Novelette: “The Screwfly Solution”

by look i have opinions

“The Screwfly Solution,” by Raccoona Sheldon, better known as James Tiptree, Jr. and Alice Sheldon

First appeared in Analog Science Fiction and Fact in 1977; won the 1978 Nebula Award for Best Novelette (defined by the word count above); featured in episode 400 of Pseudopod, August 22nd, 2014

Somewhere between 7,500 and 17,500 words

The characters and emotional situations are almost entirely cardboard, but the idea is so clever and well-executed that I don’t care.

Matthew Cheney has an interesting post about “The Screwfly Solution”, which I mostly disagree with. He says, “One of the problems of most commercial fiction is that, in aiming for a large audience, it insults that audience.” I agree in general, but not about this particular story. I think “Screwfly” sacrifices subtlety and depth deliberately, not for the sake of pandering, but for more superficial pleasures.

Edited to add: I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong about the depth of the characters—I encountered this story on Pseudopod, and for whatever reason it didn’t grip me emotionally. I’ll come back to this again some time (I want to read a lot more of Tiptree’s work generally anyway).