A movie of a nuclear explosion is viewed in slow-motion.

This and “Silly Asses” are Asimov’s two worst nuclear war cautionary tales, being too short, too obvious, and having nothing of merit outside of their message. In this case, the fact that the story’s conclusion—the face of Satan is visible in the explosion—is headline fodder for the likes of the National Enquirer doesn’t help it. Avoid this story, if possible.

An aside: in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks of 11 September 2001: I’m sorry to say that some people started looking for, and seeing, Satan’s visage in some stills taken of some of the explosions, echoing the bad story-telling Asimov uses in “Hell-Fire” to make its painfully obvious point: nuclear weapons and terrorism are EVIL. Well,duh.

Now, I am someone who believes in absolute evil. I even believe in its personification. I am concerned, however, by the tendency to blame something external to human beings for the evil we do. If only Satan would go away, we seem to think, the world would be a better place. It really works the other way, folks. We have to make the world a better place in order for Satan to go away.

But worse, it cheapens the tragedy and the genuine pain felt by the survivors and the families and friends of all the victims to look for B-movie melodramatics. You want to see Satan’s fingerprints in the attacks? Fine. I can understand that. Just don’t look in the smoke—look at the body parts on the street.