Help me ID this SF story?
September 6, 2011 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Can the hive mind help me remember a science fiction short story where people grow roots and become...plant-like?

Some time back in the 80s I read a SF short where humans were colonizing a new planet. I seem to recall that some folks had started to disappear, and there may have been an investigation. The part that I remember the most was that some people had begun to get an urge to stand barefoot out in the "grass" of the new planet. Eventually, they started growing tiny rootlets from their feet into the ground, and I think they turned into trees.

I would love to find this story again. Does it sound familiar to any of you?
posted by blurker to Writing & Language (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like Piper in the Woods by Philip K. Dick. Everything up to your last sentence of your description matches the plot.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:59 PM on September 6, 2011

Speaker for the Dead?
posted by davextreme at 2:15 PM on September 6, 2011

The Plant People (Laurel Leaf)? Small town America instead of alien world though.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:29 PM on September 6, 2011

Speaker for the Dead wasn't a short story - it was a full novel. And none of the humans turned into trees (although not for lack of trying from the piggies...).
posted by tacodave at 3:09 PM on September 6, 2011

No hits yet. Piper in the Woods sounds great, but I have a clear image of someone pulling up a foot from the ground and tearing the tiny little roots that had begin to grow.
posted by blurker at 3:19 PM on September 6, 2011

This is most likely not it (no planet colonization), but a similar thing happens in YA novel Top Secret.
posted by mumblingmynah at 3:28 PM on September 6, 2011

There's a story I can't find, but I'm sure is by Robert Sheckley, is about two guys who land on a planet. The aliens have a juvenile form, which is intelligent and energetic, and an adult form, which is tall and thin and boring. The two guys are convinced that the adulthood ritual that juveniles undergo during the wet season turns them into these adult dullards. The ritual involves hanging upside down from a tree. They decide to save their best alien friend from that fate, but when the wet season arrives, he turns into a tree. Does that ring any bells?
posted by Kattullus at 3:42 PM on September 6, 2011

This doesn't help you at all, but the detail of the rootlets seems really familiar to me. I would have guessed Bradbury, but apparently not.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:42 PM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

... and, Katullus, I've read that one too, but I'm not sure whether it's the same story.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:45 PM on September 6, 2011

... Kattullus. Gah. Sorry.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:46 PM on September 6, 2011

I found someone else looking for a short story in which people take root and turn into trees. The only lead he or she got was in post #7: "Gone are the Lupo", by H. B. Hickey. It's in the 1971 World's Best SF, edited by Wollheim and Carr, and in Quark 1, edited by Delany and Hacker; I don't have a copy of either, unfortunately, so I can't follow up.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:47 PM on September 6, 2011

I had a copy of 1971 World's Best SF and I think it was "Gone are the Lupo". I remember settlers disappearing and people finding empty farms with new trees. The main character started turning greenish and losing the desire to eat before he decided to just stand in his field.
posted by DaddyNewt at 5:03 PM on September 6, 2011

eh...turns out I have a copy of World's Best SF 1971, and after reading 'Gone are the Lupo', I don't think that's it. At least the transmutation into a tree is implied more than spelled out, and the story is told in 'alien speak'. (Briefly, the Moomies are some kind of one-legged creatures that the colonists press into service as servants. The Lupos are another part of the life cycle, with 8 legs, and they feed off the fruit of the Moomie trees. (Moomie is the name both of the one-legged critters and the trees, as well as the name of the planet itself). The colonists shoot a bunch of the Lupos, enough to screw up the life cycle. So the Moomie servants begin feeding the fruit to the humans, and they start to turn into Moomies.) But there's no mention of people wanting to stand out in the grass and take root.

It sounds very familiar to me, but I can't place it. You might try the BookSleuth forum on AbeBooks, I've had some good luck there with this kind of thing.
posted by Bron at 5:38 PM on September 6, 2011

Darn, it really sounded like DaddyNewt had it pegged with 'Gone are the Lupo,' but I guess not. I'll keep looking...
posted by blurker at 5:41 PM on September 6, 2011

Charlie Stross's Rogue Farm has a character who is SPOILER subsumed into a giant tree-like entity that is sucking the energy out of the surrounding trees to make giant cellulose boosters and transcend into space SPOILER.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:35 AM on September 7, 2011

ack! Read this! It creeped me out BAD (though it wasnt terribly scary. Just mind ick.) Asmiov short? I was reading a lot of him at the time.
posted by Jacen at 4:11 PM on September 7, 2011

Darn it. I'm sure it was in that World's Best SF 1971. Could it be " Whatever Became of the McGowans?" by Michael G. Coney?
posted by DaddyNewt at 7:58 PM on September 8, 2011

Bron? Anyone?
posted by DaddyNewt at 10:23 PM on September 8, 2011

I found a line in a forum message that adds weight to your guess, DaddyNewt: "One of these, the novelette Whatever Became of the McGowans? by Michael Coney, has people being transformed into trees, but doesn't have any theme of vengeance or retribution."
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:21 AM on September 9, 2011

Sounds like a real possibility, DaddyNewt. If Bron comes back we can ask, but meanwhile I'll be out combing the used bookstores for WBSF 1971.

I was under the impression that there were several "plant based" shorts in the book, so there's a good chance this is it!
posted by blurker at 2:23 PM on September 10, 2011

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