Historical Reprints Fiction Great Explosion, The

Great Explosion, The

Great Explosion, The
Catalog # SKU1617
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Eric Frank Russell


The Great Explosion

Eric Frank Russell

WHEN AN EXPLOSION takes place lots of bits and pieces fly all over the scenery. The greater the wallop the larger the lumps and the farther they travel. These are fundamental facts known to every schoolchild old enough to have some sneaky suspicions about the birds and the bees. They were not known or perhaps they were not fully realized by Johannes Pretorius van der Camp Blieder despite the fact that he was fated to create the biggest bang in human history.

Johannes Etc. Blieder was a lunatic of the same order as Unk (who first made fire), Wunk (who designed the wheel), Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci, the Wright Brothers and many others who have outraged orthodoxy by achieving the impossible. He was a shrimp of a man with a partly bald head, a ragged goatee beard and weak, watery eyes hugely magnified by pebble-lensed spectacles. He shuffled around on splayed feet with the gait of a pregnant duck, had been making glutinous sniffs since birth and never knew where to put his hand on a handkerchief.

Of academic qualifications he had none whatever.

A spaceship bound for the Moon or Venus could thunder overhead as such ships had done for a thousand years and he would peer at it myopically without the vaguest notion of what pushed it along. What's more, he wasn't the least bit interested in finding out. Four hours per day, four days per week, he sat at an office desk. The rest of his time was devoted wholly and with appalling single-mindedness to the task of levitating a penny. Wealth or power or shapely women had no appeal to him. Except when hunting a handkerchief his entire life was dedicated to what he deemed the ultimate triumph, namely, that of being able to exhibit a coin floating in midair.

A psychologist might explain this obsession in terms of an experience that Blieder had suffered while resting in his mother's womb. An alienist might define it as the pathological desire of a sniffy-nosed little man to rise high in the world and look big. If he had been capable of self-analysis -- which he was not -- Blieder may have confessed the thwarted ambition to become an accomplished vaudeville artist. Though he knew nothing and cared less about the wonders of science he did nurse a mighty admiration for professional magicians and illusionists. To him, the greatest glory would be to hold the stage and dumbfound an audience with a series of clever stunts that were not faked, but real.

The actual truth, perhaps, was that bountiful Providence had chosen him to get somewhere in much the same way that other creative imbeciles have been chosen. Therefore he was animated by a form of precognition, a subconscious knowledge that success was sure if he kept after it long enough. So for fifty years he strove to levitate a penny by methods mental, mechanical or just plain loopy.

Upon his seventy-second birthday he succeeded. The coin positioned itself three-eighths of an inch above a pure cobalt disc that represented the output stage of a piece of apparatus bearing no relation to anything that made sense. He did not rush outdoors, yell the news all over town, get blind drunk and paw a few elderly virgins. Instead he blinked incredulously at the penny, sniffed a couple of times, sought in vain for a handkerchief. Then he stacked a dozen more pennies on top of the floater. It made no difference. The column remained poised with a threeeighths gap between the bottom coin and the cobalt disc.

Removing the coins, he substituted a heavy paperweight. The gap did not decrease by a hairbreadth.

So he took away the weight and the penny, wondered whether a different metal would produce a different effect, tried it with his gold watch. That also sat threeeighths of an inch above the disc. He fiddled around with his apparatus, making minor alterations here and there in the hope of widening the gap. At one stage the watch vibrated but did not rise or fall. He concentrated on that point, adjusting and readjusting, until he was rewarded with a sound like a sharp spit. The watch vanished, leaving a small hole in the ceiling and a matching hole in the roof.

Softcover, 5¼" x 8¼", 230+ pages

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