I'm thinking this was a 1950s short story by Heinlein, but I can't identify it so far.

The story assumes a dictatorship (not necessarily religious), and a protagonist who figures out he can cause the dictator to lose face/authority if he blinds him during a public speech with a laser beam. That's basically it.

I probably read it in an anthology. Sound familiar? Thanks.

  • 4
    Something very similar happens in Dune Messiah.
    – OrangeDog
    Dec 10, 2023 at 11:43
  • 1
    I remember reading this a very long time ago, and the premise was unforgettable; but I never remembered anything beyond that. Thanks for asking the question. Dec 10, 2023 at 23:02

1 Answer 1


Arthur C. Clarke's "The Light of Darkness" described here

As a happenstance of geography, the Umbala region ruled by Chaka the All-Seeing, a ruthless tyrant, represents the perfect place to build the largest radio telescope on Earth. The prestige reinforced his megalomania, and left unchecked, his barbarism would only have escalated. One NASA technician took incapacitating Chaka into his own hands. Once Chaka ascended to a viewing platform of the Equatorial Deep Space Facility, the technician focused concentrated beams of light over several miles to fry his retinas. Having lost his mystique and title, Chaka abdicated.

  • Is there any science fiction or fantasy in the story, outside of the imaginary country?
    – user14111
    Dec 10, 2023 at 2:45
  • 5
    The scientist (from whose viewpoint the story was written) placed a mirror on a mountain with line of sight to both the top of the antenna where the dictator will be, and to the scientist's laboratory where he uses a very high powered infrared laser designed for precision measurements of the Earth/Moon distance. Through the mirror the scientist can see when the dictator is looking toward the mirror, and send a laser burst into the dictator's eyes to blind him. The mirror, its precise placement/aim, the observatory's laser instrument, and the scientist protagonist form the SF elements.
    – Sotto Voce
    Dec 10, 2023 at 4:14
  • Good find on the story. But my goodness, that "description" page is bad. I'll cut it some slack if it was written by someone whose first language is not English, and who is under the age of 18, of course.
    – Graham
    Dec 10, 2023 at 8:24
  • 1
    Updated the description based now on a different review
    – Andrew
    Dec 10, 2023 at 14:40
  • 3
    Yes! Now that it's been identified, I figured out I read "The Light of Darkness" in his "The Wind from the Sun" anthology. The story is only 6 pages.
    – dhow
    Dec 11, 2023 at 1:55

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