What would happen if someone invented a machine that could create an exact duplicate of anything That is the simple but remarkable premise of Damon Knight's classic 1959 novel, A for Anything. "The Gismo," as the machine is known, seems like it will end poverty and need forever.
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December 31, 1958
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Excerpt from A For Anything by Damon Knight
A retired bank vice-president named Harry Breitfeller, who lived in a comfortable duplex in Santa Monica with his wife and other relatives, stepped out on the cement porch a little after nine one morning to pick up the mail. There were half a dozen envelopes, mostly bills, in the mailbox, and a whacking big cardboard carton on the porch under it.
Breitfeller picked up the carton, thinking it must be something his wife had ordered, but saw that his own name was on the label.
There was no return address. According to the postmark, the box had been mailed late the previous afternoon in Clearwater, which is about thirty-four miles northeast of Los Angeles.
Breitfeller could not think of anyone he knew in Clear-water. Remembering stories he had heard about bombs in the mail, he shook the box gingerly. It seemed too light to have a bomb in it, and it rattled.
He took the box inside and set it down, pulled up a chair, and put his half-smoked cigar carefully in an ashtray.
His wife, Madge, came in from the kitchen drying her hands. "What ' s that " she asked.
"Don ' t know." Breitfeller had his pocket knife open, and was slitting the brown paper tape that sealed the carton.
"Well, who ' s it from "
"Don ' t know," said Breitfeller again. He turned the two halves of the box top carefully back. Underneath was a little crumpled newspaper, and under that, something made of wood. Cottage lamps, was his first thought, but they were unstained and there were no shades, and no light sockets.