The Creature from Cleveland Depths by Fritz Leiber

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“The Creature from Cleveland Depths” is a 1962 science fiction novelette by Fritz Leiber. It is about a man who is responsible for inventing a personal-reminding-machine that runs amok!

Non-Spoiler Summary

Cleveland Skyline by Chuck Allen, CC 2.0 license

Most of the people of Cleveland live in the large underground suburb known as “The Depths” – but not Gusterson. His family is one of the few that still live above ground, even though there are lots of people who still work up there. Anyway old Gussy, as he’s known to his good friend Fay, is a cranky yet very creative fellow who spends his time writing books about insane people. Why? Because that is the genre of the masses that’s why! Anyhow, Fay, an R&D director, often visits Gussy to get new ideas for his company to invent. Unfortunately Gussy mentions in passing that what the world needs is a device that will remind people to do certain things at certain times – you know, like watch one’s favorite TV show or meet with a colleague. Well, Fay loves that idea and his team jumps on it. The problem is that the device, affectionately known as a “tickler”, becomes so popular that Fay’s company is forced to build bigger and better ones until one day the inevitable happens – the machine takes on an intelligence of its own! Eeeek! You know the drill from there – its all downhill until someone (probably a cranky genius) figures out how to save the planet from the newly created creatures!

My Two Cents

  • Story: 4 stars – Although it’s not super unique I still loved the idea of the personal machines and how they slowly got more evil and controlling! The way the story starts out slowly and builds in suspense and action was done nicely as well.
  • Writing: 4 stars – Fritz Leiber is a good writer and he does a fine job with this story. It was written in 1962 so there was some dialogue that sounded a bit contrived to me… but maybe that’s just how people spoke then.
  • Fun Factor: 5 stars – It was a blast reading this story! The underground city, the cranky Gusterson, his flirty wife, the evil ticklers and the insane Pooh-Bah all kept me smiling and wanting more. Very well done!
  • If you enjoyed this story be sure to check out “A Pail of Air” and “What’s He Doing in There” – also by Fritz Leiber.

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3 thoughts to “The Creature from Cleveland Depths by Fritz Leiber”

  1. @Dr. Caligari: You’re right – it is very prescient. I was surprised, too, at how much I enjoyed reading this story! I found it to be fascinating!

  2. It’s been a while since I read the story, but I remember a scene where people are lining up before the stores open on the day the newest iteration of the gadget is coming out.

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