I've had some incredible success asking about golden age sci-fi stories here, so I figure I'll try another one. It was one of those stories without a real main character, just posing a change in humanity and the resultant changes in society. A virus sweeps through humanity and in the wake of it, people find that a gene has been turned on that causes them to develop thick fur on most of their skin surfaces rather than the usual light dusting on head and groin. One of the aspects that sticks out to me was that there's a brief flirtation with mass nudism since clothing is useless (and uncomfortable) before humanity realizes they've become addicted to having pockets, and instead move to most people wearing a brief set of shorts (no idea why they didn't just go with fanny packs like most nudist colonies). I think that the story began by establishing its premise, that humanity's relative lack of hair was all due to a prior virus having turned that gene off en masse with a bit of an implication that it was part of what drove us to become intelligent since we had to compensate for our exposed skin.

As with prior requests, I read it in the library somewhere before 1998, probably before 1991, but there's a good chance that it's older. I read a lot of anthologies growing up.

  • this is driving me insane! it's definitely older than that. for some reason i have late 30's in my mind. I believe it was the first story in an anthology. but there is no way of going to the library right now... – A.D Mar 14 '14 at 18:36
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    @A.D Late 30s is right; it was first published in the April 1938 issue of Astounding Science-Fiction. It was the second story (on pp. 10-18) in Groff Conklin's Omnibus of Science Fiction. – user14111 Mar 14 '14 at 23:46
  • thanks a bunch user14111! Now I can sleep at night;) – A.D Mar 15 '14 at 7:39
  • Oof... not certain what's up with the downvote, but OK... – FuzzyBoots Feb 2 '15 at 21:49
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    No idea why they didn't just go with fanny packs Because fanny packs aren't... dignified. I may be running around naked covered in lice-ridden fur, but I wouldn't be caught dead wearing a fanny pack! (No offense if you like them. I mean... someone has to!) – xDaizu Mar 19 '18 at 7:58

"Hyperpelosity" (aka "Hyperpilosity") by L. Sprague de Camp, first published in Astounding Science-Fiction, April 1938, available at the Internet Archive. Here is a plot summary from Wikipedia:

In the Great Change of 1971 a virus infects humanity that causes everyone to grow fur all over their bodies. Initial reaction to the plague, dubbed "hyperpilosity" by the news media, is one of panic and horror. Various examples of the troubles resulting are told; the cast of the latest Tarzan movie, for instance, is reduced to frequent all-over shaving to be able to continue filming. There is a run on depilatory products. An immense financial reward is offered to whoever can identify the condition's cause and develop a cure. Against the playing out of plague-fueled societal crisis and change, protagonist Pat Weiss relates how he and his employer, virology professor Oliveira, strive and ultimately succeed in doing just this. Alas for their dreams of riches; by the time their work is complete, mankind has become accustomed to the new state of things and moved on; those who end up profiting are not the scientists but purveyors of currycombs and such.

They didn't wear shorts. Quoting from the story:

"We became a nation of confirmed near-nudists, just as did everybody else sooner or later. The one drawback to real nudism was the fact that, unlike the marsupials, man hasn't any natural pockets. So we compromised between the hair, the need for something to hold fountain-pens, money, and so forth, and our traditional ideas of modesty by adopting an up-to-date version of the Scottish sporran.

  • Thank you. I'm going to have to look that one up and reread it. – FuzzyBoots Mar 15 '14 at 0:05

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