For decades I’ve been struggling to remember the title of a science fiction short story I read in some anthology as I was younger: by tone and subject it could be from the 50s or 60s. It must have been written prior to the late Seventies or early Eighties, as it is when I read it. I have no idea about the author: I used to think it was Frederik Pohl but after reading everything I could find written by him I had to give up. It has to be someone else. And it isn’t «The Racer» by Ib Melchior either, as I’ve read it recently in the hope it was the story I’m looking for but it wasn’t.

The story is set in the near future, in a dystopian America where car drivers hunt for pedestrians on the streets: probably there’s an ongoing open war between pedestrians and drivers; both groups go by a nickname, which in the Italian translation that I read back then sounds like «the Dismounted» (or maybe «Ground Pounders») and «the Motorized».

The one scene I remember is the opening, when the protagonist’s armored car runs over an old lady who’s crossing a town’s street: instead of running away, she grabs her gun and shoots the car. Later the protagonist is shown fastening bolts on the car to patch the holes left by those bullets.

Could you help me find this story?


Sounds to me like "X Marks the Pedwalk", a short story by Fritz Leiber. It matches the scenario you describe, particularly the old lady shooting at the car as she's being run down. There's also a description of the driver of the car regarding the old lady as a worthy opponent.

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    "A thick steel bolt with a large steel washer on either side neatly filled the hole the little old lady's slug had made in the windshield." Sounds like a match to me. – DavidW Dec 29 '19 at 21:25
  • Agree that this is it. – Organic Marble Dec 29 '19 at 21:56
  • That's it! Thank you so much for helping me! – Zab Zonk Dec 30 '19 at 7:36
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    @ZabZonk You're quite welcome! – user888379 Dec 30 '19 at 14:17

1928's "The Revolt of the Pedestrians" by David H. Keller is the forerunner of this type of story. Humanity has split into two subspecies: "Automobilists" and "Pedestrians". The motorists have become so dependent on their "autocars" that their legs have atrophied.

The motorists have the upper hand at the beginning of the story:

There is a scene with a little boy and his father at a museum exhibit of pedestrians, who, being fair game for being run over, have been nearly exterminated.

Then came the final law providing for the legal murder of all pedestrians on the highway, wherever or whenever they could be hit by an auto.

The title should tell you the situation doesn't stay that way.

Keller was a racist eugenicist, but as long as you can maintain suspension of disbelief the story will hold you.

(full text here)


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