Jack Vance's "The Miracle-Workers" (short novel, free): A future society gone retro rediscovers the scientific method
While the story covers a wide canvas, the best parts deal with something many of us go through while growing up: you see unlimited possibility in the world around & unorthodox ways of doing things; elders keep telling you why it won't work & is impossible! This is the story of a boy facing this constant discouragement, but refusing to be dissuaded.
Story summary."Sixteen hundred years before, with war raging through space, a group of space captains, their home bases destroyed, had taken refuge on Pangborn. To protect themselves against vengeful enemies, they built great forts armed with weapons from the dismantled spaceships.
The wars receded; Pangborn was forgotten."
Now humanity on Pangborn is divided into feudal "Keeps", with Faide Keep, led by Lord Faide, about to trump over the last resistance to its overlordship.
Humans isolated on this world have forgotten the scientific method, science & technology, but have developed powerful telepathy practiced by "jinxmen". Telepathy is widely used as a war weapon. A skilled jinxman can manipulate the mind of someone so the victim behaves as if possessed by a "demon", or feels discomforted, etc. Jinxmen's telepathy is also the only means of long range communications. Except for telepathy, its back to swords, arrows, horses, etc.
"First Folk" (also called "autochthon"), hominid hive-beings who were the world's original inhabitants & were hunted & driven out from their habitat to jungles by initial invaders, had adopted the scientific method of invaders. So the conditions are now right for a face-off between humans & First Folk - telepathy vs scientific method.
Scientific method will trump. But this is a Campbell edited story - so humans need to win! Quick unorthodox experiments of young Sam Salzar will make humans trump over 1600 years of scientific weapon making of First Folk!
- Title refers to original human colonists. Since their scientific method is now considered crude, & their gadgets miraculous & incomprehensible, they are sometimes referred to as the "miracle-workers".
Fact sheet.First published: Astounding, July 1958.
Download full text as part of the scans of Astounding issue where it originally appeared.
Among the stories from Astounding/Analog issues edited by John Campbell.
Related: Stories of Jack Vance; Tuesday Classics; fiction from 1950s.