SFF, Short stories

Otto Hahn Speaks to the Dead

I’ve a new story out! “Otto Hahn Speaks to the Dead” is free to read at The Dark. It’s lovely to have another story with them – they’re a market I really enjoy.

“Otto Hahn” is one of my science history stories. I’ve a particular interest in writing these, and I’ve always found the science that took place during the World Wars particularly fascinating… mostly because of the ethical issues that result from both gas and atomic warfare. Otto Hahn had the opportunity to work on both. In WW1, he worked with Fritz Haber to weaponise chlorine gas, which honestly is something I find very hard to forgive. It’s tempting to think that he learned from the consequences of his actions, however, because when WW2 rolled round and he had the chance to work on researching the atom bomb (for the Germans, as opposed to the Manhattan Project) he ultimately refused to do so.

Interestingly, as a German scientist he helped his colleague, Lise Meitner, escape the Nazis – as a Jewish scientist, she was certainly in danger from them. Meitner, who with Hahn discovered the process of nuclear fission, was offered a place on the Manhattan Project as well. She refused, on moral grounds. I’ve been thinking of doing another story about her to bookend this one, mimicking its structure and theme.

Anyway, take a look at it and see what you think.

2 thoughts on “Otto Hahn Speaks to the Dead”

  1. Hi Octavia, you probably won’t remember, but I was lucky enough to discover and read The August Birds soon after it came out. I wrote the first review for it on Amazon! 🙂 At the time I stumbled across The August Birds while googling a radio interview between Lise Meitner and Eleanor Roosevelt, which of course is referenced in your novel, for a novel I’d just started writing. Though I didn’t get much further with the novel, I’ve recently restarted working on it (I have time on my hands now!). I was really interested, therefore to read your story about Otto Hahn and about Clara’s sad story. Hahn features only briefly in my novel, though Lise is an important character (she’s a POV character!), but I had a very similar take on Hahn to your take in the story; “He can’t tell when science stopped being a wonder to him and started being a horror”. Though what he did in WWI was unforgivable, he seemed to have understood this in later years and perhaps took some steps to atone. Apparently when Lise left Germany (just in time!) the only thing of any real value she had with her was a diamond ring Hahn had given her. (Though he was perfectly happy to not share his Nobel Prize!). Anyway, thanks for writing and sharing “Otto Hahn Speaks to the Dead” (for free too!). I look forward to reading the companion piece about Lise if and when you write it.
    I’m also looking forward to reading the next story featuring Muninn and Huginn, the August Birds 🙂

  2. Hi Steve – yes, I do indeed remember you! I’m so glad you liked the story. Otto Hahn is such an interesting person to me. The compromises he made with himself, the acts of absolute generosity and the ability to turn away all in the same person. I’d like to think his experience with chemical warfare taught him regret, and contributed to his decision not to work on the atomic bomb, but even so… I’m not sure anyone involved in chemical warfare can ever really be forgiven. That is just an absolute monstrosity to unleash upon the world.

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