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I'm trying to remember the source of a story or stories (pretty sure it one or more short stories, not a novel) about aliens that try to attack Earth. The major interesting point was the schizo-tech the aliens employed. They had a device which IIRC was called a "hydrogen fuser/fusor" which was a) a hydrogen fusion reactor, b) a matter replicator, and c) some sort of space drive and/or antigravity device.

Their entire tech was based on "recipes" fed to these devices, one of which was to make a copy of itself. As a result, they had virtually no scientific understanding, and the rest of their technology was... eclectic. For example, they could make very hard metals but had no knowledge of machining / manufacturing processes, so everything they built tended to be extremely crude.

I recall their landing gear in particular being one noted example; I think it was a solid metal wheel held onto a post with something like a cotter pin. The story made a point of contrasting this to human equivalents with many moving parts.

Their main attack strategy was to drop fusers set to overload as explosives. Eventually, they tried to defeat us by distributing fusers and manuals for the same in the hopes it would cause us to regress to their level of "science".

I'm pretty sure I read this as part of a novel-length anthology (bonus points if someone can tell me what collection it appears in) within the last 5-10 years, but I don't know what the original publication date would have been; my guess would be 1970-2000, probably toward the earlier end thereof. I also have a sneaking suspicion it's a Christopher Anvil, but may be wrong.

  • I've no idea but would love to read this. – Organic Marble Aug 26 '19 at 17:37
  • I'd swear I've read this description before, but I am unsure where. – FuzzyBoots Aug 26 '19 at 17:41
  • scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/33341/… @FuzzyBoots – Jontia Aug 26 '19 at 19:22
  • @Jontia: Yeah, I considered that one but discounted it. Different feel to it. – FuzzyBoots Aug 26 '19 at 19:24
  • Ironically, it was a reference to exactly that story in worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/36077 that reminded me of this story ☺... but I'm almost certain that one is different. In particular, I'm pretty confident of several key details that differ, such as the aliens not having wooden ships, and mostly using "fusers" rigged to explode as their main offensive arsenal. – Matthew Aug 26 '19 at 20:24
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This is the Christopher Anvil story "The Plateau", originally published in the March 1965 issue of Amazing Stories and available to read at the Internet Archive. The magic device was called a "hydrofuser":

"What's a hydrofuser?"

"The basic tool of Science."

"The what?"

"There is no Science without hydrofusers. Hydrofusers are the basic tool of Science. Science is the knowledge of what you can do with hydrofusers, and how to do it. You can only make hydrofusers when you already have hydrofusers. When you have hydrofusers, and know how to use them, then you have endless power, can control atomic and molecular structure, process metals, set up impenetrable barriers, create contragravity, build correctors, and make more hydrofusers. If you have an enemy, you make lots of hydrofusers, pull back a special switch on one side, and dump them on him. When they go off because of instability, that's that."

The crude landing gear is there as well:

Holden used a magnifier on the photo. "That is a damned crude landing gear."

...

The man with the pencil over his ear said impatiently, "Because the thing is crude, that's why. Can you think of any engineer who could see that and leave it as it is? Ye gods, man, can you yourself sit there and look at that big flat washer, with the monster cotter pin to keep it from falling off the end of the shaft, and honestly tell me things have got to be that simple?"

And in the end, the aliens try to spoil and corrupt the humans by giving them free hydrofusers:

Dionnai Count Maivail, moving slowly at high altitude as the stream of hydrofusers poured out of his ships, explained the situation to Kram Baron Angstat.

"Offer a man, long deprived, his fondest wish, and will he refuse it? First, there will be fighting because there aren't enough hydrofusers to go around. Then there will be all kinds of private sanctuaries where they can do whatever they want, because of the shield, and can escape the most obvious consequences, because of the correctors. Only after ages of working at cross-purposes, and after exhausting all manner of appetites and delusions, will they begin to see the flaws. The result, Angstat," he said enthusiastically, "will be utter stagnation."

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