Killdozer!, by Theodore Sturgeon

Second paragraph of third story (“Ghost of a Chance):

It sort of got me. Maybe because she was so tiny and her hair was so white. Maybe because, white hair and all, she looked so young and helpless. But mostly, I think, because of what she said. “There’s something following me.” Not “someone.” “Something.” So I just naturally hauled out after her.

I got this in 2020 expecting that the title story would be a finalist and indeed likely winner of the 1945 Retro Hugo for Best Novelette, and indeed it won by a long way. But it took me until now to get around to reading the rest of the collection. These are all above average stories for the pulp era, with women characters who show signs of three-dimensionality, and some great ideas. “Killdozer!”, the story of a large machine possessed by alien forces, is still the standout of the lot. You can get it here.

I was struck that in the story “Chromium Helmet”, the villain’s name is Wickersham, which was my great-grandmother’s maiden name. Her nephew, Lieutenant-General Cornelius W. Wickersham, had just been appointed head of the New York National Guard when the story was written in 1946, so it was a name in the news.

This was my top unread book acquired in 2020. Next is The Lost Child of Lychford, by Paul Cornell, though I think I’ll take the chance to read all of my unread Lychford novellas.