Stable Strategies for Middle Management
by Eileen Gunn
• Page count: 8
“Stable Strategies for Middle Management” is a 1988 science fiction short story by Eileen Gunn. It is about a woman who has undertaken a drastic form of bioengineering as a way to move up the corporate ladder.
The story follows Margaret, a woman who works in the advertising department of a large corporation. In an effort to prove her loyalty to the company, and train herself for a management position, she is in the process of undergoing company-sanctioned transformation to a giant insect. When she wakes up one morning to find that her tongue has changed into a stiletto and her hand into a chitinous comb, she is puzzled as to how those changes will help her corporate aspirations. As she attends her meetings throughout the day she finds herself distracted by the desire to suck her colleagues’ blood, encase her friends in wax and sting her supervisor. In the end her new instincts for business prove to be more useful than she imagined they would be.
“Stable Strategies for Middle Management” is a delightful read and a humorous look at corporate politics. Reminiscent of the 1915 Franz Kafka novella “The Metamorphosis”, I found myself laughing out loud at the desperate attempts of Margaret and her co-workers to do anything necessary to get ahead in the dog-eat-dog world of corporate middle management. The excellent writing, the detailed descriptions and the humorous tone all combine for a great science fiction short story that should not be missed.
“Stable Strategies for Middle Management” was nominated for the 1989 Hugo Award for Best Short Story. It also placed 26th on the Locus Reader’s Poll that same year.
I dragged myself out of bed, wondering how I was going to drink my coffee through a stiletto. Was I now expected to kill my breakfast, and dispense with coffee entirely? I hoped I was not evolving into a creature whose survival depended on early-morning alertness. My circadian rhythms would no doubt keep pace with any physical changes, but my unevolved soul was repulsed at the thought of my waking cheerfully at dawn, ravenous for some wriggly little creature that had arisen even earlier.
I looked down at Greg, still asleep, the edge of our red and white quilt pulled up under his chin. His mouth had changed during the night too, and seemed to contain some sort of a long probe. Were we growing apart?
Where you can find “Stable Strategies for Middle Management”:
• This story originally appeared in the October 1988 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction.
• “Stable Strategies for Middle Management” is included in Eileen Gunn’s book of collected short stories Stable Strategies and Others. (This book itself was nominated for the 2005 World Fantasy Award.)
• It has also been included in Gardner Dozois’s amazing The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year’s Best Science Fiction.
If you still have doubts about how cool this story is, take a look at award winning science fiction author Michael Swanwick’s thoughts on the book Stable Strategies and Others – including this story. (Here’s a hint – he really, really likes it.)
Did you know that Eileen Gunn, the author of “Stable Strategies for Middle Management”, is on the board of directors for the Clarion West Writers Workshop? Yep, not only has she written some great scifi stories, but she also helps out new and budding authors as well. You can learn more about her by visiting her website.
If you liked this story you may also enjoy None So Blind, the Hugo Award winning short story by Joe Haldeman.