A E van Vogt's "A Son is Born" (short story, politics, free): Struggle for power between a feudal lord & powerful priests
I'll call it a barely ok read. Not sure if the series of which this is the first story later gets better.
Story summary.Linn is a city on a future earth that has gone retro. It retains atomic power & space travel to other worlds in Sol, but otherwise lives on medieval technology - carrier pigeons, horses & stables, ... Priests control the atomic power with ritual rather than understanding, worshiping the 4 presiding "gods": "Uranium, Plutonium, Radium and Ecks"!
This is the story of Lord Leader's - that's the current ruler - effort to secure his political power base by making "scientists" - that's the name for priests - pliable. He engineers a radioactive leak that affects the unborn baby of his own son; then executes all scientists of the "temple" where the leak took place for the crime! And he has been softening scientists from other temples by putting them under arrest & offering an alternate temple organization that gives ruler the control.
A series of atomic explosions, as part of protest by still free temple scientists, gives an opening to Joquin, a scientist diplomat, to convince the ruler to not further undermine the scientists' power - for the moment, at least.
Note.A curious remark on religion here, also seen in at least one story of A Bertram Chandler & of some others from West, made me wonder how widespread the prejudice is in countries where majority faith is monotheistic: If you worship "rain gods, river gods, tree gods and various animal gods", you are a "primitive tribe"; if you worship "an invisible omnipotent being who lives somewhere in space in a place called heaven", you are of a "more advanced race"!!
Fact sheet.First published: Astounding, May 1946.
Download full text from Baen CD or Webscription.
Listed among the stories from John Campbell's Astounding/Analog.
Related: Stories of A E van Vogt.