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Superiority by Arthur C. Clarke

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“Superiority” is a 1951 science fiction short story by Arthur C. Clarke. It is about a captured general who is giving the reasons why his side lost a war due to superior technology.

Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:

Hoag’s Object Galaxy (courtesy of NASA)The admiral telling this story is doing so from his prison cell. After the war has ended he decides to make a request and also tell the true reason why his side was defeated. According to him that reason is plain and simple: they got too caught up in trying to develop superior technology and lost touch with the basics. He then relates the story in its hilarious and all too life-like details. Along the way the reader is treated to some good battle tactics, a bit of juicy political bickering and a few very cool scientific weapons.

The situation was now both serious and infuriating. With stubborn conservatism and complete lack of imagination the enemy continued to advance with his old-fashioned and inefficient but now vastly more numerous ships. It was galling to realise that if we had only continued building, without seeking new weapons, we would have been in a far more advantageous position.

My Two Cents:

• The good:

  • The “Exponential Field” was a very cool idea, and not one that I had come across before.
  • C’mon, don’t most people like to root for the underdog? It *was* fun seeing the cocky, more advanced side get their butts kicked!
  • The very end of “Superiority” was justifiably funny!

• The bad:

  • The style used to tell this story makes it feel as if you are reading a military briefing – which you are, but it makes the story slightly less interesting.
  • Remember – “Superiority” was written in 1951, so there are some outdated ideas. Like the million vacuum tubes needed to run the Analyzer – Ha! No wonder they lost the war! 😉

Fact Sheet:
• Page Count: 7

Where you can find “Superiority”:

  • This short story first appeared in the August 1951 issue of The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy.
  • “Superiority” is included in the amazing collection entitled The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke .
  • You can read a free online version of this story at the Google Book Preview for The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke.

Some Interesting Links:

  • Special thanks to Tinkoo at Variety SF, who told me that he had recommended this story to many of his friends.

Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like Chance Encounter, about two men who accept dangerous but lucrative assignments as crewmen on an exploration ship to the edge of the galaxy, by A. Bertram Chandler.

4 thoughts to “Superiority by Arthur C. Clarke”

  1. Hello Rusty! I was looking forward to reading this story based on your description, but sadly, the link no longer leads to a preview of the book.

  2. Hey Paolo,

    I just tried the Google Book Preview link and it worked for me. In my experience Google Book Preview seems to be a very picky site – I recently learned that it only works for residents of the USA, and even then it sometimes shows the entire story and sometimes doesn’t. Clearing my internet cache and cookies helps sometimes too.

    Anyway, that link you provided is the same story – thanks for pointing it out!

    Let us know what you think of it.

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