connection between their disappearing comrades, and the behavior of the invading humanoid.
He finally saves himself by whittling a simple bow and arrow, and using that to defend himself. The arrows cause pain and are readily associated with the bowman, and soon the wolves learn to respect and fear him. He returns to working on his garden and enhancing his rustic homestead.
And the last scene, the company of pioneers arrive to find him hard at work, wielding the de-materializing pistol -- as a hammer, driving tent pegs into the ground.
Can anyone advise the title and author of this story? I am in mind of it today, because while watching a Star Trek movie (Insurrection), it occurred to me that this short story may reflect America's approach nowadays of dealing with Afghanistanian terrorists by attacking them at night with unmanned drones, and perhaps predict a failure of this strategy.
Thank you. I'm not registered here, so please inform me via email if a reply appears here. Reach me at seamus<at>jamespell.com.
Actually, he is calling his son an idiot. And Niemand a mad man. The story is supposed to explain that giving a weapon of mass destruction to humanity is like giving a loaded Revolver to a child with mental disabilities, neither of them would know how to manage them; Therefore, using it the wrong way, and killing people.