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Anime & Manga
- Fafner in the Azure: Dead Aggressor: The Festum did this to Japan, prompting the Alvis project which gave rise to artificial reproduction, and, by the same token, genetically engineered supersoldiers (i.e. our heroes) born to fight the Festum. The plague is cured somehow by the final episode as a Someone to Remember Him By.
- Specifically, what happened was that when Japan was turned sterile, the rest of the world got scared shitless that the Festum had that kind of power, and were even more scared that it was contagious (it wasn't). Their solution? Nuke Japan into nonexistence. The surviving Japanese basically said "screw this, we want to live", and then went ahead violating every ethical code in the book when it came to bio-engineering and cloning in order to ensure their survival.
- Vandread: The heroes come across a planet in the second season which had this done to them by Earth. Needless to say, they cure it.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Third-generation Coordinators (like Lacus Clyne) suffer from this, due to their modified genes and the human body being unable to handle the changes correctly. During both it and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, there has been no cure to this infliction and many Coordinators (such as Patrick Zala) refuse to entertain the idea of mating with Naturals (unmodified humans). "Marriage laws" to boost fertility are mentioned in passing several times, although what exactly these laws are isn't ever explained. It might explain why Athrun and Lacus were engaged at a young age, though, and the fact that Yzak's mother gave birth to him at 17 is apparently a result of their aggressive pro-birth policies.
- In Animal Land, the Zelyda Disease is what killed off the original humans of the world.
- In The Boyfriend Story, one of the stories in the horror manga anthology Screaming Lessons, this is brought about by humans perfecting a cell app that allows for the creation of perfect holographic replicas to serve as the existing humans' companions of any sort. Friends, lovers, spouses, children. With this, the need for meaningful human interaction and consequently birth rates plummet, leading to a world populated solely by replicas.
- Sunday Without God: For whatever reason, when people stopped being able to die, they also stopped being able to give birth. This makes Ai's existence even more perplexing, as she was born three years after that fateful day God supposedly abandoned humanity.
- In one storyline in Captain America, Superia attempted to release a plague that would sterilize the world's female population except for her and her cadre of supervillainesses. As the only fertile women in the world, they would essentially have been able to hold the world to ransom. She didn't seem to have considered the idea that the world would probably decide to hold her prisoner in order to use her as breeding stock to prevent the human species from dying out.
- An EC Comics story (based on a prose short story) has female sterility happen as a result of cosmic radiation—after enough years that even the last born child is a senior citizen, they finally develop a time travel gate with the catch that they can only set it up once, and it will be immobile. And travel to the future renders one amnesiac. So the future people set up their gate/trap in New York City in the 1950s; lots of people there to grab. But everyone who comes through the gate is male! Turns out they've set their time gate up in the men's room at Grand Central Station, a place no woman would voluntarily enter.
- In almost the Exact Words of the Laconic ("No more mutants!"), the Scarlet Witch used her Reality Warping powers to not only depopulate the mutant species, but also to prevent mutant births from happening in the future. Since House of M ended, there have only been six mutant births in total. This was undone at the end of Avengers vs. X-Men.
- A major plot point in the Gallimaufry arc of Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire is the outbreak of an engineered virus that completely eliminates human sex drive.
- Bad guys once dropped a bomb on Vartox's home planet Valeron, rendering his people sterile. Vartox attempted to seduce Power Girl into breeding the next generation, but she instead found a way to cure his people's sterility.
- The Stargate SG-1 fanfic Bless the Children by Maureen T sees SG-1 meet a race of aliens with a fertility problem and an unusual solution, the consequences of which drives the plot of the story.
- In The Negotiations-verse, it's revealed that all of the newfoals are sterile and haven't even had much desire to mate in the years since their conversions. Celestia states in the third story Truth that she never intended for this to happen and hoped to rectify it after the war, but it becomes a moot point after Equestria is defeated by humanity and Twilight gets to working on a potion that can give the converts their real bodies and minds back.
