“The Singular Habits of Wasps” — Geoffrey Landis

Geoffrey A. Landis is the author of the books Mars Crossing and Impact Parameter and Other Quantum Realities. He is also the author of more than eighty short stories, which have appeared in venues such as Analog, Asimov’s, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and has been reprinted frequently in best-of-the-year volumes. He is the winner of the Nebula, Hugo (twice), and Locus awards for his fiction, and a Rhysling Award for SF poetry. In addition to his science fiction writing, Landis works for the NASA John Glenn Research Center, where he was part of the Mars Pathfinder rover team and the Mars Exploration Rover science team.

The character Sherlock Holmes was largely based on Dr. Joseph Bell, with whom Conan Doyle studied at medical school. Bell was renowned for making diagnoses on the basis of simple observation, and also for drawing seemingly inexplicable deductions about a patient—for example, that he had been walking earlier in a particular area of the city—based on minute details, such as the color of clay on the person’s shoes. Bell was instrumental in the development of forensic science, and local law enforcement often consulted with him to help them crack tough cases, including the case of Jack the Ripper. Bell sent police a sealed envelope containing the name of the individual he believed to be responsible, and after that the murders stopped. Jack the Ripper was the world’s first celebrity serial killer. He preyed on prostitutes in the Whitechapel district of London and is perhaps still the most famous of all such killers, despite having slain only a handful of victims. His fame can most likely be attributed to his evocative sobriquet and to the enduring mystery surrounding his identity and motive. Our next story presents a chilling and unexpected explanation for the Ripper’s grisly crimes.