Short story, probably in an anthology, which I think I read in 1970s or 1980s.

The protagonist buys a plantation on a distant planet, which grows a valuable, very durable, product. He gets a good deal but later sees a small black spot on an aerial photo and realises this an infestation of very tough animals (they may have got their strength from the plant material). His research shows that all previous infestations had grown until they caused huge damage. No doubt this was why he'd got such a good deal.

He proceeds to apply his scientific skill to the problem and does eventually (I think) solve the problem.

One thing I recall is that at one stage he gets trapped in a blockhouse with a huge fire burning all around him, and using up the air. He uses electrolysis to extract oxygen from water to allow him to keep breathing.

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    I remember this, but not enough information to ID it. The "durable product" is described as some sort of elastic, helically wound protein or something in the vegetation. The animals eat it and also become very tough and elastic. The energy stored in the substance contributes to the violence of the fire. I thought it was by Jack Vance, but if it is, I cannot find it. Jul 21, 2022 at 13:33

1 Answer 1


Ah, it was by Vance after all. What I had forgotten was that it was one of the Magnus Ridolph stories, so I didn't look in that book.

The Howling Bounders by Jack Vance

The substance is called "resilian" and the creatures that eat it are called Bounders because they are so elastic.

The fire and the oxygen generation is included in the story:

He took his water bottle from the knapsack, brought forth the power pack, ran leads into the water. He dialed up the power, and bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen vibrated to the surface. He pressed his face to the bottle, breathed the synthetic atmosphere....

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    Excellent! I expect I read it in "Worlds of Wonder" (1969).
    – OmnivoreNZ
    Jul 21, 2022 at 17:39
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    I upvoted. I was wondering from the description if it could be the "howling bounders" story. Jul 21, 2022 at 17:49

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