The female of the species vanished on the afteron of the second Tuesday of February at four minutes and fifty-two seconds past four o'clock, Eastern Standard Time. The event occurred universally at the same instant, without regard to time belts, and was followed by such phemena as might be expected after happenings of that nature. On a lazy, quiet afteron, in the blink of an eye, our world shatters into two parallel universes as men vanish from women and women from men. After families and loved ones separate from one ather, life continues in very different ways for men and women, boys and girls. An explosion of violence sweeps one world that still operates techlogically; social stability and peace in the other are offset by famine and a widespread breakdown in machinery and science. And as we learn from the fascinating parallel stories of a brilliant couple, Bill and Paula Gaunt, the foundations of relationships, love, and sex are scrutinized, tested, and sometimes redefined in both worlds. The radically divergent trajectories of the gendered histories reveal stark truths about the rigidly defined expectations placed on men and women and their sexual relationships and make clear how much society depends on interconnection between the sexes. Written over a half century ago yet brimming with insight and unsettling in its relevance today, The Disappearance is a masterpiece of modern speculative fiction.
Philip Wylie (1902-71) is the author of Gladiator and the coauthor of When Worlds Collide, both available in Bison Books editions. Acclaimed science-fiction writer Robert Silverberg is the recipient of many awards, including the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards, and the Grand Master designation from the Science Fiction Writers of America, the highest science-fiction honor available. He is the author of Lord Valentine's Castle.