Films — Live-Action
- The whole premise of Children of Men. It's 2027, and the last child was born 18 years ago. For some reason, women all over the world just stopped being able to have kids. The world has descended into nihilistic mayhem, Britain is the only still-barely-functioning nation state (and it's an oppressive fascist hellhole) and most people are just sitting around in depression, waiting for the human race to die out.
- The Handmaid's Tale's movie adaptation has this as part of its backstory, just like the original book. Birth rates have drastically fallen due to pollution and sexually transmitted diseases rendering much of the population sterile. This spurs an extreme religious sect to seize power, making the remaining fertile women into "handmaids", or sex slaves of the regime's male leaders.
- In Logan, mutantkind is dying out because no new mutants have been born for twenty years. This is due to Transigen using GMO corn syrup to suppress the X-gene. However it's never clearly established whether mutant parents simply have non-mutant children, or if they can't have children at all.
- The Elven Kingdom of the book series Sanctuary, whose males have all been rendered sterile by a curse from the God of Death have been unable to produce any pure blooded children for hundreds of years, with many Elven woman turning to the lesser mortal races to produce half-breed children instead. One of their most holy figures is the Youngest Elf in the world, the only full-blooded Elven child born since the issue began, who they believe will one day save them from their sterility. It is later revealed that a small isolated community of elves, who have existed on the edge of the Elven race and are largely ignored, have been able to reproduce the whole time, but have kept it a secret because they feel they owe nothing to the Elven Kingdom, which has long treated them as disposable assets.
- A Brother's Price has a variant where women can have babies just fine, but most male babies are stillborn or miscarried. This doesn't seem to affect the population much, though, as sisters usually share a husband. The cause of the Sterility Plague is unclear, the characers don't remember a time where it was different. Due to the nature of the sterility, it is likely that it was caused by environmental pollution, see the real life example for low male birthrate below.
- "But, you see, there aren't any children. They aren't born." The last line and premise of Stephen Vincent Benet's anti-war poem Nightmare for Future Reference, first published in the April 2, 1938 issue of The New Yorker magazine.
- Due to insufficient research on long term effects, the "cure" for AIDS turns out to be one of these in the first third of the novel The Breeds Of Man by making it impossible for women to have more than one child. The second third is about trying to find a cure for the cure before it's too late, and the last third is about trying to find a way to cure the cure for the cure (since the protagonists just can't stop breaking things).
- In Gulliver's Travels, the Houyhnhnms decide the best way of wiping out the Yahoos is to castrate them all. They got the inspiration for this from Gulliver's description of how horses are treated in England (male horses were castrated to break their spirits and control the population.)
- The novel Children of Men by P.D.James, as noted with the film adaptation, is an archetype of this trope.
- In The Belgariad's past, when Gorim of the godless finally got a god to accept him, he asked for his people to follow and cursed those who refused with sterility. In Belgarath The Sorcerer he expresses regret on this and surprise that the curse wasn't lifted.
- In Bumped, a virus went around causing all adults to be sterile. As a result, adults will pay lots of money to teenagers (and in extreme cases, preteens) to be surrogates.
- In Prized, the sequel to Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien, Gaia travels to Sylum, a matriarchy where 9 out of every 10 babies are male, so females are prized members of society. On top of that, a couple hundred of the men are infertile. It is revealed that some sort of problem with the water is causing the men to be intersex, thus making them infertile.
- Le Dernier Homme is an 1805 science fiction novel written as a prose poem where humanity as a whole is going sterile. It involves the voyage of the last fertile man to meet the last fertile woman only to meet with Adam, who has been charged by God to convince the couple to not reproduced, thereby allowing the world to end and be reborn.
- In Childhood's End it is mentioned that there is no biological reason for more children to be born, when the existing children start to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
- In Alien Chronicles, the Dancing Death severely reduced the population of the Viis, and is believed to be responsible for their now much lower fertility and high rates of mutation. They keep many races of slaves, one of which is ironically an Explosive Breeder.
- The villain in one of the Dirk Pitt novels intended to sterilize the human race this way, or at least half of it, as more "humane" than wiping them out. Pitt calls him a "freak" for this.
