Tom Godwin’s The Helpful Hand of God

The story’s main character is Kane, a Vogarian Sub-Ensign temporarily stranded on a planet named Sanctuary with his rather overbearing Commander Y’Nor and the rest of their ship’s crew.

Sanctuary is a planet populated by a small colony of criminal refugees from the planet Vogar, who have taken up a peaceful, almost monk-like existence since their ship crash-landed on the planet many years ago. These inhabitants have become known as The Golden Saints, as they live their lives governed by “the golden rule” – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. They are almost polar opposites of the heavily militarized and regimented Vogarians.

Travelling to Sanctuary from Vogar means a trip through the Whirlpool star cluster, and that takes a lot of fuel. Since Vogar has been stripped almost clean of the ores used to produce Elusium X, the Vogarian’s Cruiser doesn’t have enough fuel to make it off the planet and continue on its mission to engage in the Alkorian war, so the commander resorts to threatening the locals to produce their fuel, Elusium X.

Y’Nor appoints Kane as his liaison with the locals, to oversee the production of the Elusium X fuel. The locals have been given a week to produce the fuel, and the entire population works around the clock to meet the deadline. The Vogarians plan to use the fuel to leave the planet and join a battle against the Alkorians, and then return to Sanctuary as an occupying force.

Benn, the leader of the local inhabitants, has arranged it so that all of the men are out of town mining the ore for fuel production, and all of the town’s women are operating the fuel production plant. The Vogarian guards and the local women begin fraternizing, but when the Commander puts a stop to that, a plan of mutiny is hatched form an unlikely source.

This story was originally published in Analog Science Fact & Fiction in December of 1961, and research has not discovered a renewed US copyright, so it is in the Public Domain. Tom Godwin, the author, wrote primarily science fiction. He published three novels but was best known for his 30 short stories, the most notable of which was one titled “The Cold Equations”. Godwin had a rough life, suffering from a curvature of the spine that gave him a hunched back. Surprisingly, this author dropped out of school in the third grade. Godwin passed away in 1980 at the age of 65.

Written in an easy, descriptive style with lots of dialogue, I finished this in a half hour’s leisurely read. It’s a nice read for a lunch break or any time you have 20-30 minutes to kill.

  • Download the free eBook at FeedBooks in EPUB, Kindle and PDF format.
  • Download the free eBook at Project Gutenberg in various formats.
  • Download the free eBook translated into Polish at the Internet Archive in various formats.
  • Download the Project Gutenburg files from the Internet Archive.

One thought on “Tom Godwin’s The Helpful Hand of God

  1. “The Cold Equations” is a truly excellent short story, a real SF classic. It is as fresh in my mind as when I first read it at least 30 years ago. But I really don't know if I ever read any other stories by Tom Godwin. So that means I must, of course, go right over and give this story a try. It certainly sounds like it has that “classic SF” flavor.

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