I regret that this will be a question lacking in detail but, worth a try!

The basic concept is like that of Forster's "The Machine Stops" in that most people live in individual "rooms" and all their needs are attended to by technology. However, these "rooms" are not in large buildings (as they are in "TMS") but spread out over the land. I have a mental image of small domes, possibly orange or red in colour - but that could easily be my personal mental image and not based on in-story description. Again I have an image that the landscape is "sandy, rough scrubland" but that could also be unreliable.

I recall an escape (or possibly an extraction) of the main character from one of these rooms and, possibly, that there was dangerous wildlife (or maybe automated tracking machines to enforce the isolation?) to contend with out on the surface. i.e. a certain amount of creeping around by the characters.

With less certainty I recall an attempt to find the dome of someone else, previously known only virtually. If I had to guess I'd pick the main character to be male and this target character to be female.

I would mostly likely have read this in the 1980s in my "read everything sci-fi in the library until they've run out, then ask them to get more" phase. I didn't have access to magazines so most likely this would have been in a published anthology.

I hope I'm not confusing this with "Childhood's End" where I think there is phase where most people live in completely isolated homes but normally as families and they travel around by air vehicles. i.e. the spacing is just for privacy and/or personal taste and transport technology has removed any inconvenience.

  • 3
    Whatever it is, you aren't confusing it with Childhood's End because none of the things you describe happen in that book.
    – JRE
    Feb 11, 2022 at 17:24
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    I remember a story similar to what you describe. Everyone lives in mobile "cells" where they have everything they need. Food, water, communication with other people, safety and protection. They travel around and meet up sometimes for personal contact. One of the people discovers that humans are dying out because of the cells. Through an accident, the same person discovers that there are people who don't live in the cells - and their population is growing. I can't remember the name or who wrote. It was in a German magazine in 1990s or 2000s.
    – JRE
    Feb 11, 2022 at 17:35
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    There's very little matching in the details, but when I started reading this question, I thought of Asimov's "It's Such A Beautiful Day" Feb 11, 2022 at 17:41
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    @JRE - also interesting. Your description captures more of the level of threat that I recall but I don't recall them being mobile. I wouldn't (couldn't) have read it in German so either it was a translation or not the match.
    – AdamT
    Feb 11, 2022 at 18:31
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    @AdamT: It was in a German magazine, but may well have been translated to German from English.
    – JRE
    Feb 11, 2022 at 18:54

1 Answer 1


This could be "Cocoon" (1962) by Keith Laumer ISFDB Listing, but if so, it has not been recalled fully.

I think the image below, cover of a collection that contains this story is intended to illustrate it in a rather vague way.

Cover of "The Best of Keith Laumewr"

In that story, the VP character is in a small enclosure, with feeding and breathing tubes, and interactive TV channels to occupy him -- one permits him to "work" at the "office". There are also sit-com and sex fantasy channels, as well as news and public information, and mental therapy. He can communicate with his wife (in the cocoon next door), and with othee people, friends.

He was one of the first to "sign up" for "vital programming" and had been maintained in this way for over 200 years.

At the end

The city is being disrupted by a glacier. A group of young people try to encourage people to leave their cocoons, but dismiss the VPC as "too old". He cannot follow them as they leave, but makes it to the surface, where he dies.

Fit to the question

No match on "small domes" but there are very small enclosures, hardly more than coffins.

The MC does try to look for his wife;s cocoon, bur IIRC cannot get her out.

No match on "scrubland", but the surface is barren (a glacier, after all).

This has been reprinted in at least 3 single-author collections (I have 2 of them) and several anthologies.

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