Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Alice Sheldon's "The Screwfly Solution" (as by Raccoona Sheldon) (novelette, alien invasion, free): Insects are to humans what humans are to...

Quote from short story titled The Screwfly Solution by Raccoona SheldonNote the author is Alice Sheldon, better known by her male pseudonym “James Tiptree, Jr”.

A very dark, but difficult to put down story - once it picks up.

Story summary.

Premise is a theory, I don't know if real or fictional, that male sexual behavior is a conversion of male aggressive behavior - triggered by some kind of hormone or something.

In bizarre incidents, all concentrated near the population centers around 30th parallel all over the world, men have been killing women en masse ("femicide")! We will slowly learn that these are the areas where winds of "Intertropical Convergence Zone" touch down the surface of earth. There is something in the air triggering this behavior, & its source is in the upper atmosphere.

But governments won't listen to scientists making these deductions till it's too late. Town after town is being thus destroyed. We will see areas other than 30th parallel also getting affected near the end of the story.

Story is told through the personal accounts of Alan, his wife Anne, his daughter Angie, & a close friend Dr Barnhard Braithwaite aka Barney. Barney is one of the proponents of the theory that there is something infectious in the air. By the end of the story, an infected Alan would be dead after killing his daughter, & Anne will be hiding from rampaging male mobs disguised as a boy. In one of her lonely refuges, she will see an alien - examining the land that is now theirs for grabs.

Title comes from a similar treatment some people are experimenting with for some troublesome insect.

See also.

  1. Joe Dante directed a 1 hour TV movie based on this story. I've not seen the movie.
  2. Murray Leinster's "The Mutant Weapon" (1957): Sheldon's story is practically a copy of Leinster's.

Fact sheet.

First published: Analog, June 1977.
Rating: A
Nebula Award 1977 winner in novelette category.
Hugo Award 1978 nominee in novelette category.
Locus Award 1978 nominee in short fiction category.
Download full text from Internet Archive.
Included in Ellen Datlow's Sci Fiction classics.
Related: All stories as by Raccoona Sheldon; James Tiptree, Jr.