I read this story around 1975. The main character traveled with some traders to a planet that had no metal, and that was being prevented from having any metal (I don't recall why). The planet's inhabitants were very ingenious in creating technology without metal. The part that sticks in my mind is when the main character went to a market with one of the traders, where they were attacked by the locals. The trader had obtained a local firearm which was almost entirely made of clay. The firearm's "trigger" worked a pump similar to a water gun, which built up air pressure inside the firearm. The firearm contained powdered coal, and striking a spark inside the pressurized firearm ignited the dust and propelled a dart.

I don't recall much of the plot, but I have always remembered that description of the firearm.

  • Could this have been a Doctor Who book? "The Creature from the Pit" was set on a planet with very little metal, and the evil ruler of the planet had sabotaged an attempt by an offworld trader to exchange metal ingots for some commodity the planet did have in abundance. It was a Tom Baker-era story, so would have been from the 1970s. Jun 6 '19 at 16:58
  • If Nietzschean philosophy and pacifism both play a role, then I've read it. Finding it again may be an issue, however. Jun 6 '19 at 18:29
  • I just looked at the wikipedia page for The Creature from the Pit, (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Creature_from_the_Pit) and while it's interesting, it's not what I was thinking of. The planet in the story was inhabited by human-type people. Plus I have a strong memory of sitting in the junior high school library reading the book.
    – dlwilson
    Jun 6 '19 at 18:30
  • Probably not Big Planet by Jack Vance, but it deserves mention.
    – Spencer
    Jun 6 '19 at 21:47
  • 1
    Possibly the same as scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/148974/…
    – Otis
    Jun 10 '19 at 12:50

C.M. Kornbluth, "That Share of Glory".

From this page:

The planet Lyra regrettably has practially no deposits of heavy metals, particularly iron. The local technology is based on ceramics. Since the Lyran guilds are terrified of being put out of buisness by metal-based technology, they pushed for passage of draconian laws forbidding the import of metal.

This means their equivalent of a pistol is somewhat Rube Goldberg.

Alen uncovered the slow-match, blew it to a flame, squeakily pumped up a pressure torch until a jet of pulverized coal sprayed from its nozzle and ignited it. A dozen strokes more and there was enough heat feeding back from the jet to maintain the pressure cycle.


"I bought it from one of their guards while you were parleying with the policeman," explained blackbeard embarrassedly. "I had a time making him understand. That Garthkint fellow helped." He fiddled with the perforated cover of the slow-match, screwing it on more firmly.

"A pitiful excuse for a weapon," he went on, carefully arranging his cloak over it. "The trigger isn't a trigger and the thumb-safety isn't a safety. You pump the trigger a few times to build up pressure, and a little air squirts out to blow the match to life. Then you uncover the match and pull back the cocking-piece. This levers a dart into the barrel. Then you push the thumb-safety which puffs coaldust into the firing chamber and also swivels down the slow-match onto a touch-hole. Poof, and away goes the dart if you didn't forget any of the steps or do them in the wrong order. Luckily, I also got a knife."

  • Wow! That's the one.
    – dlwilson
    Jun 7 '19 at 17:47
  • I just found it online and re-read it. It's still good.
    – dlwilson
    Jun 7 '19 at 18:14

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