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Literature / The Sack

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The Sack is a 1950 science fiction story by William Morrison (real name; Joseph Samachson). It tells of people finding an alien upon a remote asteroid. The creature is extremely intelligent, capable of answering countless questions on a variety of topics. Unfortunately, it turns out easily obtained answers aren’t a good thing in the long run.


This short story provides examples of:

  • Asshole Victim: Senator Horrigan.
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  • Awesomeness by Analysis: The Sack is good in it. Learning new languages, predicting the future, looking for missing people and such.
  • Blob Monster: That’s what the Sack looks like, although it’s not much of a monster.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: The Sack is incapable of lying.
  • Cassandra Truth: Siebling is so Genre Savvy about this trope that he doesn’t even try to raise alarms.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Sack often comes as that due to its bluntness.
  • Gold Fever: The ending has a gang of criminals stealing the Sack and fleeing on a spaceship. A single remark from the Sack throws them into a shooting spree that solves everyone’s problems at once.
  • Humans Are Morons: That's the Sack's opinion of humanity. Everyone asks questions for his own gain and no one thinks long term.
  • Last of His Kind: The Sack has been alone for ten thousand years.
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  • Living MacGuffin: The Sack is one.
  • Mathematician's Answer: The Sack is big on these when not asked specific questions:
    Committee Member:"Where would you find an individual capable of conversing intelligently with so wise a creature as you?"
    The Sack: "Here"
  • Misplaced a Decimal Point: Horrigan does this twice, first when he multiplies 100,000 by 120, then when he multiplies 100,000 by 180. He gets 120 and 180 million, respectively.
  • Omniglot: The Sack is capable of extrapolating any language from small samples and observing the speaker.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The Sack’s real name is Yzrl, but hardly anyone calls it that.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • When the Sack is ordered to answer questions 24/7. It’s a living creature; it must rest.
    • When pirates kidnap the Sack, AKA the key to ultimate power, and expect the gang to hold together with such a treasure onboard
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  • The Reliable One: Siebling is not particularly well-liked, but he is trusted completely.
  • Time Abyss: The Sack is four hundred thousand years old.
  • Scry vs. Scry: Toward the end of the story, politics and business have devolved into leaders taking turns asking the Sack.
  • Technopath: The Sack turns out to be one.
  • We Will Spend Credits in the Future
  • Wham Line: When the Sack is asked whether his answers are doing good or harm. Later, when it is asked about what that last suspicious client wanted.
  • The World Is Not Ready: And how!
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The last of its kind, alone for ten thousand years, doesn't care much about living (or anything at all)... sure causes a lot of chaos.
  • You Didn't Ask: No one asked the Sack a lot of things, including the full extent of its abilities.
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