Sandkings (novelette)


Sandkings (novelette)

Sandkings is a novelette by George R.R. Martin, published in the August 1979 issue of "Omni". It won both the Hugo and Nebula awards.

Plot summary

Simon Kress, a wealthy playboy, loves to collect dangerous, exotic animals. Tiring of his current menagerie, he buys the eggs of insect-like hive creatures called "sandkings" from a shop run by Wo, a girl, and the mysterious Shade.

After installing them in an unused aquarium, he sees them begin to grow, build castles (with his face on the front) and fight wars with each other. As time goes on, and he becomes a more callous master, things begin to change. His visage on the castles becomes more sinister. He takes delight in putting on (and betting on) private war-games and matches against other exotic life-forms in the tank for his friends.

Eventually, his old girlfriend, outraged by the violent shows he puts on, smashes the tank. The sandkings escape and take over his home. After his residence has been rendered uninhabitable, he contacts Wo and learns the truth: the sandkings will eventually turn into human-sized bipeds; Shade himself is a sandking. Fleeing into the desert, he loses his way before finding a cabin. Thinking himself safe, he runs towards it, only to discover that it is inhabited by sandkings- and that all of them have his face.

Genesis

Martin says that the story was inspired by a fellow student at Northwestern University who had a piranha tank and would sometimes throw a goldfish into it in between horror film screenings. He had intended it to be part of a series, with Wo and Shade operating shops on many different planets, but that did not pan out.

Adaptions and anthologies

Sandkings is far and away Martin's most anthologized story. It was made into a comic book and an episode of "The Outer Limits".


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