This is a guest post by Stevie
It’s not a completely happy world, by any means, and the crones are wise enough to mourn sometimes the absence of old farts. But in the end it was found necessary. There was no other way to end the warring that threatened total extinction. The boys play, squabble and labour. The elder boys are used for pleasure and baby-making. The forms of ritual and remembrance for dead boys are highly elaborate, but most women grow out of devotion to such cults and direct their passions into their work and their relationships with other women. They may enjoy boys now and then but they don’t break their hearts over them, having as they do the record of devastation wrought by men in the centuries preceding “the Change”, the “Pause o’ Men”. It had been argued among the designers of the fatal strain that if things didn’t work out, the technology was there to engineer men back into being, but this had been found unnecessary. The further away in historical time those wars became, the more unimaginably fearful and oppressive the lives of the ancestral mothers had seemed. Man and his once necessary ultraviolence: this whole tradition had been excised by the Change.
The crones teach that it was largely a question of technological development, which had revealed humans to be the greatest single natural hazard to their own continued existence. But it had also provided an opportunity to neutralise the threat while reaping the rewards of millennia. Men, although locked into a historical nightmare of seemingly endless war, each peace gestating something more terrible still, were able by the end to work through the logic of their “Enlightenment” and see that new technology had made them not only redundant but fatally dangerous: negative-sum-gamers. The fruit of this Enlightenment known broadly as “feminism” was already evident in the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft – as a dialectical conjugate to the patriarchal skepticism of Edmund Burke. Yet 200 years later, at the opening of the 21st century “CE”, few legislatures had anywhere near a representative proportion of women among their members. Politics and statecraft were driven by strategic conflicts between large standing military organizations. Alongside the blooming of chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons technology in the century preceding the Change, there emerged a slow synthesis of the feminist and the courtly, as the phrase “women and children first” was modified into an understanding that, if there was to be anything like a human future, it would have to be women and children only. To their credit, the last men did not much resist this outcome. They hoped a better life would await their daughters, and that their sons would have happier, though shorter, careers.
Naturally, there is still criminality: boy-fight pits are occasionally exposed and shut down. Any women attending or organizing or profiting from such enterprises are barred for life from both public office and TV.
There are jealousies and rivalries and even murders; there are accidents and catastrophes but there has been no war for a hundred years. Disease levels are also markedly down, while food surpluses and biodiversity are up. An average middle-grade technician in an ordinary agripolis makes enough to run a household, raise a daughter and perhaps keep a boy of her own, or sponsor one or more in the boy-pool. They are funny, the boys: they make up songs and stand on their heads. They work hard but they don’t have studies to worry about and have plenty of playtime – and as they mature, they are all too happy to help with the baby-making, profoundly consoled by this work, before the genetic switch shuts them down, makes them safe, usually within weeks of their 20th birthdays.
On its release, the pauseomen virus had attacked adult men (women too spluttered and sneezed for a few days, but were otherwise unharmed). It got them right in the balls, inserting a set of dominant alleles into male spermatozoa that would truncate the lifespans of all subsequent generations of human males. The viral agent targeted Y chromosomes only, and introduced a suite of genes designed to bring about sudden multiple organ failure in men at an age which today averages 19.8 years.
The effects of the pathogen only became apparent 20 years after its release, as boys began to reach the critical age and die in their hundreds of millions. At first, some geneticists, hampered by a subtle campaign of sabotage and occasional assassination, had raced to produce a “cure”. But this proved awfully difficult to do with societies collapsing all over the place, as it became clear that all boys and young men carried the deadly alterations in their chromosomes. Not many years after this threshold was crossed, the world’s military forces had begun to disintegrate: there were few effective infantry units left among the great armies. After a decade or so, what fighting fraternities remained were made up of the middle-aged, the senile and numbers of doomed and distraught adolescents. These militias quickly faded altogether and the world’s military hardware lay idle and unloved. Terrorist cadre greyed and mellowed or despaired, their ideologies washed up.
Priesthoods and patriarchies of all kinds began finally to dissolve.
Over the following decades there was a population crash without precedent and many of the megacities were abandoned altogether.
The world was, to a large extent, laid waste. Population stabilised, however, and a new form of social organization emerged as the last old farts died off. Some thousands of women had been clandestinely recruited to the pauseomen cause, and trained and prepared secretly in the years before the Change. These women bravely founded new worlds. The horror of the Change was submerged under oceans of tears; the last men vanished from the face of the earth, leaving women, girls and boys. These new societies did not, to be sure, dominate the earth and world population more or less levelled out in the low billions. Then it began to grow, ever so slowly, as woman’s longevity extended year by year to the point where global average life expectancy for a new-born girl has passed 70 years.
And they all live happily enough, for now. Sometimes a fretful soul will scan the stars and imagine an alien fleet, carrying brute armies of thugs and goons, pederasts and parasites, to bring ruin and degradation. She shivers at the thought of her society’s inverse: a world where her sex are doomed to die before they are 20, used for pleasure, breeding and drudgery and then tossed aside by their masters and fathers, whose monosexually male adult world… but then she catches herself, laughing quietly at this grisly counterfactual as someone refills her glass.