This story is comprised of various letters or notes by different people which forms a narrative about a future after a “rapture” that apparently removed all genders except female from Earth - and the status quo is disrupted when someone has a male daughter.

This female with male genitals - as Timothy is described since the story is devoid of any male pronouns - tries to live a normal life but unsurprisingly also gets a lot of negative attention. The existence of Timothy creates public debate about gender roles and the apparent dangers of reintroducing male genes into the population.

Swanwick creates an interesting and layered future world in less than 4000 words. The structure of having just small notes from different people allows the reader to assemble the details without the need for artificial exposition. The letters feel natural within this very different future.

This story caused a bit of a debate on the Clarkesworld Discord server, which made me reread it since I didn’t make much of a note of it the first time. I think it is a well written story that infers some thoughts about gender-roles in the reader. But it still mostly built on a binary view of gender and thus it doesn’t really break any new ground in 2023. It doesn’t do much more than Le Guin and Tiptree did about 50 years ago.

However, the ending sums things up rather nicely.

Who was I? Okay, I knew I was male, but what did that mean? The only people who could have told me died hundreds of years ago. The experts said all kinds of things about male women. All with absolute conviction. Meanwhile, I had no idea what a man was like—and I was one!

That was then. Now all that matters to me is being a good father to my child. Whatever that might mean.

Read in Clarkesworld October 2023
Rating: 3+