Rattlesnakes and Men

Magazine cover: Asimov's Science Fiction (February 2015)Michael Bishop‘s “Rattlesnakes and Men,” which appeared in the February 2015 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction, is one of six finalists for the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Novelette. (The nominees were announced over the weekend.)

It’s a story that imagines a Georgia town where rattlesnake ownership is mandatory, where people wear pit vipers on their belts for protection, and where death by snake bite is carefully hushed up. “Rattlesnakes and Men” is a transparent parable for the out-of-control gun culture in the United States, and some readers and reviewers have found its allegory a bit obvious and heavy-handed.

But given that Bishop’s son Jamie was one of 32 people killed in the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, I think he’s earned the right: this story can properly be read as a primal scream of frustration. In March 2015 the Atlanta Journal-Constitution talked to Bishop about his story and the gun control advocacy that was born of his loss.

(“Rattlesnakes and Men” is not online at the moment. Publishers frequently make award finalists available to read online, though, so check the Asimov’s website in a few days.)

(Update, March 8: It’s now available online.)