The Secret (short story)
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|Author||Arthur C. Clarke|
|Published in||This Week|
|Publication date||August 11, 1963|
"The Secret" is a science fiction short story by Arthur C. Clarke, first published as "The Secret of the Men on the Moon" in the August 11, 1963 issue of This Week magazine. It was later collected in The Wind from the Sun (1972) as "The Secret".
"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, on this visit, 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 Cooper 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 upstream. 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[who?] elaborate about this story's being set in the past, "The Secret" is clearly a story that takes place in the near future; three pieces of evidence that clearly support that viewpoint:
- There is no promising evidence that proves otherwise. Nothing in the story leads to the conclusion that this story is set in the past, even though it was written in the mid 1900s, which could lead to that assumption.
- The fourth paragraph states: "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 way the author describes the technology in the short story, e.g., the air-lock snapping into place at the exterior of the tractor, and the pressure "equalizing", indicates the setting was in the future, since this technology did not exist in the past.
- Clarke, C. Arthur. The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke: A Meeting with Medusa. p. 6.