“The Little Man on the Subway”

Now Patrick Cullen was an intelligent Irishman.  That is to say, he admitted the existence of banshees, leprechauns, and the Little Folk, and kept an open mind on poltergeists, werewolves, vampires and such-like foreign trash.  At mere supernaturalities, he was too well-educated to sneer.  Still, Cullen did not intend to compromise his religion.  His theology was weak, but for a mortal to claim godship smacked of heresy, not to say sacrilege and blasphemy, even to him.

Isaac Asimov wrote his short story “The Little Man on the Subway” along with an author friend who went by the name of James MacCreigh.  It was published in 1950 in a small magazine called Fantasy Book.

A little man practicing to be a “god” hijacks Patrick Cullen’s subway.  The little man, named Crumley, calls his followers Crumleyites.  Cullen’s disbelief in Crumley’s claims disappears with a simple Obi Wan Kenobi-style wave of Crumley’s hand.  Other Crumleyites don’t get converted that easily; they have to go to factories to be made into Believers.  Several Disciples (super-Believers) rebel against Crumley and unwittingly create their own “god”, considerably worse than Crumley.

Crumley ultimately releases Cullen from his spell sending him back to New York and back to his subway.

While Asimov could be considered to be poking fun at religion in general with this story, I get the impression that his humorous irreverence is aimed mainly at the organizations that  can result from religion.  For some, there is a difference.

This is the second short story by Asimov that I’ve read.  This one has a little more serious undertone than “Christmas on Ganymede”, but I also have to describe it as, well, cute.  It’s not how I thought I would be describing Asimov’s stories.  Both of the stories I’ve read were written early in his career.  Perhaps I need to contrast these with stories written later on?  Or perhaps all his short stories are cute and I just didn’t know it?

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