A few days ago I was discussing SF/Fantasy with unusual subject matter with a friend and he mentioned this short story.
I realized I had read it as well a long time ago, but neither of us can remember much detail about it.
We are hoping the unusual subject is trigger enough for someone to identify it.

We read it around 1990, give or take a few years, as a Dutch translation in a bundle of short stories. The story itself could be quite a bit older as Dutch publishing houses at the time often bought these short-stories in bulk from British and American publishers and it was usually not the newest material they got.

What we remember for certain:
The setting is a small town in a dystopian near-future. It's not really hardcore SF. We can't remember any mention of high-tech, etc.
For some reason in this nation almost all men are infertile. (Reason we can't remember, possibly war/bio-weapon.) The few men who are fertile work for the government and go around the country impregnating women.
They will approach a woman and have sex with her. This could happen at the woman's home, in the street, at work, basically anywhere even in public.
Main character is a woman in her 20's/30's who expects to be due soon for such a visit.
She worries about it. She is married and wonders how her husband will react if it happens. Will she like the sex. Would it be more like rape?

Some other points, that only one of us thinks to remember, we are not certain about these:
The town might be sea-side: I vaguely recall a sea-side boulevard or promenade being mentioned. For some reason I associate the setting with an English sea-side resort like Blackpool, Brighton or Torquay.
According to my friend the fertile men wear uniforms (including masks) that cover the entire body except for the genital area.

Neither of us can recall if the main character actually gets pregnant in the story.

It is not much to go on, but hopefully someone remembers it.

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    Obligatory TVTropes link: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SterilityPlague
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 16:57
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    @FuzzyBoots I had already checked that. Some interesting stuff, but not the one I'am looking for.
    – Tonny
    Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 17:07
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    @FuzzyBoots Obligatory TV Tropes warning: It will eat your day. Almost as badly as this site will.
    – Mithical
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 14:42
  • That sounds like a crazy version of "Children Of Men" novel. The film swaps the genders of sterility around though and I don't remember the book being that bat-shit crazy
    – user001
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 14:59
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    @DCOPTimDowd Basically because she was the right age. Just about any female in the right age bracket would be visited sooner or later.
    – Tonny
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 14:45

3 Answers 3


Not all of the details line up, but your description reminds me of "Welcome to the Monkey House" by Kurt Vonnegut.

  • Everyone takes an anti-aging shot twice a year, so the government is focused on population control.
  • The government distributes "ethical birth control" to reduce sexual desire (though people are, in fact, still fertile).
  • The main character is a woman named Nancy who looks 22 years old.
  • The story takes place in a small town named Hyannis, near Cape Cod.
  • Contained in a bundle of short stories. Published in 1968 and thus likely to have been translated by 1990.
  • There is one man who approaches women to have sex with them, though he is an outlaw.
  • Your friend's description of the uniformed workers seems reminiscent of the women who work in the Ethical Suicide Parlors.

Summary (emphasis mine):

In the not-so-distant future, a criminal mastermind named Billy the Poet is on the loose and on his way to Cape Cod. His goal is to deflower one of the hostesses at the Ethical Suicide Parlor in Hyannis. The world government runs the parlors and urges people to commit suicide to help keep the population of 17 billion stable. It also requires that the hostesses at these establishments be virgins on the basis that this would make the idea of suicide more appealing, especially to middle-aged men and older. The government also suppresses the population’s sexual desire with a drug that numbs them from the waist down (but does not render them infertile, as that is seen as unethical and violative of the religious principles of many). This drug is called "Ethical Birth Control", and was originally developed by a druggist who had been offended when on a family outing to the zoo the group were confronted by the sight of a male monkey masturbating. Billy is a member of a sureptitious group called the "Nothingheads", people who refuse to take the government-required drugs. Despite a sting by the authorities, Billy the Poet outwits them and kidnaps a six-foot blonde suicide parlor hostess, Nancy McLuhan. McLuhan vows to fight Billy to the very end, but the drugs wear off, and when she is raped by Billy, her mind opens as well. Billy convinces her that sex and death aren’t the answer – birth control pills are. In the end, Billy lets Nancy go, but she is forever a changed woman and apparently a convert to Nothingheadism. Billy sends her a note attached to a bottle of birth control pills which says simply, "Welcome to the Monkey House".

  • Sounds like An interesting read but it doesn't ring any bells. It feels as, if I had read this, I would have remembered at least some part of it. So I have to conclude this isn't the one I'am looking for.
    – Tonny
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 18:26

Could it be Unto the Last Generation by Juanita Coulson. Everyone is infertile due to population control technology, an 8 year old girl shows up and everyone tries to figure out where she came from? It doesn't match up entirely, but has some of the same essential plot points.

Or Edward P. Hughes, Masters of the Fist (1989) which is a series of short stories about a village in Ireland where all the men are infertile.

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    Can you add plot summaries and/or GoodReads links to indicate how you feel these answers match up?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 18:45
  • From the summaries I've seen neither of those titles is in the right direction.
    – Tonny
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 20:22

The book you were discussing was "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood, a dystopian novel published in 1985 (I think!).

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    Unfortunately no. Others made that suggestion too, but from what I gather from the Wikipedia info it isn't even close. The Handmaids Tale is a book and a movie and I am 100% sure I have never read the book or seen the movie. I'm specifically looking for a short story.
    – Tonny
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 16:11
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    In Handmaid's Tale the women are infertile, impregnation doesn't happen in the woman's home or the street, there aren't uniforms, and it isn't set in Britain. Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 18:01
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    There are uniforms in it though, they're color-based and very important. But the rest doesn't match up.
    – Pwassonne
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 22:23
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    Yeah I thought of this too when I read the preface description but I remember Handmaiden's Tale as a 250+ page monster paperback that was an absolute SOB to read, and also that both genders were equally likely to be infertile but the men in charge denied that they could be.
    – Ash
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 12:55

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