MARTIN H. GREENBERG, Editor – Deadly Doings. Ivy, paperback original; 1st printing, 1989.

#10. RAY BRADBURY “The Small Assassin.” Short story. First published in Dime Mystery Magazine, November 1946. First collected in Dark Carnival (Arkham House, hardcover, 1947); also collected in The October Country (Ballantine, hardcover/paperback, 1954) and A Memory of Murder (Dell paperback original, 1984) among many others. Reprinted many times, including Children of Wonder, edited by William Tenn (Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 1953). TV adaptation: “The Small Assassin” The Ray Bradbury Theater (Season 2, Episode 6). Comic book adaptation: Story in Shock SuspenStories #7 (EC Comics, February/March, 1953) by Al Feldstein and George Evans.

   “The Small Assassin” is without a doubt the most well known story in this Greenberg anthology. Given that all of the others are detective or straightforward crime stories, it is also by far the creepiest. It’s the story of a new mother who is convinced from day one that her new child hates her.

   And why not? Forced from the luxurious living space of the womb into a cold, cold world, why doesn’t every newborn child hate his or her mother? For the sake of the world’s population, it’s lucky that there’s only a one in a billion chances that any one of these infants is able to do anything about it. But a one in a billion chance does not mean none.

   The idea has been the basis of more than one story or movie over the years, I’m sure, but my thought is that Ray Bradbury is the one who came up with it first, and his unique style of writing is all it takes to make the story convincing, all the way to an ending that once read will never be forgotten.


Previously in this Martin Greenberg anthology: EDWARD D. HOCH “The Unicorn’s Daughter.”