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This is either a short story or a "shortish" novelette, I am not sure. I read it about 20 years ago but probably in a collection, so it could be much older.

It happens in a world quite similar to ours, but for one point. There is a country with two ethnic groups. Of course each group has a name but I forgot what the names were, so I'll call them AAA and BBB. I think the title was "BBB ovens" but I got nothing, not remembering what BBB was.

For many centuries, AAAs were city dwellers, rather rich and proud of their intellectual prowesses. BBBs were mostly ignorant peasants, very poor. But the BBB had an advantage: they did not need fuel. They knew about two kind of stones. With one kind they built ovens, with a special place where they could, when needed, insert a stone of the second kind and the oven would become hot. The AAAs used "normal" sources of fuel, but despised the "ignorant" BBBs and their stupid ovens.

Little by little social differences started to disappear. BBBs would go to school, find various jobs, get away from survival agriculture. And they got ashamed of their old traditions and would turn to "normal" sources of fuel as soon as they could afford for them. Also I suppose you could not use their ovens to have light at night or power a fridge, or use in a car. So they wanted gas, electricity, TVs, cell-phones, etc., etc. So they threw away their ovens and lived like the AAAs.

At some point a BBB with a scientific education realised they were losing a very precious knowledge, not just for the money they could spare, but for its scientific value. So he started to research on the stoves. Alas, all the BBBs he could find had already lost or destroyed their ovens. Somehow he heard about an oven that has not yet been destroyed (maybe belonging to some distant relative). But just when he arrived at the place where that oven was supposed to be, quite possibly the last one in existence, he found out that its very old owner had finally decided to renounce this "stupid" tradition, had ground the stones of both kind he still had and had thrown away the resulting sand.

No more BBB ovens. Sigh.....


Maybe rather than adding a comment, I should edit the question itself ?

Though I read this story in English, I do think about it in French. "Oven" is back-translated from my memory of "un four". But it might have been "un réchaud, un poêle, un fourneau, .... ", a cooker, a boiler, a stove, a burner, a heater....

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  • Scifi titles containing "oven" - isfdb.org/cgi-bin/se.cgi?arg=oven&type=Fiction+Titles: Anatomy of a Broiler Oven and Necrowave Oven are both horror stories. The Oven is a fantasy about an animated gingerbread man
    – Valorum
    Aug 13, 2023 at 7:32
  • Fresh from the oven is a modern retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Oven Game is a fantasy story about time travel.
    – Valorum
    Aug 13, 2023 at 7:39
  • @Valorum Re : the dodos Yes, the general theme of the two stories are closely related. But the "ugly chickens" really existed at a time, it is more a parallel history that might have really happened (and maybe it did ? LOL) while this is really SciFi or even Fantasy... The other proposal, alas, do not fit.
    – Alfred
    Aug 13, 2023 at 16:00
  • Though I read it in English, I do think about it in French. "Oven" is back-translated of my memory of "un four". But it might have been "un réchaud, un poêle, un fourneau, .... ", a cooker, a boiler, a stove, a burner, a heater....
    – Alfred
    Aug 23, 2023 at 20:57

1 Answer 1

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Maybe "The Slovo Stove" by Avram Davidson?

See here:

Fred Silberman, returning to his hometown of Parlour's Ferry (a city in one of the rust belts populated by colorful but unfashionable immigrants from eastern Europe), is enough of an outsider to the long history of relations between Slovos and Huzzuks that he hasn't seen a Slovo stove (an impossible, wonderfully simple artifact, two pieces of stone that together make heat) and doesn't understand the proverbial Slovo joke ("'Was the water hot yet?'" "'Hot? Hot? It didn't even get warm!'") told by Huzzuks. This joke is one that still rankles the Slovos, eighty years on. But where the descendants of the Slovos see in this joke only the arrogance of the Huzzuks (long ago their feudal landlords), Fred is fascinated by the Slovo stove.

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  • Oh, yes, no doubt about it ! The sentence "But where the descendants of the Slovos see in this joke only the arrogance of the Huzzuks (long ago their feudal landlords)" contains the essence of the story: the Slovos destroy their priceless "Slovo stoves" to become more like the Huzzuks, in the "modern world".
    – Alfred
    Aug 31, 2023 at 16:09

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