23

I'm looking for a story that I probably read sometime around the early 2000s, although I believe the publication was much earlier. I believe it was in the form of a science fiction short story collection.

I don't recall many details, but there were a few the stood out:

  • There was a new device that was originally used for sound dampening, and installed into things like cars
  • At some point there was a car accident. A car was travelling at high speed down a highway and collided with a barrier or barricade.
  • I don't recall whether the driver was okay, but I remember that the car survived undamaged.
  • I believe it turned out that the invention would "freeze" the molecules of the vehicle in place (or something similar), to block sound transmission. As a result, it turned out that a side effect was making whatever the device was installed in indestructible.

I don't remember the rest of the story. I think there were force fields installed to cover major cities, and concern over nuclear war, but I do not recall whether these were simply discussions or were events that occurred in the narrative.

7
  • I cannot identify this story, but I believe I read it myself prior to 1985. I can add some more information. The story started with a commentator complaining how the country (presumably USA) was suffering from lack of individual enterprise. As story progressed the device was abused (e.g. protesting farmers would use it to create immovable barricades). At end of story same commentator was complaining that the country needed a greater sense of working together and community spirit.
    – user23087
    Jan 18 at 0:29
  • @user23087 The farmers creating immovable barricades sounds familiar, so I believe that would be the same story
    – NES
    Jan 18 at 0:43
  • 1
    Note that reality works in exactly the opposite way. You are more likely to survive a high-speed collision in a car that is designed to "crumple" on impact vs. a car with a completely rigid frame. Modern cars are designed with a rigid cage around the passenger compartment, and everything else (under the hood and under the trunk lid) is in so-called "crumple zones" that are designed to fold up like an accordion. The "crumpling" dissipates a large fraction of the energy of the impact so that less energy is available to mangle your body. Jan 19 at 14:31
  • 2
    @SolomonSlow This is SciFi, how things work in the real world is not that relevant. SciFi doesn't have to obey the known laws of physics.
    – matt_black
    Jan 19 at 14:41
  • @matt_black, I'm not a language cop—not here to enforce Da Rules—but in my personal opinion, the difference between SciFi and pure fantasy is that readers of SciFi like to imagine the story as something that potentially could happen in our universe. SciFi fans whom I have known typically are receptive to stories that imagine physical laws and phenomena that we have not yet discovered, but they are intolerant of stories, sold as "SciFi," in which the laws of physics that we do know are violated with no apology or rationale. Jan 19 at 14:50

1 Answer 1

37

This must surely be Gadget vs. Trend, a short story by Christopher Anvil that was first published in Analog, October 1962.

The invention was originally dubbed the "QuietWall", and was sold to prevent sound travelling through walls. It was subsequently discovered in a car accident that a vehicle fitted with the device was completely undamaged:

Tests with sledgehammers revealed the astonishing fact that with the unit turned on, the car would not dent, and the glass could not be broken.... With the unit turned off, the car was perfectly ordinary.

The unit was then adapted in numerous ways: used by bank robbers to make their getaway cars invulnerable, in stand-offs between farmers and governments officials, and eventually to protect cities from nuclear weapons.

The full story is available from the Luminist archive.

1
  • 3
    I cannot speak for the original questioner, but this is definitely the story I was remembering. Quotes from your link at the beginning "Boston, Sept. 2, 1976. Dr. R. Milton Schummer, Professor of Sociology at Wellsford College, spoke out against 'creeping conformism' to an audience of twelve hundred in Swarton Hall last night.", and at the end "What this country needs, said Dr. Schummer, is 'co-ordinationof aims, unity of purpose, and restraint of difference.'".
    – user23087
    Jan 18 at 0:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.