The Secret Sense

The Secret Sense

Infobox Short story |
name = The Secret Sense
author = Isaac Asimov
country = United States
language = English
series = ?
genre = Science fiction short story
publication_type = Periodical
published_in = "Cosmic Stories"
publisher = ?
media_type = Print (Magazine, Hardback & Paperback)
pub_date = March 1941
followed_by = Homo Sol

"The Secret Sense" is a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov. It was written in 1939 snd submitted to John W Campbell of Astounding who rejected it. It could not be placed by Asimov's agent, Fred Pohl, and eventually it was taken for no payment by a new and short-lived magazine, "Cosmic Stories" in March 1941. It was reprinted in the collection "The Early Asimov" in 1972.

The story takes place against the background of an ancient and highly developed culture living in large underground cities on Mars

Plot summary

Lincoln Fields, a rich Earthling from New York living on Mars is discussing the merits of the highly developed sense of sight and hearing that humans possess, which the Martians do not. Garth Jan, his Martian friend, counters with the merits of the senses that the Martians possess, and unintentionally lets slip that there is also one secret sense. Fields presses him to reveal this sense and Jan reluctantly agrees.

As an experiment, Fields is injected with a hormone extract that will activate the sense in him, but for only a few minutes, after which it will be unusable ever again. Jan commences playing a musical composition on a Martian instrument, the "portwem".

After a few minutes, Fields starts to experience the wonders of the portwem, with colors and sounds and odours all directly affecting the senses. He is devastated, as Jan knew he would be, when his time is up and he loses the ability to experience the secret sense.

The "portwem", as described, has a similar effect to the "Visi-sonar" played by The Mule in Foundation and Empire and also the instrument invented by Lord Gilbret in The Stars Like Dust.

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