Trying to identify a scifi short story, possibly from the golden age, where all citizens carry sidearm weapons. Everyone is super-polite because it is legal and accepted to challenge another citizen to a duel to the death at any perceived slight or unresolvable dispute. Anyone not carrying a sidearm (e.g. children, the elderly, infirm, pacifists etc.) not therefore being able to defend themselves have to defer utterly to true citizens. Any ideas?


2 Answers 2


It's a novel rather than a short story, but that sounds exactly like Beyond this Horizon by Robert Heinlein.

The novel depicts a world where genetic selection for increased health, longevity, and intelligence has become so widespread that the unmodified 'control naturals' are a carefully managed and protected minority. Dueling and the carrying of arms is a socially accepted way of maintaining civility in public; a man can wear distinctive clothing to show his unwillingness to duel, but this results in a lower social status.

This novel is also the source of the quote "An armed society is a polite society"

  • 3
    Heinlein has several novels taking place in this world, for example "I will fear no evil" Aug 8, 2014 at 17:30
  • @BarafuAlbino: No, "I Will Fear No Evil" is not set in the same universe as Beyond this Horizon.
    – user2490
    Aug 9, 2014 at 6:04
  • Possibly. But has the same society organization and that is what matters in this case. Aug 9, 2014 at 7:01
  • @BarafuAlbino & Ben Crowell "Number of the Beast" has references to this as well if I remember correctly. It is been many years since I read that one... I could be wrong.
    – Tonny
    Aug 9, 2014 at 10:14
  • The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, also by Heinlein, has overtones of this also: tossing someone out an airlock for being rude is not unknown in the moon, and there are no codified laws, so "mob rule" has a similar effect to everyone being armed (in the story). Sep 2, 2015 at 12:07

L. Neil Smith has a book called "The Probability Broach". In it, a parallel Earth that's a libertarian utopia works the way you describe.

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