Henry Kuttner's "Nothing but Gingerbread Left" (short story): A musical super-weapon for World War II!
Another funny tale that needs suspended credulity.
Story summary.Phil Rutherford, "in charge of semantics at the University", along with his student Jerry O'Brien, has discovered the power of meaningless but catchy chants as distractions. Whenever you are trying to do something, your unconscious goes off singing the chant! And they've succeeded in making the US employ this as a weapon against Germany in this alternate World War II.
German version of title is the part of the chant. Allies have been broadcasting it wherever German troops are, & it's sort of caught off among those involved in war there.
We are treated to several amusing episodes of how the war would have proceeded, assuming this works. German troops searching weapons in a Polish village fail to locate them because of distraction, leading to a later defeat in a battle. A key scientist on some breakthrough not only fails to complete his project, but commits suicide because chant won't leave him alone. A fighter pilot & his colleague fail to react to enemy until it's too late because they were chanting. Some people in authority have recognized the destruction the chant is causing but are afraid of discussing the issue openly. Hitler fails to deliver an important speech because midway through, he keeps getting distracted!
- Arthur Clarke's "The Ultimate Melody": Another story that deals with the effects of catchy music on humans. But Clarke's version is more in line with a theme in modern cyberpunk - dream good dreams forever!
- Tensor's review of this story: Especially interesting are visitor's comments at the end of the page. People have actually thought a lot about this story.
Fact sheet."Nothing but Gingerbread Left", short story, review
First published: Astounding Science Fiction, January 1943.
Related: All stories by Henry Kuttner.