Everyone is excited to see the first super-slow motion recording of an exploding atomic bomb. Scientists, government leaders, and even news reporters are present, and very limited numbers of each. Our Point of View is from Alvin Horner, a newsagent from Continental Press. He initially sits down adjacent to a scientist from the federal nuclear testing site in Arizona, but once the scientist starts talking about hell-fire and how nobody is scared enough of the weapon, Horner decides to change seats.
The projector starts with the firing tower, then shows the fiery explosion grow into an oval shape. The light/shadows of the oval shift, creating the impression of a face, with a laughing mouth, widow's peak hair, and horns. Then it disappears into the generic blast. Only the extremely fast capture rate was able to catch the moment of demonic glee.
This story has been reprinted six times; Earth is Room Enough (1957), Sirius (Yugoslavia/Croatia magazine #11, May 1977 issue), The Far Ends Of Time And Earth (1979), Meine Freunde Die Roboter (1982), The Complete Stories, Volume 1 (1990), and Between Time And Terror (1995).
Examples of tropes within this work:
- Activist Fundamentalist Antics: Joseph Vincenzo insists on the view that nuclear weapons are Made of Evil, and that people should be afraid of Hell-Fire, but they ignore THE TRUTH. Our viewpoint character is disturbed by Vincenzo and changes seats to avoid the apparently religious fundamentalist.
- An Aesop: Nuclear bombs are the tool of hell. The evidence for this aesop is Hellfire preached for centuries and the face of a Big Red Devil hidden in the explosion.
- Big Red Devil: While the audience of reporters, scientists, and government leaders watch slow-motion footage of a nuclear fireball, a face appears with thin, flaring eyebrows, widow's peak hair, and horns affixed to the forehead.
- Fear Is the Appropriate Response: At first, the scientist Vincenzo is bemoaning the fact that people aren't responding with the fear appropriate to the situation, and our viewpoint character, Alvin Horner, brushes him off as a fundamentalist. Once the footage is shown, however, Horner is terrified because a-bombs and h-bombs are powered by hell.
- Featureless Plane of Disembodied Dialogue: No descriptors for the main characters are used, or for the room itself. They don't matter; the description is reserved for the slow-motion film of an atomic bomb.
- Fire and Brimstone Hell: (Implied Trope) The explosion of an atomic bomb is said to be literal Hell-Fire; fire from hell.
- Flash Fiction: The whole story is about 400 words, and only occupies a two-page spread in Fantastic Universe or Isaac Asimov: The Complete Stories.
- Hellfire: The title is repeated several times, with Joseph Vincenzo, a scientist, claiming that "An exploding atom bomb is hell-fire. Literally." His claim seems confirmed when they watch the footage from yesterday's explosion, showing the explosion has the face of Satan.
- Made of Evil: One of the scientists insists that all atomic bombs are Hell-Fire; power that is innately evil because it comes from Fire and Brimstone Hell.
- Most Writers Are Writers: The story is told from the third-person limited/omniscient perspective, but the focus for most of it is Alvin Horner, a reporter from the Continental Press.
- The Namesake: The title refers to flames from the bowels of hell, powered by Satan himself; atomic bombs.
- Nuclear Weapons Taboo: The story is an Author Tract against the use of nuclear weapons, showing that all thermonuclear weapons are Made of Evil and powered by hell.
- Overcrank: The characters are watching time-delayed footage from an atomic bomb test. This was the only way to notice the face of hell in the explosion.
- Shout-Out: This story references the Continental Press, a telegraph newspaper, using a reporter to give the audience a perspective on events.
- Title Drop: In this short fiction, the title is repeated several times, to emphasize the aesop that an atomic bomb is Made of Evil.
- Unholy Nuke: Watching the expanding thermonuclear fireball in extreme slow motion, the audience realizes that the nuclear bomb is Made of Evil, and our viewpoint character decides Fear Is the Appropriate Response.