Monday, February 11, 2008

Henry Kuttner & C L Moore's "Exit the Professor" (short story, fantasy): Threatening your betters can have dangerous consequences

Quote from short story titled Exit the Professor by Henry Kuttner and C L Moore, sometimes as by Lewis PadgettCombine the best of Mike Resnick's Lucifer Jones with Kuttner's own "The Twonky", & add bits of Arabian Nights, Theodore Sturgeon's "More Than Human", & the magical remedies of the druid Getafix from Asterix, & you get this tale of magic. Lovely humor.

Story summary.

An nuclear accident in England exposed a lot of people to radiation - killing nearly all, but turning the Hogbens family into freaks with powers of gods themselves. The family has since been consciously avoiding mainstream society, & hiding their powers. Now based in Kaintuck, US, they comprise of "grandpaw", "maw", "paw", uncle Les, Little Sam, & Saunk (the narrator & a youngster).

We are not shown all their powers, but some of them are: ability to turn invisible; ability to fly; effortlessly & intuitively build gadgets that will befuddle the best engineers, but without the slightest idea of the underlying principles; ability to change the size of physical objects; ...

And yes - Little Sam has two heads, throws out subsonics when he cries, & is telepathic & sometimes used as a sort of telephone exchange when family members want to talk to each other over long distances!

Of course, people get curious. Sometimes, too curious for their own good. Like with "the Haley boys" a while back who claimed Little Sam was a freak & had three "haids" rather than only two! Well, the narrator & his maw rigged up a shotgun gadget & killed them! There was warning from Sheriff Abernathy but nothing could be proved. Grandpaw has now forbidden killing, "for a while, at least".

Now, this "Perfesser Thomas Galbraith", a biogeneticist, from some New York foundation has come visiting & is showing too much curiosity. We get some fun during his visit to Hogbens' home. During the later part of his trip, he has been getting interested in the shotgun gadget lying around. You see - it makes holes in things. It doesn't need to be loaded: "Trouble with a shotgun is you gotta keep loading it. We sorta thought if we hooked on a few things it wouldn't need loading no more." Saunk & maw had quickly rigged up a ray gun! Anyway, Saunk lets Professor take the gun back to his hotel for testing.

Saunk had promised the Prof he will go with him to New York, but grandpaw has forbidden this. So he goes to tell Prof at his hotel. But Prof keeps threatening to bring down a commission to study them! Saunk quickly tinkers the shotgun lying around room, & coaxes the Prof to try it out. Prof will take the shot from his hotel room window at some roof based target - with Sheriff watching from somewhere on the ground & Saunk turned invisible.

The effect of gunshot is - half the city begins having a severe toothache, including the Sheriff!! You see, Saunk had rigged the gadget so it will turn gold throughout the city radioactive! Not only do a lot of people have gold fillings, church's decorative glass has some gold impurity & the priest is puzzled why it had become so hot to touch.

Anyway, Prof is arrested & there is a mob out to lynch him. Sheriff wants the Prof to fix things before mob gets him. Saunk visits the Prof in lockup, & promises to fix the shotgun.

A discussion among Hogbens telepathically later will conclude that Prof will still get the commission after them; so they really need to take care of him.

OK - Sheriff has Prof taken to his hotel room. Wants Prof to first try the fixed gadget on him. And gets his toothache fixed. Now rest of the affected in the city are collected in the Town Hall for the treatment - only the Hogbens will tinker with the gadget again after turning themselves invisible.

Gunshot fired by Prof. Toothache of all assembled in the Town Hall gone. Also gone is everything that does not "grow" - like their gold fillings & their cloths!

Mob is again after the Prof. The kind Hogbens rescue him from the mob, & end up taking care of his threat of a commission too. See - they make him tiny & put him in a bottle!! "Sometimes we take out the bottle we keep him in and study him"!


  1. All stories by Henry Kuttner, C L Moore (as by Lewis Padgett).
  2. Hogben series.

Collected in.

  1. "The Best of Henry Kuttner"

Fact sheet.

"Exit the Professor", short story, review
This story has also been published as by Lewis Padgett, joint pseudonym of the two authors.
First published: Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1947.
Rating: A


Krishnan said...

Hilarious ! I hope to read this story sometime somewhere.