I read this short story in a Sci-Fi themed class in school around 2009, but I have no idea how old the story was or who the author is.

The story takes place in a park, that I think was the remains of an elevated freeway as it ran for a few miles above the ground. The people seem to live in a totalitarian society of some kind, as the park is, I believe, referred to as a 'free park' with only 1 rule, no violence. There are floating patrol bots that stun both parties if they engage in violence, but the person on the defensive unfreezes faster so they can leave before the violence starts again. A man throws rocks at a drone until it falls to the ground, he then uses the drone to temporarily disable all the drones, and lets anarchy reign in the park.

I believe he is also explaining to a young man/kid that anarchy only lasts as a transition to another form of government, and in this example it was the strong men forming alliances around a water fountain who took power.


2 Answers 2


"Cloak of Anarchy" by Larry Niven

Someone at police headquarters had expected that. Twice the usual number of copseyes floated overhead, waiting. Gold dots against blue, basketball-sized, twelve feet up. Each a television eye and a sonic stunner, each a hookup to police headquarters, they were there to enforce the law of the Park... Within King's Free Park was an orderly approximation of anarchy. People were searched at the entrances. There were no weapons inside. The copseyes, floating overhead and out of reach were the next best thing to no law at all.

There was only one law to enforce. All acts of attempted violence carried the same penalty for attacker and victim. Let anyone raise his hand against his neighbor, and one of the golden basketballs would stun them both.

They would wake separately, with copseyes watching. It was usually enough. No violence.

  • Search terms of short story park drones anarchy
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jul 28, 2017 at 18:36
  • Yep...you can read it here
    – Paulie_D
    Jul 28, 2017 at 18:37
  • 3
    This is one of Niven's "displacement booth" future history stories, some of his better short work. Worth looking up "The Last Days of the Permanent Floating Riot Club" in the same collection where I read this one. In fact, the whole collection is good stuff.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jul 28, 2017 at 18:44

Copseye was a story by Larry Nathan and it was in an anthology of stories called,"2020". Harlan Ellison had a story and that anthology also. it was written probably before 1975 or thereabouts. I had the book but there was a house fire and the book went out with the house.

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to the site. Please note that the OP already accepted a previous answer to this question, as denoted by the green tick to the left of that answer. As such, it's only worth submitting a new answer if you feel the OP has accepted an incorrect answer. And in that scenario, you should then explain why you think your answer is more likely to be correct than the accepted one. Sep 19, 2021 at 18:09
  • 1
    Or possibly off you have an answer with enough new information (supporting quotes from the book) that adding that information would be erasing the original author.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Sep 19, 2021 at 18:19
  • "Larry Nathan" is enough like "Larry Niven" that I suspect you're misremembering the same story as in the accepted answer. "Cloak of Anarchy" appeared in a 1980 anthology, 2020 Vision, edited by Jerry Pournelle. The Harlan Ellison story was called "Silent in Gehenna".
    – Spencer
    Sep 19, 2021 at 18:44
  • And yeah, wanting to answer a question when someone else already has provided the correct answer can be one of the more frustrating parts of learning to use Stack Exchange. All of us who weren't here from the beginning have had this experience.
    – Spencer
    Sep 19, 2021 at 18:47

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