The Stepford Wives
By Ira Levin
I don’t often hear The Stepford Wives discussed as an SF novel, which is strange. The nerds of Stepford have whipped up next-gen sexbots (a.k.a. “toys for needy children”) in their local research park, and while the nuts and bolts of just how these sexy helpmeets work isn’t gone into in any detail, they are clearly products of Silicon Valley and the RAND Corporation as much as Madison Ave.
What I was most struck by in returning to this book today is how well it holds up. As Dave Chappelle puts it in one of his stand-up routines, a woman only has to know four ways to please a man: “suck his dick, play with his balls, make him a sandwich, and don’t talk so much.” To this we might add keeping the house immaculate. Having fulfilled their reproductive duty, the real wives of Stepford are expendable. And the husbands, watching their porno films at the Men’s Association, know exactly what they want in terms of an upgrade/replacement.
A satire? Yes, but one without any laughs because it’s a totally heartless vision of relationships that hits far too close to home. And, in the twenty-first century with all our anxiety over robots and AIs taking our jobs, hitting closer every day.