“Don’t Steal” soap

I have read science fiction since I was a kid.  Many years ago, in a “Best of” collection, I read a story from a Soviet author about an inventor with marvelous ability but lousy people skills.  The story stuck in my mind because the inventor’s former girlfriend marries another inventor who knows how to climb the greasy pole despite no real gift for invention.  We never meet the second inventor, but at several points in the story, his inventions are described.  The one that stuck in my mind was “Don’t Steal” soap, with an India ink core embedded in the soap.  Use the soap long enough and the user’s hands will be indelibly dyed black.  Of course, this ridiculous product was eagerly adopted by the appropriate design bureau for use in the apartment block-warrens of the proletariat.  This has always struck me as a beautiful example of the combined perfidy and inanity of any Communist, socialist, or “top-down” command system.  I wonder how the author managed to pass this by the censors.

Anyhow, I came across this story again recently.  The title of the story is “A Modest Genius” by Vadim Shefner; I recommend that you read it when you can find it.


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