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A friend of mine remembers a very short (just a page or two) science fiction story in which a macho astronaut landed on a planet of women, who were first amused then irritated by his chest-beating mannerisms. When he insisted on proving his valor against mortal peril, they injected him with a disease that had a fifty-fifty chance of killing him. Alas, he cannot the author (Joanna Russ? James Tiptree, Jr.?), but it was definitely by a woman; nor where he read it. However, the story was from no later than the 1980s; and the 1970s are more likely, since he was still reading SF on a regular basis then.

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    It feels a little unsubtle for Russ or Tiptree. I have a reasonably complete collection of both authors and cannot find a story like that from either. Feb 26 at 10:07
  • @JohnRennie Yeah, if it had been one of those two, he probably would have located the story himself.
    – Buzz
    Feb 26 at 14:26
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    @JohnRennie yeah... Tiptree's version of this would be Houston, Houston, do you read? and it's both subtler and crueler. I feel this describes most of Tiptree, really :)
    – Andres F.
    Feb 26 at 14:59

1 Answer 1

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"When It Changed" by Joanna Russ (1972, in "Again, Dangerous Visions") is so famous that it hasn't been in an answer probably because of the mismatch: the women did not try to kill him by injecting a disease. And "Men!" -- plural -- landed.

But it keeps nagging at me as a close match in several ways. I still remember it sharply from freakin' years ago. After the first alarm call of plural "Men!" have landed, the conversations are with a single man.

They (it says "four of them") landed on the planet Whileaway, knowing only that there had been a plague on Whileaway. It had killed all of the male colonists generations back. The female colonists had perforce managed to make a successful life and community on the new planet for thirty generations.

After that plural mention, all of the conversations are between several colonists and a single man. He is rather obnoxious. Several times he repeatedly asks the people on this planet, "Where are all your people?" and "Where I come from, the women don't dress so plainly."

Then there are conversations between the colonists and another man, in a similar pattern.

Each one is dismissive of the colonists as "people". Each one makes it clear they have come for breeding and new genetic material.

Although the men are egregiously dismissive, overbearing, and tactless enough to make the conversations seem painfully long, the story is short, only about three pages.

It is told in the first person.

The nearly-attempted murder is here too. (Just not an injected disease agent.) The narrator's partner raised a rifle to shoot the man with whom they had been conversing, just after he had gone into his provided quarters and shut the screen door.

It was unsuccessful only because the narrator pushed the rifle barrel off aim as it was firing.

And that becomes clear that that was When It Changed.

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  • He says it's not this one. The injection with a 50% chance of killing him was definitely part of it.
    – Buzz
    Mar 6 at 1:23
  • Dang! That said on behalf of both of us. So, we both keep looking. Mar 12 at 16:16

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