Short Story #85: Day of Succession by Theodore L. Thomas

Title:  Day of Succession

Author:  Theodore L. Thomas

Damon Knight - A Century of Science FictionSummary

When a spaceship crashes down in Pennsylvania, General Tredway is the first to respond, getting scientists and tanks to arrive before the ship opens up after landing.  He responds by completely destroying it.  He does the same for a second spaceship that lands in Pennsylvania.  However, he is called to Washington to a meeting with the President, Vice President, and others leaders who berate him for attacking.  They posit that the aliens may have been coming in peace to which the General asks why did they crash into a house and kill someone.  He insists that this was the only way.  While they debate, another spaceship lands and is allowed to open.  The alien that comes out begins killing everything in sight.  The leaders admit that the general knows what he is doing and ask him for what to do next.  He explains that because they screwed up and let one land, it will be doubly hard because more a landing.  His plan is to have every fission and fusion bomb from around the world to bomb the eastern coast.  The President and Vice President balk at such a response.  However, the Speaker of the House agrees with the general.  So Tredway pulls out his revolver and shoots the President and Vice President and asks the Speaker (now the new President) if he will make the decision.  


Any alien invasion story offers its range of insights and I have to admit, this one I had not encountered before.  A pretty brutal and hard story.  That the general proves he is right is of course intentional but the closed and clear logic of his argument is anything but.  The shoot-first approach seems to come with too many risks.  Granted, the alternative, many would argue, is that you're setting yourself up to be taken advantage of.  

Short Story #85 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  3/22/2014
Source:  A Century of Science Fiction, edited by Damon Knight. Simon & Schuster, 1962.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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  1. I hope this isn’t a dumb question but is this story published online where I can read the complete version?


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