The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Three centuries after most of Earth is devastated and left radioactive by wars, human survivors have evolved a dual civilization. Most men, as well as boys from an early age, live in military garrisons learning martial arts and military values. All women, aided by a handful of pacific male servitors and small children, live in womens country, small communities dominated by females and by the feminine values of nurturance, nonviolence, and love. Sexual intercourse between members of the womens towns and garrison males is permitted only during periodic Carnival Times.

In The Gate to Women’s Country, Sheri S. Tepper’s feminist, post-holocaust novel, the principal womens community is Marthatown (there are a dozen others). Its main figures are Morgot, the chief medical officer and a Council member; her children, Stavia, Myra, and Jerby; and her old male servitors, Jik and Joshua. The male garrison, which has dwindled gradually in numbers, is led by Stephon, Michael, and Besset, officers who suspect that Marthatown’s women possess a secret that might strengthen garrison forces as they prepare for the day when they may conquer womens country.

To ferret out the women’s secret, the garrison command enlists Chernon, a young warrior eager to win their approval. He is the son of Morgot’s friend Sylvia. Cold-bloodedly, Chernon cultivates the affections of Morgots daughter, Stavia, in the hope that Stavia can learn and pass on to him the...

(The entire section is 435 words.)