With the Y: The Last Man film coming in 2010, we’ll soon get a big-screen treatment of Brian K. Vaughan’s world without men. All-female societies are not uncommon in science fiction, from culturally advanced utopias to post-apocalyptic sex comedies. Far less common are societies where men live, either by choice or circumstance, with few or no women. How do these societies come about? How do they perpetuate themselves without the opposite sex? And what happens to men when the women disappear from their lives?World Without Women by Day Keene and Leonard Pruyn (1960) How it happened: A mysterious illness kills off all the women in the world save a few. How they reproduce: Unfortunately, all the women have been rendered barren, except one who was living in isolation during the plague. How it works: The now largely male society becomes obsessed with the surviving women, with most states declaring martial law. Men who harass or assault women are shot, prostitution is legalized, and some countries require their remaining women to enter polyandrous marriages.
The White Plague by Frank Herbert (1982) How it happened: A molecular biologist, driven mad by the loss of his wife and children by the IRA, concocts and releases a deadly biological weapon that affects only women. How they reproduce: A very small handful of women were successfully inoculated against the plague. How it works: The world returns to a semblance of stability, with the decimation of the female population finally uniting a once-divided world, a unity that extends to the sharing of breeding women like any other natural resource. Childbirth becomes the primary function of able women and is quickly commoditized, with women agreeing to carry the children of important military officials in exchange for protection and influence. “A Man’s World” by Alan Moore (1985) How it happened: The Culacaons are all naturally male. How they reproduce: Through the act of “gamugha,” in which one party meets an unpleasant end. How it works: The system works out fine for the Culacaon, but it can lead to some cross-cultural misunderstandings.
Hatching Stones by Anna Wilson (1991) How it happens: When cloning becomes a technological feasibility, men find that they prefer cloning themselves to having natural-born children. Women become increasingly rare from generation to generation, until the few remaining women go into voluntary exile. How they reproduce: Men have themselves cloned. How it works: The men offer women exile to quell political tensions between men wish to employ cloning as the exclusive means of reproduction and women who seek a return to natural childbirth. The clones, who are portrayed as the product of their predecessors’ narcissism, live a happily hedonistic existence but suffer from a lack of personal identity.
The Disappearance by Philip Wylie (1951) How it happened: A single dimension shifted suddenly and mysteriously in two, with one universe populated entirely with males and the other populated entirely with females. How they reproduce: The universes remerge before it ever comes to that. How it works: Neither dimension functions well without the other. The infrastructure and technological capabilities of the male universe remains intact, but violence breaks out around the world, forcing men to achieve their ends by force. “The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal” by Cordwainer Smith (1964) How it happened: On the planet Arachosia, feminity is carcinogenic, so one female scientist devises a way to make the entire population male. How they reproduce: In making the females male, the scientist also ensures that humans on Arachosia continue by developing a system whereby males can carry male children, remaking humans as the klopt. How it works: Without women, the klopt descend into a dysfunctional, nightmarish society filled with violence. Having not seen other humans in generations, they remember women as abominations, and consequently believed that all humans of the two-gendered variety should be destroyed.
The Guardians of the Universe (Green Lantern) How it happened: The male Malthusians sought to combat evil and promote order in the universe, establishing orders such as the Green Lantern Corps. The female Malthusians, however, had no interest in meddling in the affairs of other species (or disapproved of the Guardians’ decision to suppress their emotions, depending on where you are in the continuity) and left the males to guard the universe alone. How they reproduce: The Malthusians, known later as the Oans, are immortal and have no need to reproduce. How it works: All goes well until a battle with Hal Jordan, under the influence of Parallax, destroys Oa and nearly all the Guardians. When Kyle Rayner, as the nearly omnipotent Ion, decides to resurrect the Guardians, he makes them male and female, deciding they could benefit from both perspectives.
Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold (1986) How it happened: Believing that women have a demonic quality that inspires madness in men, a group of men settled on Athos to lead a monastic (though not asexual) existence free from women. How they reproduce: Athos receives eggs from female donors on other planets. The eggs are then fertilized with Y chromosome-carrying sperm from the intended father, and implanted inside and birthed from a uterine replicator. How it works: Athos represents one of fiction’s rare all-male utopias. Strongly family-oriented, men in the agrarian society form both romantic and platonic parenting relationships and tight-knit family units. But this society is preserved through strict controls on information. Men are taught from an early age that women of evil, monstrous beings, and all incoming news is heavily censored.