Review of “Killdozer” (1944)


Theodore Sturgeon (writer).

Read in 2022.

Read in its original form in Astounding magazine, not as revised by the author.

So they listened. It was another still, windless night, with a thin crescent of moon showing nothing true in the black and muffled silver landscape. The smallest whisper of surf drifted up from the beach, and from far off to the right, where the swamp was, a scandalized frog croaked protest at the manhandling of his mudhole. But the sound that crept down, freezing their bones, came from the bluff behind their camp.

It’s a particular kind of kitsch: A contemporary horror story about a possessed bulldozer with 1944-level electronics, it vaguely foreshadows bad horror about self-driving cars. More importantly, it’s unusually long and detailed for its topic, clearly fuelled by childlike machine animism yet written with a working understanding of the machines, and with Sturgeon’s stylistic sensibilities, rare in the SF of this period.

References here: The Black Pillar (1963), The Love Bug (1968), The Transformers (1984).

text fiction