"Hide and Seek
" is a science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...
written by Arthur C. Clarke
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS was a British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist, famous for his short stories and novels, among them 2001: A Space Odyssey, and as a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World. For many years, Robert A. Heinlein,...
and first published in 1949 in the magazine Astounding Science-Fiction
Analog Science Fiction and Fact is an American science fiction magazine. As of 2011, it is the longest running continuously published magazine of that genre...
. It was subsequently published as part of a short story collection in Expedition to Earth
Expedition to Earth is a collection of science fiction short stories by Arthur C. Clarke.There are at least two variants of this book's table of contents - in different editions of the book . Both variants include the stories History Lesson and Encounter in the Dawn...
Hide-and-Seek uses the story within a story
A story within a story, also rendered story-within-a-story, is a literary device in which one narrative is presented during the action of another narrative. Mise en abyme is the French term for a similar literary device...
The frame story
A frame story is a literary technique that sometimes serves as a companion piece to a story within a story, whereby an introductory or main narrative is presented, at least in part, for the purpose of setting the stage either for a more emphasized second narrative or for a set of shorter stories...
is told in the first person
First-person point of view is a narrative mode where a story is narrated by one character at a time, speaking for and about themselves. First-person narrative may be singular, plural or multiple as well as being an authoritative, reliable or deceptive "voice" and represents point of view in the...
, set in a future that has interplanetary travel and has recently seen an interplanetary war. The characters are out hunting when one, Kingman, attempts to shoot a squirrel which takes refuge behind the trunk of a tree. This reminds Kingman of an incident which happened to him during the recent war.
Kingman then tells recounts the story (in the third person) of agent K-15 who was fleeing in a space craft with vital information, pursued by the space cruiser Doradus
. K-15 was 12 hours from a rendezvous with a capital ship, but the cruiser was only 6 hours behind him.
To escape K-15 lands on the moon Phobos
Phobos is the larger and closer of the two natural satellites of Mars. Both moons were discovered in 1877. With a mean radius of , Phobos is 7.24 times as massive as Deimos...
, sending his craft on broadcasting a message of his plan. He is left alone on the hostile moon to face the oncoming cruiser. However, despite the apparently overwhelming superiority the cruiser had over a man in a spacesuit armed only with a pistol, the story shows the advantage.
The cruiser could only manoeuvre with difficulty so close to Phobos, while K-15 could easily outpace it on the ground. Also, despite the cruiser’s firepower, K-15’s gun gave him the advantage over any men (who would be unarmed) that the cruiser might land.
At first K-15 tries to keep to the opposite side of the moon, in case the cruiser opens fire on the surface, but later realizes he is better keeping it in sight, just above his horizon. This continues until the arrival of K-15's rendezvous, and the cruiser is forced to flee, where Kingman’s story ends.
Back in the frame story the narrator asks Kingman if he was, in fact, K-15. No, he replies, he wasn’t, and leaves for another shot at the squirrel. It transpires Kingman was commander of Doradus
The central feature of the narrative, that of a single armed man pitted against a cruiser, and succeeding, is also seen in CS Forester's book, Brown on Resolution
Brown on Resolution is a 1929 nautical novel written by CS Forester. It is set during World War I. The hero of the novel, seaman Brown, is the sole able-bodied survivor of a sunken British warship, who is able single-handedly to discomfit its attacker, a German cruiser, long enough to ensure its...