Our story begins in an office of a government official who is the Regional Administrator in the Department of Interplanetary Affairs, where the narrator describes a yellow pottery bowl on the Administrator ‘s desk. It is a masterful piece of craftsmanship decorating his desk. Michael Tom, the Administrator and owner of the yellow pottery bowl, takes over story, telling us the bowl’s origin.
Michael Tom reflects back on the time in 1992 when he was assigned to the planet Firsk as Assistant Resident. The natives near the village of Penolpon are divided into two tribes, one agricultural, the Metooans and the other Potters.
Michael Tom’s new supervisor, Mr. Coville, who has a brand new Rolls shipped in every year, believes in keeping the “gooks” in their place. As long as they keep their place, he has no problem with them, but he plays petty power games whenever they’re around.
On his first visit to the native bazaar, Tom notices that the distinctive and expensive pottery made by the tribe from the mountains. He soon realizes that the pottery is made from every color imaginable but none are yellow. The local tribe believes the pottery houses the souls of their ancestors. They take their dead to the mountain tribe and receive pottery in return. Sometimes, when there are not enough dead, the living are taken and never seen again.
Tom’s supervisor Coville hasn’t bothered to learn even this about the natives. When he hears this, he leads an expedition to the Potters’ village near a volcanic mountain range. And there they learn the secret of the ancestors. The Potters use the bones of the dead as the lime for their pottery glazes.
Coville doesn’t care about the local traditions and threatens to wipe out the Potters village with an A-Bomb if the kidnappings continue. The Potters respond by charging the expedition. A few pistol rounds over their heads holds them off long enough for the humans to escape back to their helicopter.
A short while later there’s another kidnapping raid. Tom’s native friend from the pottery shop in the bazaar, a girl named Soothin, is among those taken. Coville gives Tom an A-Bomb ordering him to blow the Potters’ volcano up with it after rescuing the hostages.
Disobeying orders, Tom negotiates with the leader of the Potters after learning that the Potters have been unable to make the yellow glaze for a thousand years. Tom has never worked with pottery before, he’s only read up on the subject since arriving on the planet Firsk. He believes he knows the secret ingrediant for the yellow glaze.
He gambles with his life and the lives of the others that his idea will save himself and the kidnapped Metooan natives by promising to teach the Potters the secret of yellow glaze in exchange for the prisoners, and to provide them with lime when there aren’t enough dead. The Chief Potters agree, provided that Tom will give up his own life if he fails to produce the yellow glaze the color of the sun.
Tom dismantles the A-Bomb using the uranium salt to make his yellow glaze. His gamble pays off when after the test potteries are fired and produces the yellow glaze, saving him and the others.
After returning to Penolpon he tells Coville of the new arrangement he has made with the Potters and that he used the uranium salt from the A-Bomb. Coville is outraged at his assistant’s disobeying his orders and fires him. In a rage he heads to the Potters village armed to the teeth.
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Broadcast Date: 50-07-28
Michael Tom – Karl Webber
George Coville – Wendell Holmes
Chief of the Potters – Raymond Edward Johnson
Written By: Jack Vance
Publication Source: Astounding Science Fiction May 1950
Adapted for Radio: Ernest Kinoy
Produced By: Van Woodward
Directed By: Edward King
Music By: Albert Berman
Engineer: Bill Chambers
Announcer: Norman Rose
Commercial: Frank Martin introduces Edwin Printice spokesman discussed eating Wheaties, “Breakfast of Champions” with Chicago White Sox player Lucius Benjamin “Luke” Appling (Fumblefoot or Kid Boots or Old Aches & Pains)
Listen below to Dimension X Episode 17 Potters of Firsk: