The Gun Without a Bang

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Discussion Questions for “The Gun Without a Bang”

What is the setting of the story?
In the future, on an alien planet.
Who is our protagonist, our main character?
Alfred Dixon.
Who or what are the antagonists?
The dog-like alien creatures (and other alien creatures) stalking and endangering Alfred Dixon.
What is the major conflict of the story?
The alien creatures want to kill Dixon and he wants to go on living.
What is the resolution to the story; in other words, how is it resolved?
Dixon survives on the planet long enough for the crew of a recovery ship to find him.
What is the climax of the story, the moment of maximum intensity that marks a change, for better or worse, in the affairs of the protagonist?
The climax is when Dixon makes it back to his ship but realizes he has unwittingly locked himself inside the ship with one of the dog-like alien creatures and then kills it as it attacks him, then Dixon blacks out.
What are some of the events that make up the falling action of the story?
Dixon wakes up, realizes he has unintentionally destroyed his ship, then a recovery ship goes to the planet to find the prototype weapon and bury Dixon if they can find his body, and they discover that he is still alive.
What is the story’s denouement, the final part of the story where everything is wrapped up?

The denouement is Dixon talking with the crewmembers of the recovery ship and telling them how he has managed to survive on the planet (having built a wooden shack and made a garden and surrounded it all with a defensive fence to keep away the predatory aliens, and used bows and arrows to injure and kill them and thus make them fear him so they’ll leave him alone), and him now using the Weapon as a hammer rather than a gun.

At the beginning of the story, how does Dixon feel about the weapon he carries? (1)

He is supremely confident with it, believing nothing can hurt him as long as he carries it.
Describe Dixon’s physical appearance. (1)
Alfred Dixon is a short man, very broad in the chest and shoulders. His hair is streaky blond, and he has a blond mustache which curls up at the ends. This mustache gives his tanned face a frank, ferocious appearance.
What is Dixon’s personality like? Describe his ‘natural habitat,’ his usual pattern of behaviors, and his philosophy. (2)
His natural habitat is made up of the bars and taverns of Earth. He is often loud and belligerent in these places. He likes to boast and brag of his knowledge of alien species and how to handle/kill them, and he is overly-confident. He is a great believer in personal armament, and believes that every major contest/war was decided by superior weapons technology.
What does Dixon believe the ‘winning’ of the American West boiled down to? (2)
The bow and arrow versus a Colt .44.
What were some jobs Dixon had held? (2)
Explorer, hunter, prospector, and asteroider.
What is Dixon’s job now? (2)
A radioman.
When Dixon fires the weapon, what effect does the weapon’s discharge have on the rainforest? (3)
It simply vanishes.
How big of an area does Dixon disintegrate? (3)
Waist-high, twelve feet wide at its widest, and a hundred yards (three hundred feet) long.
What are some advantages the weapon appears to have over other weapons, such as a missile gun or other kinds of firearms? (3)

No problems of deflection or trajectory, as with a missile gun. No need to reload, for the weapon had a power span of eighteen duty-hours.

What does Dixon realize as more of the dog-like creatures continue to stalk and attack him? (3)
These animals aren’t learning that the weapon he holds is dangerous because there is no loud, startling, scary noise like a bang emanating from it, and the other animals just simply vanish with no yelps of agony, roars, howls, screams, or cries of pain.
When Dixon fires at the arboreal creatures in the treetops, what happens? (4)
He severs a big branch from a tree and the branch falls and hits him; it catches him across his left shoulder and knocks the weapon from his hand.
When the arboreal creature gets a hold of the weapon, what happens? (4)
It whirls the disintegrator around its head, destroying huge areas of the forest, before becoming curious and turning the weapon around to look at it and disintegrating its own head.
When Dixon gets the weapon back after the arboreal accidentally disintegrates its own head, why do you think he turns it off its ‘automatic’ setting of continuous fire? (4)
To avoid the kind of large-scale, unpredictable destruction that the arboreal creature had just caused, whether he fires the weapon or another arboreal gets a hold of it.
What does Dixon theorize the dog-like creatures must have assumed about the damage to the forest? (4)
It must have seemed like a sudden, violent storm to them; they don’t associate the weapon with the damage to the forest.
Dixon steps over what appears to be a log. What happens then? (4)

It turns out not to be a log, but a creature that appears to come to life and opens up its jaws underneath him. He fires down at it and creates a large hole into which he falls.

Why does Dixon have difficulty getting out of the pit he has unintentionally dug with the disintegrator-beam and into which he has fallen? (5)
The sides of the pit were too steep and had been fused into glass.
So what does Dixon do to get out of the pit he is now in? (5)
He cuts a shallow ramp out of the pit, and limps out.

When he falls and two dog-like creatures attack him, and he fires at them and cuts them in two, what does he very nearly do to himself? (5)

He almost disintegrates his own toes.
What does Dixon wish he could do to the inventor of the weapon? (5)
Shoot him with the disintegrator.
When Dixon gets back inside his ship and shuts the airlock, what does he hear, and what does he realize? (5)
He hears a low cough and realizes he has shut one of the ‘dogs’ inside the ship with him.
What does Dixon think about doing when he recovers consciousness after having blacked out right after he fired and killed the dog-like creature that had gotten aboard his ship? (5)
He was going to go to a Terran bar. He was going to get roaring drunk. Then he was going to find that inventor and ram the weapon down the man’s throat, crossways.
What does Dixon realize when he looks around his spaceship? (6)
He has destroyed his spaceship so thoroughly with the disintegrator that he has no hope of repairing it and using it to get off of the planet.
Why is a ship sent out to that planet a year later? (6)
They were sent out to recover the prototype weapon if they could and to give Dixon’s remains a decent burial, if they could find what remained of his body.

What are the crewmembers of the recovery ship surprised to discover? (6)

Dixon is still alive.
What has Dixon managed to create to help him survive on the planet for the past year? (6)
A shack with a vegetable garden surrounded by a fence. He has also made a bow and arrows.
How had Dixon finally succeeded in teaching those dog-like creatures a little respect, thus ensuring that they will not constantly be attacking him? (6)
He shot them with arrows, using his bow. They saw their fellow creatures running around with arrow shafts sticking out of them, bleeding, crying in pain, and learned to keep their distance from him.

Remember back to what Dixon had thought about the ‘winning’ of the American West. What is ironic about what he has had to do in order to make the dog-like creatures leave him alone?

He believed the American West was ‘won’ by whites who used pistols against the Native people who had only bows and arrows; now he has abandoned using the most high-tech. pistol ever made and uses a bow and arrows to defend himself.
How does Dixon now use the disintegrator gun? (6)
He uses the flat butt of the weapon as a hammer.
In what other sci-fi stories (including movies or television shows) have there been low-tech weapons used successfully, even perhaps against more technologically advanced weapons?

Answers will vary, but may include Predator, where the protagonist beats the more technologically advanced Predator alien using mud, fire, and booby-traps constructed from sticks, stones, and vines; the Ewoks using sticks and stones and booby-traps made of logs and vines to fight the forces of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, and the Na’vi fighting against humans’ advanced technology in Avatar, Jean-Luc Picard using a holodeck reproduction of a Tommy-gun to kill much more technologically advanced Borg in Star Trek: First Contact, Captain Kirk using gunpowder, sharp crystals, and a length of bamboo-like material to construct a crude cannon to wound a Gorn, and so on.

In what ways does Dixon represent the ideals and values of explorers and frontiersmen of the past?
Answers will vary.
What does the author seem to be saying about the advantages and disadvantages of technological advancement?
Answers will vary.
Imagine that the disintegrator gun prototype had been deemed successful. What would be the next logical development of the weapon by the company that created it, other than making sure that the hand-held pistol version balances better, is lighter, and has a noisemaker to make some kind of a ‘bang’ or other loud, scary sound?
Answers will vary.
What would be the repercussions of more people like Dixon getting a hold of larger and larger disintegrators, some large enough to be mounted on spaceships like cannons on tanks or battleships, able to create much larger cones of disintegration?
Answers will vary.

What do you like or dislike about the character Dixon, and why?

Answers will vary.
What do you like or dislike about the story, and why?
Answers will vary.
How do you feel about the ending? Do you like it or dislike it, and why?

Answers will vary.

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