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Bretnor, Reginald – “The Gnurrs Come from the Voodvork Out” (1950)


If the title wasn’t enough to clue you in, the first paragraph’s mention of war with “Bobovia” really hammers home the fact that this is a goofy, goofy piece. It starts at the “Secret Weapons Bureau,” which just so happens to be under the command of a Colonel who “did not believe in secret weapons. He didn’t even believe in atomic bombs and tanks, recoilless rifles and attack aviation. He believed in horses.” In walks one Papa Schimmelhorn, a “moron” who had worked in Einstein’s lab as a janitor, and has invented a sort of bassoon thing that calls “gnurrs,” well, “from the voodvork out” – a weapon he insists will end the war. Gnurrs are sort of mice-pig things that eat everything but living flesh. This mostly amounts to them eating the pants off of people, by the by. A plan is developed to win the war, interspersed with scenes of Schimmelhorn “charmingly” sexually harassing a secretary and the Colonel complaining about modern warfare, the plan works (“ATOMIC MICE DEVOUR ENEMY”), and then it turns out something with the plan went wrong and the gnurrs are invading L.A. and devouring pants left and right.

It comes to light the gnurrs are easily defeated by (what else?) cavalry, horse smell being terrifying to them, so the Colonel gathers the men and horses of the nation and drives the gnurrs back into the fourth dimension before declaring that “Never again must we let politicians and long-haired theorists persuade us to abandon the time-tried principles of war, and trust our national destiny to – to gadgets!” Schimmelhorn’s wife appears to drag him away from sexually harassing the secretary.

This is the first in a series of Schimmelhorn stories, but how you milk any more pages out of this “joke” is beyond me.

So, another anti-modern story about the lunacy of the Cold War, although the fact that the Colonel is a character mostly played for laughs seems at odds with his triumph at the end. Asimov’s “No Connection” (1949) was much better.


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