by E. E. "Doc" Smith
Reviewed date: 2020 Jul 24
As by Edward E. Smith, Ph. D.
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Published in the fanzine Nova, #3, Winter 1943-44. It's a piece of fiction about termites: first from the termites' point of view--as they form a new colony, expand underground, and find a bountiful supply of delicious wood; and then, from Doc Smith's point of view, when he discovers termites have invaded his home, necessitating costly repairs and the services of a termite exterminator. It is a straightforward story, no twists or surprise endings, but it's told in the way that only Doc Smith can write. He is a treasure.

The story starts by introducing the termite queen Flavipa:

All her life Flavipa had been cryptobiotic, negatively phototropic, and positively thigmotropic--or, to translate from the jargon of the entomologist, she had dwelt in darkness, had dreaded and shunned the light, and had sought the bodily contacts to be found in crevices and in narrow passageways.

And here's the passage where the termites face the exterminator's poison:

Wave after wave of poison gas; dense clouds of lethal, noxious vapor, flooded the main connecting corridors of their territory, and termites in their massed hundreds died. Soldiers came rushing to the defense, but found nothing tangible to fight. Shearing mandible, however capable, were of no avail against corrosive fumes; wherefore those soldiers died. The bulbous heads of the poison-gas squads were equally useless, and they, too, expired. The web-spinners and the rope-throwers came also--and also gave their lives in vain attempts to do away with the new and incomprehensible enemy. Then, every defensive recourse having failed, workers by the hundreds were massed in the tunnels, far back from the source of carnage, to block off every corridor leading to the mine of wealth which had so suddenly become a death-trap. One, two, half a dozen of these groups were wiped out by advancing floods of liquid and of gaseous destruction. What of it? Back of them, and still further back, other armies build other barricades, until finally every duct was sealed and the home territory was safe. Thousands of termites, it is true, had been locked out; but they must either work out their own salvation or die. This preservation of the royal apartments, with Rox and Flavipa, the primary king and queen, was the paramount consideration; and that had been done.

Read it here: Nova fanzine at

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