I'm trying to track down a short story that I read in high school (1989-1993), in English, in the USA. I think the story was in a collection of short stories in a paperback book. I have the vague impression that the book was quite a bit older than that, from the 1970's or 80's, but that's just an impression, I have no specific evidence to believe that.

The story is about a human who is sent to a colony of recently contacted (or conquered) insect people (bee-like aliens) who until very recently fought brutal, bloody wars amongst themselves.

The recently arrived humans had put a stop to the wars, and now the insect people were depressed, as a species. They may have even begun dying out.

The human specialist determined that this particular race of aliens had an innate biological need for war, and, so he convinces (possibly orders?) the local authorities to allow the wars to start again, and the insect people are immediately happy.

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    It wouldn’t be The Genocidal Healer by James White, would it? That does have extraterrestrials whose metabolisms require them to fight, and it was published in 1992. However, it’s a novel, not a short story, and its plot resolves much differently than the plot you describe.
    – Tom Zych
    Aug 21, 2017 at 8:31

1 Answer 1


Some parts of this are reminiscent of the 1952 story "The Kokod Warriors" by Jack Vance.

bee-like aliens

The head was narrow and peaked - the torso was that of a bee - long, pointed covered with yellow down.

The Kokod fight ritual wars among themselves, do-gooder humans want to shut them down.

..to halt the Kokod wars, it will be necessary to alter the genetic heritage, glandular makeup, training, instinct, and general outlook on life of each of the countless Kokod warriors.

Differences include that the Kokod are not recent contactees, and the effort to stop the wars is unsuccessful.

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    That is totally it! I don't recognize the cover, but the descriptions of the stories inside the book all sound familiar to me! I'll have to pick up a copy of this collection! I must have misremembered some of those details - thank you very much! I'd completely forgotten the point about aliens betting on the wars. isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?50555
    – Alex Bates
    Aug 22, 2017 at 0:41
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    You're most welcome! This story is very witty and shows Jack Vance at his best. If you like it, try and find "The Many Worlds of Magnus Ridolph" collection which includes other stories about the protagonist. Aug 22, 2017 at 0:48
  • I'll check them out! Thanks for the tip!
    – Alex Bates
    Aug 24, 2017 at 2:38

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