Saturday, September 15, 2007

Arthur C Clarke's "A Slight Case of Sunstroke" aka "The Stroke of the Sun" (short story, free): An innocent murder weapon

Except for the grim ending, this is a piece of good humor.

Story summary.

Set in Hasta la Vista, the capital of a hypothetical country named Perivia in South America. Citizens are football crazy, country is extremely corrupt, & the government is unstable. By the end of the story, we will see a murder & a bloodless military coup, but the story is mostly about an international football match with the neighboring country named Panagura.

Except for obvious & expected corruption on the field, the scene could well have been of an India/Pakistan cricket ODI in Calcutta. Very large crowds, a bit too enthusiatic, & with a dash of patriotism linked to game.

Referee is chosen by visitors, & is expected to be corrupt & partial!

Don Hernando is a wheeler-dealer supposed to be close to President Ruiz, & has his own game in mind. He secures half the seats in the stadium for army men who will be handed free tickets to the game; by the time the game is over, President would have been toppled. The army men spectators are each given a 2 square feet mirror to shine on the referee - as a novel way of booing him. When a signal sounds, they would do it together.

Only Don has an idea of what will happen to the man who receives the entire sunlight shining on half the stadium - he gets cremated alive! Referee receives this treatment after a particularly partial decision.

See also.

  1. This story is a variation of Archimedes' "Burning Glass" apparatus. Picture on this page shows a version of this apparatus used in a modern test.
  2. A discussion of the plausibility of the idea in this story.
  3. According to a news report,  concave glass facade of an under construction building in London is "melting vehicles" parked nearby by concentrating sunlight there. [via Swift@CosmoQuest]

Fact sheet.

First published: Galaxy, September 1958 under the title "The Stroke of the Sun".
Download full text as part of the magazine it originally appeared in.
Rating: A
Related: Stories of Arthur Clarke.

Collected in.

  1. "The Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke"
  2. "Tales of Ten Worlds"
  3. "More Than One Universe"