‘The Perfectionist’ by Joseph Slotkin

Joseph Slotkin published numerous short stories in the 1950s and early 1960s, mostly in SF magazines, but his work has never been collected. ‘The Perfectionist’ takes America’s love of the car to the point of obsession and beyond. Car salesman always say that new cars lose value the minute they’re driven off the dealer’s lot, and in this story, Slotkin portrays a man fighting a fierce but doomed battle to deny that reality:

There ought to be something in the world that could be kept safe and inviolate….
… And maybe if he and this machine kept moving, nothing could harm them–they could move like planets in their orbits, like meteors—
… Even dust could not settle on them, if they moved fast enough, away, and if anyone or even anything got in the way, they would go faster….

It’s a wonderful illustration of William Carlos Williams’ line about the pure products of America going crazy, but also a chilling reminder of the futility of trying to stop time.

From Discovery #6, 1955

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