When It Changed by Joanna Russ

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Social Concerns / Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The central event of "When It Changed" is the arrival on the planet Whileaway of a space vehicle full of men. Whileaway had been colonized by men and women from Earth, but all the men had died of a mysterious plague some 600 years before the story begins. The women have devised technologies of survival — both for reproduction by the merging of ova and for conducting the heavy labor needed to sustain civilization — and have evolved a society that is not presented as perfect, but that is richly satisfying to most of the women so long as they are willing to accept both its limitations and its communal character.

The narrator, Janet, is caught between her wife Katy's violent reaction to the men's arrival (Katy feels they "should have burned them down where they stood") and their daughter Yuki's derisive dismissal of the men as "ten-foot toads." Janet senses that neither violence nor humor will suffice to head off the inevitable changes in...

(The entire section is 318 words.)