- The Handmaid's Tale: A main cause of the revolution that created the Republic of Gilead was widespread sterility. The few fertile women, dubbed Handmaids, are assigned to the households of powerful men for the express purpose of producing children. Unfortunately, if the men aren't fertile, the women are blamed for it. However, Gileadean doctrine forbids men to be mentioned as the ones who are sterile and instead places all the blame on women.
- In the novel Mr. Adam, a journalist discovers that no woman has become pregnant since the accidental explosion of a nuclear weapons stockpile.
- Earth in Old Man's War had a more limited version of this a few decades ago; male fertility was sharply reduced, and birth rates still aren't quite back yet in the developed world. Since it was an alien virus, the planet remains under quarantine to avoid a more thorough sequel. Except it wasn't alien at all; the colonial authority created it to justify the quarantine in a bid to snatch power from terrestrial governments.
- In William Barton and Michael Capobianco's Alpha Centauri the organization known as Indigo developed "autoviroids" that replicate in infected men's sperm and destroy the eggs of women they have sex with. This is intended to solve the solar system's overpopulation crisis. Their agent Mies manages to infect all but one of the women on the Alpha Centauri expedition.
- This comes to afflict all of humanity in Galápagos, with the only people unafflicted being a tour group marooned on the eponymous island. As the narrator is a ghost who observes said tour group and their descendants, he gets to observe how humanity further evolves from these few survivors.
- The villains of the Clive Cussler novel Plague Ship are planning to sterilize half the human race, honestly thinking they'll be hailed as heroes.
- Vashti and Champagne discover in Edenborn that the combination of Black Ep and its treatment leaves women incapable of carrying a child to term.
- Though the female aufwaders in Robin Jarvis's Whitby Witches trilogy can still conceive, the curse on their race means that, unless they end the pregnancy, their blood will turn to brine, causing an agonizing, and ultimately fatal, illness. As if that wasn't bad enough, the mother will be reduced to a briny sludge and the child, if it survives to term, will crumble to dust within minutes of birth. Only one aufwader born since the laying of the curse has survived infancy.
- A virus spreads through the world in one sci-fi story that causes women to spontaneously abort with the only cure being the women having to consume a diet containing a rare fruit for the duration they want to get pregnant and have a child. It's not a real cure as they'll promptly reinfect as soon as they stop eating. The kicker? It was created and released by the scientist who 'discovered' the cure because he didn't want there to be anymore unwanted children in the world.
- "Fade to White", an Alternate History short story by Catherynne M. Valente is set in a post-World War III United States that maintains the facade of The Fabulous Fifties. The few men who are not infertile serve as fathers in rotation to several families, who pretend the others don't exist and the father is working at a non-existent job while away.
- When She Woke has this as the source of its plot. A sexually transmitted disease caused many people to become sterile and birth rates fall dramatically. Due to this, a constitutional amendment has been passed in the US forbidding abortion. Those who have illegal abortions, like the main character, are punished with a gene therapy that turns their skin red (other crimes get some different colors). It's based on The Scarlet Letter, updated to a dystopian future world.
- In James Tiptree Jr.'s short story "The Screwfly Solution", a Hate Plague turns male sexual urges into murderous violence against women. The female protagonist concludes that it's meant to depopulate the Earth prior to colonisation by aliens. The title comes from the techniques used to eradicate insects via this trope (see Real Life).
- The Asgard suffer from the fact that they have totally abandoned sexual reproduction in favor of cloning.
- In the Bad Future portrayed in the SG-1 episode "2010", the Aschen plan to surreptitiously conquer Earth involves one of these, distributed under cover of advanced medical tech. As shown in the later episode "2001", this is their modus operandi.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation:
- In one episode there's a group of colonists who had too few people to successfully build a colony, so instead of sex the went the cloning route. Now due to replicative fading they can't do that any more, so they steal DNA from people on the Enterprise. The resolution is that they marry their cousins from Oireland IN SPACE!.
- In another episode there's a world where all the remaining adults are sterile, and steal the kids from the Enterprise to be their next generation (no pun intended). Turns out this world's impressive tech was what was causing the sterility, ensuring the children would become sterile in due time.
