If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth

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"If I Forget Thee, O Earth"
AuthorArthur C. Clarke
CountryUnited Kingdom
Genre(s)Science fiction
Published inFuture SF
PublisherColumbia Publications
Publication dateSeptember 1951

"If I Forget Thee, O Earth" is a science fiction short story by English writer Arthur C. Clarke and first published in 1951 in the magazine Future SF. It was subsequently published as part of a short story collection in Expedition to Earth (1953). The title is taken from Psalm 137:5—"If I forget thee, O Jerusalem"—which consists of the writer lamenting over the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army. The themes in the story exploit the anxieties prevalent at the time regarding nuclear warfare.

The work was well received. Christian Science Monitor reviewer Peter J. Henniker-Heaton wrote: "I do not know of any short story that has moved me more than Arthur C. Clarke's 'If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth'."[1]

Plot summary[edit]

"If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth" is the story of Marvin, a child who lives in a lunar colony. One day, his father (who is also the head scientist) drives him across the surface to see a glimpse of Earth, glowing with lethal radiation. The father tells Marvin that Earth was destroyed in a nuclear war. The colony is the last vestige of mankind, but without a goal to strive for, the colony (and mankind) will die. The ultimate goal of the colony will be to one day reclaim Earth, for mankind had developed to a point where the best of it could put its seed far enough away from where it had evolved, and away from the reach of development's harm, so that the cradle of humanity could be restored. It took individual effort to attain the colony when it almost failed, and individual effort to maintain the colony when it barely survived, and provided confidence that in the distant future the colony would restore mankind's cradle.


  1. ^ Henniker-Heaton, Peter J. (August 20, 1959). "Individuals, Communities, and Stars". Christian Science Monitor.

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