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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Reader’s Guide to "Stable Strategies for Middle Management" by Eileen Gunn

First appeared in Asimov's.  Later collected multiple times in several major anthologies by editors Gardner Dozois, Ursula K. Le Guin, Brian Attebery, James Patrick Kelly, and John Kessel.  Nominated for the Hugo and Locus Poll awards. 

Summary and Commentary:
The story has struck a business-world nerve, comparing corporate life to the insect world.  Editors Kelly and Kessel note its very Kafka-like influence, and Dozois points at its more SF'nal features of genetic engineering--all within a claustrophobically corporate atmosphere.

The narrator awake to find herself changed involuntarily by her corporation into a mosquito--likely a metaphor for their blood-sucking ability.  While involuntary, she does have and later uses this another human.   Also, she's not human before she drinks coffee and cannot drink coffee. She is part of the system, indicated by how she desires a leadership role and how she does not have a compound eye to see things from different angles (although she does have a comb to clean them, indicating that she may in the future).  She develops chitinous skin over time, hardening her surface.

She contemplates quitting; however, when the narrator learns that corporate leaders are squeezing her out, she fights back.

  1. What does it mean to the narrator that she's becoming an insect?  Is there more than one feeling?
  2. How does the corporate world see her becoming more like an insect?  What's the problem with that?
  3. Look at the passages concerning coffee.  How does that tie in?
  4. How are the narrator's actions as an insect positive and negative?
  5. List each anatomical insect part mentioned.  How does each insect part contribute to the overall theme?
  6. What does she transform into?  Why?  How does that play as a pun and corporate life?
  7. How does evolution play into what Gunn has to say about corporate life?

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