This is a sci-fi short story I read years ago. For the life of me can't remember the title. I've had no luck on Google so far. It appeared in an anthology.

I read it around 12-15 years ago but it's definitely older than that. It might be anything from 20 to 60 years old, but I think it's more likely that it was from the '50s or '60s. The setting and the bomb theme remind me of the paranoia that permeated American society at the apex of the Cold War.

Scientists find a mysterious alien man, but he refuses to talk to them. He just smiles and acts contemptuously. When they provide him with pen and paper, he doodles some device. When they build it it explodes. It was a bomb. They had built a smaller version of it so it didn't do much damage, but it was an incredibly powerful bomb. Turns out his civilization is so advanced, and his people so much smarter than earthlings, that drawing a bomb is like drawing a kettle to him. He was toying with them. Eventually he has a seizure (he's allergic to something that is commonplace for humans, can't remember what) and dies.

  • 7
    It's always worth mentioning that you've cross-posted the question elsewhere; reddit.com/r/scifi/comments/ffkf9s/…
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 8, 2020 at 23:47
  • 1
    What sort of collection, a book anthology? How do they know that he's an alien? How did the scientist/s find him? What damage does the bomb do? Where did they build it?
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 8, 2020 at 23:49
  • 1
    Sorry, I didn't know I had to mention cross-posting. Yes, it's an anthology. I have no answers to the other questions, I wrote everything I can remember:(
    – Artz08
    Commented Mar 8, 2020 at 23:53
  • 1
    You might want to work your way through the checklist here. There's always some new info that can be jogged loose. For example; What language did you read it in? What anthologies have you owned before? Was there any swearing? How were they detaining the alien? Were these military scientists? Was he in detention throughout the entire story? Was the term "kettle" used specifically, or is it just an example?
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 0:12
  • Yes, I read the checklist before posting. I'll add more info should it occur to me:)
    – Artz08
    Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 0:14

1 Answer 1


This looks like "The Strange case of John Kingman" by Murray Leinster.

I've found an online summary:

Meadeville Mental Hospital is the oldest mental asylum in the US, "founded some years before the Republic of the United States of America." Young Dr Braden here has discovered some anomalies in the records of a may be 50 year old inmate named John Kingman: no information on his age, relatives, even date of admission. And he has 6 fingers on both hands - all perfectly developed. "understands English very slightly if at all. Does not speak."

Further investigations begin revealing incredible information: he was admitted here on "21st of May, 1786", a full 162 years ago!! He is said to be suffering from "delusions of grandeur", behaves regally around everyone else, & keeps making funny pictures & throwing them at those around him.

Admitted 162 years ago & looking like 50! That makes Dr Braden order detailed tests. What he finds is two hearts, more ribs & vertebrae than normal, normal body temperature of 105F, ... In fact, a very different internal design, though he seems to have lived well off on normal food & looks like a normal human.

The sketches he keeps handing out turn out to be designs of an X-ray machine a doctor can carry around in his pocket, an atomic power plant that uses silicon for fuel,

and this is what you remembered:

a bomb that will blow up its makers

(In turn, this reminded me of Sturgeon's Mewhu's Jet, where a very different and much friendlier alien also pops by with an incredibly advanced technology which Earthmen covet, again to no avail).

  • repeatedly anthologised; isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?40905
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 0:18
  • Oh my God! This is probably it. When I read the title it definitely rang a bell. They call him "Kingman" because of his contemptuous behavior:) How did you find it? Thanks a lot!
    – Artz08
    Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 0:28
  • And THIS is probably the book where I found it: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… I recognize the Fredric Brown story and the Ray Bradbury one.
    – Artz08
    Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 0:31
  • 1
    @Artz08 I did not find it, I remembered having read it (only, I had done so in Italian, the anthology it was in was gifted to me by a friend).
    – LSerni
    Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 0:36
  • 1
    Nice answer! Mewhu came up on the site not long ago. scifi.stackexchange.com/q/227579/28516 Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 1:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.