[PW] Science fiction story featuring people with vestigial limbs

d-lien University of Minnesota d-lien at umn.edu
Tue Nov 26 14:47:23 PST 2019

"Revolt of the Pedestrians" is a good candidate for the most on-target
and fairly-well-known sf story on this theme.  It seemed to me when I
read the original question that  the theme was so common as to be a
bit of cliche, but when I then tried to think of specific stories
making that point, I mostly drew a blank.

But for what it's worth:  another on-target possibility is a Harvey
Kurtzman-authored comic book story, "Blobs!," which appeared in the
very first issue of MAD.


I think John W. Campbell's short stories "Twilight" and its sequel
"Night" probably qualify here, and also his story "The Machine."
(Though I haven't read that last one in fifty years or so.)

Slightly related theme: robots who were intended to make life easier
and safer to humans extend their interpretation of 'safer' to
disallowing humans to do anything even vaguely 'dangerous' -- the
famous exemplar is Jack Williamson's novel THE HUMANOIDS (and an
affiliated story or two).  However, the humans in that one are not
depicted as degenerating into feeble, atropried things.

A much more obscure story on the same theme is "The Death Seekers" by
Roger Lee Vernon, which was published only in his 1955 pb original

Bernard Wolfe's LIMBO depicts a future in which voluntary amputation
of limbs becomes a philosophical stance/fad, but no robots are

Jack Vance's ABERCROMBIE STATION also doesn't involve robots, but is
mostly set on the satellite named in the title, which "exists as a
pleasure resort that caters to the whims of the obese. In space, freed
from the demands of gravity, rich, corpulent people frolic in decadent
excess."  (Wikipedia description)  Which would certainly remind me of
WALL-E, and vice versa.

As I said, the theme as described feels like almost an sf cliche to
me, so I'm probably forgetting (or just don't know) numerous other
possible examples.

Dennis Lien // U of Minnesota Libraries (retired) // d-lien at umn.edu

On Tue, Nov 26, 2019 at 2:05 PM ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> The online Science Fiction Encyclopedia has an article about the
> writer David H. Keller that includes a summary of the story "Revolt of
> the Pedestrians" (Amazing, February 1928). The tale describes a group
> of people who "lost the use of their legs" because they traveled
> everywhere using automobiles.
> Website: Science Fiction Encyclopedia
> Entry on: David H. Keller M.D. (David Henry Keller)
> Date: August 31, 2018
> Entry written by: JC (John Clute)
> http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/keller_david_h_m_d
> [Begin excerpt]
> "The Revolt of the Pedestrians" may be the most remarkable of Keller's
> stories for Gernsback; it is certainly one of the strangest. It is one
> of the relatively few sf tales before around 1970 to treat the
> hypertrophy of automobile culture in the twentieth century as
> Dystopian (see Prediction; Transportation); after centuries,
> "automobilists" have become almost organically tied to their
> Pollution-emitting cars, have lost the use of their legs, and have
> made pedestrianism a fatal offence. After the leader of a band of
> pedestrians turns off all electricity, legless automobilists die
> helplessly in their millions . . .
> [End excerpt]
> Garson
> On Mon, Nov 25, 2019 at 10:34 PM Janet Ball <mariedelee at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > Does anyone know the title and author of a sci fi story (novel?) about a
> > future world in which everything is provided through automation and the
> > human inhabitants lose their limbs through disuse? When I saw Wall-E I was
> > reminded of this story, but I'm starting to wonder if I dreamt it up.
> > Thanks!
> > Jaime
> > _______________________________________________
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