(Found) Trying to remember old short story about a sentient gun


New Member
Jun 22, 2022
I once read a story about a gun that was either demonic or perhaps a shapeshifting alien. It was sentient and kind of took over the mind of people who came into contact with it, then it used those people to sow evil, causing assassinations, starting wars, etc. Possibly the thing took other forms before guns, and drifted from person to person through the years (spears, swords, etc). I believe it was a short story in a horror or science fiction anthology or magazine. I think it would have been published sometime between the 70's and the early 90's, I think the story referenced the JFK assassination. I know this isn't much to go on, but can anyone think of it? I could swear it had a title like... 'The Automatic Gunman" or somesuch, but maybe I'm just crazy. Thanks for any guidance!
Oh, this was the clue I needed. It was 'The Automatic Rifleman", by David Drake, which is explicitly inspired by Leiber's Automatic Pistol Story. I read it in a collection of Drake short stories called "From the Heart of Darkness", first published in 1983. From the Heart of Darkness

Here's a link to the story itself: - Chapter 22

Thank you so much! This was driving me crazy. :)
Thanks for the link to the story, will read it now. I do hope the introduction was published after Lieber had left. "go out and read everything Fritz Leiber wrote before, say, 1960" is a bit stinging
Niven included a sentient weapon in one story. I believe the story also included 'stage trees,' usable to launch satellites (but I digress). The weapon in this story was found by Our Hero. The enemy caught him and took the weapon from him. OH was placed in a tanglefoot field, but he could still talk. The enemy poked at the weapon, and the weapon was telling the enemy how it worked. OH created a lot of noise, and he was placed in a stasis field. The enemy continued to poke at the weapon, and managed to press the Big, Red, Button. The weapon promptly exploded, killing the enemy and destroying their base. OH survived; the stasis field held until the explosion was no longer a danger to him.

My synopsis of the plot isn't too far off, but there's a better one on Wikipedia.

Uh, the enemy was the Kzinti... The Soft Weapon - Wikipedia

"The Soft Weapon" is a science fiction short story by the American writer Larry Niven, set in his Known Space universe. It was first published in the February 1967 issue of If.[1]

The story introduces the character of Nessus, a Puppeteer who later became one of the main characters of the novel Ringworld. The story is retold, from the point of view of Nessus, in Juggler of Worlds.

"The Soft Weapon" was first published in If in 1967 and has since been included in the short story collections Neutron Star (1968) and Playgrounds of the Mind (1991).

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