When It Changed
|"When It Changed"|
|Published in||Again, Dangerous Visions|
|Publication type||Short story|
"When It Changed" is a science fiction short story by Joanna Russ. It won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story in 1972, and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story 1973. It was included in Harlan Ellison's anthology Again, Dangerous Visions and Nebula Award Stories Eight.
Janet Evason lives on Whileaway, an all-female human colony planet whose inhabitants produce offspring by chemically combining ova because all their males died in a plague 30 generations earlier. When male astronauts arrive from Earth, they assume that Whileaway society must be in some way deficient, and announce that they will reproduce with the women. Janet's wife tries to kill the astronauts; Janet stops her, but realizes that their very existence will change Whileaway society forever.
In the afterword, Russ states "When It Changed" was written to challenge ideas in science fiction that had not, at the time of writing, been addressed. These ideas were related to the way women—and societies consisting solely of women—were handled by writers who are male.
I have read SF stories about manless worlds before; they are either full of busty girls in wisps of chiffon who slink about writhing with lust (Keith Laumer wrote a charming, funny one called "The War with the Yukks"), or the women have set up a static, beelike society in imitation of some presumed primitive matriarchy. These stories are written by men. Why women who have been alone for generations should "instinctively" turn their sexual desires toward persons of whom they have only intellectual knowledge, or why female people are presumed to have an innate preference for Byzantine rigidity, I don't know.
Awards and nominations
- Nebula Award for Best Short Story 1973
- Hugo Award for Best Short Story nominee 1973
- James Tiptree, Jr. Award (retroactive, 1996)