9

Science fiction short story I read in the early 1970's in a hard-cover anthology, but story was much older that 1970.

A scientist with a name like "The Great Manderpolz" invents a bush or shrub that will grow into a sofa or couch. This will eliminate the need for factories to make sofas, you can just grow then.

Somehow, Manderpolz is granted a vision of the far future, where he sees his invention will prompt other labor-saving inventions. To the point where the human race becomes extinct due to decadence.

So he destroys his invention.

Does this sound familiar?

  • 2
    You are probably conflating some things. Weinbaum wrote three stories about a mad scientist named van Manderpootz but the story you described is not one of them. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Organic Marble May 21 '16 at 15:55
  • Yes, I'm sure you are correct. None of them are it. Perhaps one of the Manderpootz stories was in the same anthology as the story I am looking for. I'll check ISFDB.com – Winchell Chung May 21 '16 at 18:50
  • 1
    We want....a shrubbery...! – Valorum May 22 '16 at 10:49
10

This is The Higher Things by J. R. Pierce. I found it in the anthology Nova 1 edited by Harry Harrison.

The scientist is Haskel van Manderpootz (Pierce was an engineer and I would guess this was a tribute to Weinbaum - effectively a fanfic). He has abandoned the technical approach in favour of genetic engineering because he feels the technical approach is too limited. He does indeed engineer a shrub that grows into a chair:

He produced a fine, bushy growth which trained itself in the form of an armchair, and had only to be cut and dried to be of service (he still used one of these; it was remarkably comfortable, although a little asymmetrical).

He uses his subjunctivisor (see the Weinbaum stories) to look into the future and see what effect his inventions have:

Despite all of his certainty that he was about to change the face of the earth and the habits of the human race, van Manderpootz was impatient to know the result. So, with one last fling at the mechanical, he revised his subjunctivisor to give a telepathic view of the truly far future.

Mankind doesn't go extinct, but retreats from the real world into virtual reality:

Man had found a way to live without effort, in the partnership with some simple organism, his body cradled and fed and kept young through the ages. And he had found telepathy as well. Finally, the very last man to walk the face of the earth had lowered himself into a tank and closed the lid. And men had lived in a world of dreams, thinking their thoughts together. They had forgotten their bodies, which lay on the face of the earth.

  • Amazing! Never heard of this. Great info. – Organic Marble May 22 '16 at 12:01
  • This must be it, all the details match. Kudos to author J. R. Pierce for the Weinbaum tribute, I missed that at the time. – Winchell Chung May 22 '16 at 16:05

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