When It Changed

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"When It Changed"
Short story by Joanna Russ
Genre(s)Science Fiction
Published inAgain, Dangerous Visions
Publication typeShort story
Publication date1972

"When It Changed" is a science fiction short story by American writer Joanna Russ. It was first published in the anthology Again, Dangerous Visions.


Janet Evason lives on Whileaway, an all-female human colony planet whose inhabitants produce offspring by combining ova because all their males died in a plague 30 generations earlier. When male astronauts arrive from Earth, they say that Earth has become genetically deficient and tell her that they would like to reproduce with women. Janet's wife tries to kill the astronauts; Janet stops her, but realizes that their very existence will change Whileaway society forever.


"When It Changed" won the 1972 Nebula Award for Best Short Story,[1] and was a finalist for the 1973 Hugo Award for Best Short Story.[2]


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. She wrote:

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.[3]

(Note: The Laumer story was actually named “War Against the Yukks”.)

Russ also mentions Ursula K. Le Guin's novel The Left Hand of Darkness as an influence on the story.

Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ When It Changed, at Science Fiction Writers of America; retrieved October 27, 20128
  2. ^ 1973 Hugo Awards, at TheHugoAwards.org; retrieved October 28, 2018
  3. ^ Russ, Joanna. "When It Changed". Sci Fiction. Archived from the original on May 14, 2008. Retrieved February 29, 2016.

External links[edit]