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Literature / Van Manderpootz

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The Van Manderpootz stories are a cycle of three short stories by Stanley G. Weinbaum (famous for A Martian Odyssey): The Worlds of If (1935), The Ideal (1935) and The Point of View (1936, posthumous publication). All three star Insufferable Genius, Professor Haskel van Manderpootz, and Serial Romeo Dixon Wells who acts as the narrator and The Watson.

In The Worlds of If, van Manderpootz invents the subjunctivisor, a machine that allows a person to see a For Want of a Nail version of their life that would have appeared had they made a different choice at some point. In The Ideal, he invents the idealisator which allows one to see one's ideal version of... basically anything one thinks up. Finally, The Point of View features the attitudinisor, which allows to see the world from other people's perspectives.

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Every time, Dixon becomes the one to first try out the new invention, and it inevitably leads to romantic troubles.

Tropes featured in the stories:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Whimsy White (it's a pseudonym, her real name is Marie).
  • Amicable Exes: Van Manderpootz and de Lisle d'Agrion broke up long ago but maintain a friendly relationship, with him being an Honorary Uncle to her daughter.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Dixon is chronically unlucky in love.
  • Failed Future Forecast: The stories are set in The New '10s, but the Soviet Union still exists.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Denise d'Agrion marries the psychiatrist who treats her.
  • For Want of a Nail: The very premise of The Worlds of If is exploring the possibilities of In-Universe What Could Have Been. For example, Dixon finds out that had he made a successful financial operation several years earlier, he would have got stuck in Awful Wedded Life with Whimsy White, and had he managed to board the Baikal before it departed, both he and Joanna Caldwell would have perished in the crash.
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  • Formerly Fit: Dixon, watching his For Want of a Nail Alternate Universe marriage to Whimsy White, sees Whimsy "obviously plumping out".
  • Gold Digger: Whimsy White is an actress to whom Dixon even managed to get engaged, but when he lost all of his money during a financial crisis she dropped him like a hot potato.
  • Hidden Depths: In The Ideal, Dixon is amazed to discover that van Manderpootz has once had a romantic fling with an actress.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: Haskel van Manderpootz tries to explain how modest he is:
    I am too modest! That is the trouble. I undervalue my own achievements, and thereby permit petty imitators like Corveille to influence the committee and win the Morell prize!
  • Insufferable Genius: Van Manderpootz is so conceited that he thinks Einstein can be ranked as equal to or just below himself, and in the idealisator, when he thinks of an ideal man, he sees his own unchanged reflection and thinks Dixon forgot to start the idealisator (just for comparison: Dixon, thinking of an ideal girl, sees a vision of young de Lisle d'Agrion with a heavy dose of Adaptational Attractiveness and pines for days afterwards).
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  • Precocious Crush: Turns out Dixon Wells had one on superstar de Lisle d'Agrion early in his childhood, and all of his love interests resemble her in some way.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Or rather "reports of my survival weren't checked up". In The Worlds of If, Dixon sees that in his For Want of a Nail reality Joanna dies, so for several days he doesn't even check the actual lists of the collision's survivors.
  • Rescue Romance: Joanna Caldwell ends up marrying Navigator Orris Hope who saves her during the rocket's crash.
  • Serial Romeo: Dixon meets gorgeous girls of his dreams at least three times.
  • Serial Spouse: De Lisle d'Agrion has had seven husbands (at least as far as van Manderpootz knows), and in addition she and van Manderpootz came pretty close to tying the knot too.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Denise d'Agrion looks almost exactly the same as her mother de Lisle d'Agrion.
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