We discussed the book, how man must purify himself and show God a clean world. He said some people raise the question of how can man reproduce without women but such people miss the point. The point is that as long as man depends on the old filthy animal way God won't help him. When man gets rid of his animal part which is woman, this is the signal God is awaiting. Then God will reveal the new true clean way, maybe angels will come bringing new souls, or maybe we will live forever, but it is not our place to speculate, only to obey. He said some men here had seen an Angel of the Lord. This was very deep, it seemed like it echoed inside me, I felt it was inspiration.

Classic 1977 science fiction short story, written by Raccoona Sheldon, a pseudonym for Alice Sheldon, who also wrote as James Tiptree, Jr. The story was originally published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine and won a Nebula Award for Best Novelette. The story is now available in a number of different story collections, including "Her Smoke Rose Up Forever" by Tiptree. It's also available online. Wherever you can find it, seek it out and read it.

The title refers to a technique to control the population of screwworm flies in which male insects are sterilized with a chemical, so the species dies out quickly.

The early part of the story is a collection of letters and news clippings sent between Alan, a parasitologist working in Colombia, and his wife Anne back home in the United States. They discuss, among more mundane concerns, including their preteen daughter Amy, a growing worldwide epidemic of femicide -- men killing women. The murderers have become convinced that they are doing God's work by destroying what they believe to be the cause of all the world's evil. The Cult of Adam is growing with alarming speed. It's a terrifying outbreak of simple mass hysteria. Isn't it?

Soon enough, Alan begins to become alarmed about his family's safety and returns to the U.S. to try to keep his wife and daughter safe. He notices frightening changes in the society he thought he knew -- new tensions among men, women dressed in all-covering fabrics, desperate to avoid attracting attention. Is there something wrong with the world? And worse, is there something wrong with him, too?

In the end, it's just Anne, on her own, far from home, hiding in the wilderness, writing letters that she'll never have a chance to mail to a family friend. The world is coming to an end, the final invasion is about to begin, and Anne is alone, hopeless, helpless. Why has this happened? How has this happened? Who is behind it all?

The first time I read this story, I wanted to throw up, and I couldn't get it out of my head for two straight days afterwards. I still consider it the most purely horrifying science fiction story I've ever read, and one of the very best horror stories as well. If you're a woman, it'll scare you for the way it boosts common misogyny into a global, lethal pandemic. If you're a man, it'll scare you for the idea that you could be part of that near-mindless, self-destructive horde.

It isn't surprising that Sheldon, a woman who took a man's name to write because science fiction was so hostile to female writers, wrote a story like this. And it's not surprising that it affects people so profoundly. So many women know what it's like to be afraid of roaming gangs of men. So many hear that it's Eve's fault that Adam fell, and you can't trust those feminine wiles, because they'll drag you straight to Hell. So many hear that it's their fault for being attacked, raped, whistled at, leered at, and why can't ya take a joke, ya uppity bitch?

And the story is disturbing to men, too. So many men get into an argument with their wives or girlfriends, things get heated, voices get raised just a bit too loud... and you see that little glint of fear in her eyes. You're stronger than she is, and you both know that, if you wanted to, you could do some serious damage. And god help you, you never would, not in a billion years. But there's that little black pinprick deep inside you... that likes it, that revels in it. And you stifle it down and deny it. But it's there. And it really does scare the crap out of you, the idea that it might get loose someday.

Either way, male or female, you end up feeling like you've been punched in the gut, feeling like you want to go away and vomit 'til there's nothing left. It's not true, you tell yourself. But it is true. It's happened before. It'll happen again. Right in your own hometown. And what if it's you this time? What if you're the one?

Six months ago I was Dr. Anne Alstein. Now I'm a widow and bereaved mother, dirty and hungry, squatting in a swamp in mortal fear. Funny if I'm the last woman left alive on Earth. I guess the last one around here, anyway. Maybe some holed out in the Himalayas, or sneaking through the wreck of New York City. How can we last?

We can't.

The story was adapted as a film as part of Showtime's "Masters of Horror" series in late 2006. It was directed by Joe Dante, with a screenplay by Sam Hamm. The stars included Jason Priestley, Kerry Norton, and Elliot Gould.

The Internet Speculative Fiction Database
Interview with Sam Hamm

For the Quest

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