“The Weapon Too Dreadful to Use,” Isaac Asimov, 1939 — Karl Frantor is an archeologist visiting the colonized city of Aphrodopolis, the largest city on Venus, to explore the ruins of the ancient Venusian city Ash-taz-zor. Frantor will be the first Earthman to see the ruins of Venus’s last free civilization. His guide, Antil, is a native who openly mourns the loss of Venus’s freedom. They form an uneasy friendship, made possible by Frantor’s belief that he has never shown “any prejudice against a Venusian,” whom the Earthmen call “Greenies.” Frantor assures Antil that his people will one day be free again, and advises Antil to wait, but they both seem to believe it will take millennia for “total equality” to be reached.
They reach the ruins. While exploring the equivalent of a “modern museum of arts and sciences,” Frantor comes to appreciate the remarkable color perception of the Venusians through their superb art, a color perception as sensitive as the human ear is to pitch (which Venusians cannot detect). Frantor realizes that he has “missed something vital in Venusian art simply because of the lack of common ground between his culture and theirs.” Meanwhile, Antil discovers a complete record of his ancestors’ dead language, which he is able to read, as well as a mysterious device left behind in a secret room. Antil suddenly becomes agitated and then withdrawn; he concludes the outing and return to Aphrodopolis. Before Frantor leaves, Antil appeals to their friendship and asks Frantor, should he become a person of importance upon returning to Earth, to do all that is possible to encourage a “moderation of Earth’s attitude toward Venus.” Antil offers that he, as “an hereditary noble of the largest tribe on Venus,” shall attempt to “repress all attempts at violence.” Antil’s claim that Venus is no longer defenseless only amuses Frantor, but he is touched by his earnestness, if not struck by Antil’s claim that Earth should now concern itself with its own safety.
Five years pass and Frantor is sent by Earth to Venus, this time to investigate unrest by the nationalistic Green Bands. The “terrestrial masters” of the colonies have ignored all signs of danger from “those things,” the Greenies, and yet the smaller domes of the colonies are falling, one by one. Frantor meets with Antil and learns that Antil has used his knowledge of the ancient language to master the ancients’ weapon, a decerebrating machine which can cause a mind-body split. Antil is prepared to use the weapon on the whole of Earth, if necessary, but his preference would be a peace treaty: Provided some assurances are made to ensure Venus’s freedom, Antil will launch the device into the sun. At first the buffoonish generals–including Admiral von Blumdorff, the Prussian–sarcastically dismiss the “fairy tales” of the Greenies, sensing a bluff.
Earth’s military launches a fleet to blow Venus to “kingdom come,” but their attack fails, as half of the fleet suddenly breaks off. The fleet is easily defeated by the decerebrating weapon. Earth’s military is horrified by the massive loss of life, and Admiral von Blumdorff becomes a “pitiful, limp wreck of his former proud and blustering self”; after having one of the decerebrated humans brought to him, he shoots himself in the head. Frantor is brought before the Cabinet, now a group of terrified men, where he convinces them to give up thoughts of revenge and to let this loss of life “pay” for the half-century of Venusian slavery. They must break the cycle and embrace freedom and peace. The treaty is secured, and the Venusians launch the device into the sun.
Comments: Read in The Future Makers. Compare with Bradbury’s “The Piper,” also in The Futuremakers.
Author: Wikipedia: “Isaac Asimov…(January 2, 1920 – April 6, 1992) was a Russian American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards…Asimov is widely considered a master of hard science fiction and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, he was considered one of the ‘Big Three’ science fiction writers during his lifetime.”