The Secret (short story)

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"The Secret"
Author Arthur C. Clarke
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Science fiction
Published in This Week
Publication date August 11, 1963

"The Secret" is a science fiction short story by Arthur C. Clarke, first published in 1963. It was first titled "The Secret of the Men on the Moon" when published in This Week magazine. It was collected in The Wind from the Sun.

Plot summary[edit]

The Secret is about a science reporter, named Henry Cooper, who goes to the moon in 1959, to write a series of publicity articles for the U.N.S.A space division. Although he was invited by the U.N.S.A to provide favorable articles that might sway public opinion before the beginning of the budget deliberations, he finds that he is much less welcomed than he was on his last trips there. He begins to suspect that a secret is being kept from him, and becomes increasingly curious. A few days later his friend, the police commissioner takes him to a remote lab. In the lab he confronts one of the head scientists who becomes convinced that the only way to keep the reporter silent is to bring him in on the secret. The secret, the scientist explains, is rather obvious when you come to think about it, and it's a wonder humankind hasn't thought of it in advance. On Earth the human heart pumps - over several decades - many gallons of blood up stream. Gravity tugs and pulls on the organs and tissues. On the moon, however, everything is six times lighter than on earth. The erosion of gravity is six times weaker. Who knows, concludes the scientist, how many years that might add to the human life expectancy? People could live up to 200 years of age. The reporter is then confronted with the sheer numbers of earth's population - over six billion huddled together with not enough food and not enough space, relying on "sea farms" to provide food without sacrificing land.


Arthur C. Clarke's "The Secret" has a rather complicated theme for such a short piece of writing. The theme is universal justice, and the collaboration of two polar opposite minds in concluding the difficulty of the task of revealing a secret to the world. It is a theme that addresses the fact that humans will do whatever it takes to survive, and therefore will consequently become paranoid with the fact that they can live longer somewhere else, that is the moon.


Although many people elaborate about this story being in the past, it is clearly a story that takes place in the near future. There are three pieces of evidence that clearly show that the time frame of this story is the near future. The first piece of evidence is that there is no promising evidence that proves otherwise. Nothing in the story leads to the conclusion of classifying this story's setting as past, even though it was written in the mid 1900s which could lead to that assumption. The second piece of evidence is the fourth paragraph "Cooper had visited the grave of Lunik II - and the most famous tomb of the men who had come after it. But these things belonged to the past; already, like Columbus and the Wright brothers, they were receding into history". Looking at the last sentence in context, the author is making it clear that the first inhabitants to make the moon what it is in the story have died and are "already" receding into history. The usage of the word "already" indicates that it is happening surprisingly faster than it should. This means that it is impossible that these discoverers have lived in the past given that the moon has become a fortress with over 100,000 inhabitants. The third piece of evidence is the way the author describes the technology present in the short story. The way he describes the air-lock snapping into place at the exterior of the tractor and the pressure "equalizing" indicates that this was meant to be in the future since this technology did not exist in the past. This concludes that the story takes place in the near future, on the moon. (The Secret).