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"Poised between intransigent scepticism and uncritical credulity, it [science fiction] is par excellence the literature of the open mind."
- John Brunner

  A knife-like weapon.  

A thin pencil of light flashed out and splashed on a figure crouching outside the alcove. I dived and was on him before he could get to his feet. Fast as I had been, Sister Magdalene was just as fast; she landed on his shoulders as he went down. He jerked and was still.

Zebadiah came running in, checked himself at our sides. 'John! Maggie!' came his tense whisper.

'What is it?'

'We've caught a spy, Zeb,' I answered hurriedly. 'What'll we do with him?'

Zeb flashed his light. 'You've knocked him out?'

'He won't come to,' answered Magdalene's calm voice out of the darkness. 'I slipped a vibroblade in his ribs.'


'Zeb, I had to do it. Be glad I didn't use steel and mess up the floor with blood. But what do we do now?'

From If This Goes On..., by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Astounding Science-Fiction in 1940
Additional resources -

The same weapon is mentioned - but not actually used in Methuselah's Children, written in the following year.

"Better get away from that phone, Bud." Then, in an aside to Mary, Lazarus added, "I won't touch my gun, Sis. I'll use my knife."

Vanning stopped. "Very well," he said in annoyed tones, "don't touch that vibroblade. I won't call from here..."

"It ain't a vibroblade. It's steel. Messy."

Appropriately, Lazarus Long, eldest member of the Howard Families, uses the traditional weapon rather than the new-fangled version.

These quotes are taken from the expanded versions of these stories from the collection The Past Through Tomorrow; both of these stories were expanded from their initial publication in 1940 and 1941. I haven't been able to confirm the presence of the word "vibroblade" in the original publications.

For purposes of comparison, Randall Garrett wrote this about the vibroblade in his 1962 novel Unwise Child:

A vibroblade is a nasty weapon. Originally designed as a surgeon's tool, its special steel blade moves in and out of the heavy hilt at speeds from two hundred to two thousand vibrations per second, depending on the size and the use to which it is being put. Make it eight inches long, add serrated, diamond-pointed teeth, and you have the man-killing vibroblade. Its danger is in its power; that shivering blade can cut through flesh, cartilage and bone with almost no effort.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from If This Goes On...
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
  Tech news articles related to If This Goes On...
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Heinlein

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