- Earth: Final Conflict: The Companions are sterile; Zo'or is the last one to have been born.
- The plot point is still developing, but all the clones in Orphan Black are apparently sterile - with the exception of Sarah, who has a daughter named Kira. Tomas immediately decided to hunt Kira down upon learning of her existence, and Delphine purposely hid the existence of Kira from Dr. Leekie when she was spying on Delphine. It is revealed by Ethan, one of the original creators of the project, that the clones were intentionally made sterile, which also has led to the autoimmune disease that has killed many of the clones. Helena may also be fertile, due to having the same surrogate mother as Sarah.
- In season 3 this trope is played more straight when Dr. Coady wants to turn the infertility defect (which in the Project CASTOR male clones is sexually transmitted) into a bio-weapon.
- In Lost, women who conceive on the island cannot give birth there. Those who try all die. It turns out that the island's electromagnetism sets off an immune response that attacks the fetus, killing both mother and child.
- The second season finale of Zoo reveals that the Shepherds and Jackson's father have planned all along for the "cure" for the animal outbreak actually be to sterilize the human race and return Earth to the animals.
- The Outer Limits (1995) revival episode "Dark Rain" concerns a future where chemical warfare has left most of humanity sterile. The rare women wits viable pregnancies are sought out by the government and confined to hospitals so the newborns can be seized as wards of the state.
- A second season episode of Spellbinder has the dimension-traveling protagonists find themselves in an Enlightenment-themed world where a deadly plague killed off a large amount of population before a cure was found. Strangely, the cure not only cured the plague but also made people immortal. Unfortunately, the Immortal Procreation Clause is in full effect, as humans are no longer able to conceive. Instead, they build automatons that play and entertain their "parents". When a scientist finds out that the protagonist (a teenage girl and a 20-some man) are fertile, he kidnaps them in order to set up People Farm to try repopulate the world and even breaks their inter-dimensional ship. They manage to fix it and escape.
- Doctor Who: In "The Leisure Hive", the Argolians are a Dying Race who were rendered sterile by radiation in the aftermath of the twenty minute war they fought with the Foamasi.
- The Network in Utopia have already created a very subtle one of these and are attempting to deploy it.
- The Handmaid's Tale: Birth rates in the US had plummeted to catastrophic lows by 2015. And of the babies that are born now, many didn't survive long past birth. This is apparently due to environmental toxins. The Republic of Gilead says it's only women who are sterile but the doctor Offred sees tells her most of the Commanders are as well.
Myths & Religion
- In the Book of Genesis, after Sarah is taken into the Pharaoh's Royal Harem (and later, that of a local Canaanite king by the name of Abimelech) because her husband grabbed the Idiot Ball out of fear for his own safety, God prevents Pharaoh/Abimelech from leaving her Defiled Forever by making him unable to perform sexually when he's with her. Not only that, but all the women in the harem are unable to conceive and/or have miscarriages. This goes on until Pharaoh/Abimelech figures out that his latest addition to the harem is already married to someone else, and returns her to her rightful husband, after which things return to normal.
- In Half-Life 2, the Combine have set up some sort of device which makes humans unable to reproduce. In the expansions this has been deactivated, leading to Dr. Kleiner to suggest that repopulation can begin.
Alyx Vance: Did Dr. Kleiner just tell everyone to... get busy?
- The Vampires of the Legacy of Kain series were inflicted this (along with immortality and blood-thirst) by their archenemies, the Hylden, when they banished them. The problem is, the Pillars of Nosgoth, which represent the balance of the world and serve as a seal to imprison the Hylden, chose their guardians among newborn Vampires. When the Vampires ceased to give birth, the Pillars started to choose humans: it did not end well at all.
- The Forced Evolutionary Virus in the Fallout series renders its subjects sterile, so the only way for Super Mutants to increase their ranks is to capture and mutate more humans. Just as well, they have biological immortality. The Troglodyte Degeneration Contagion in The Pitt sterilizes those residents who aren't turned into Trogs or Wildmen (except for Ashur and Sandra, whose infant daughter is resistant to TDC). Ghouls are also universally sterile, although this is caused by radiation rather than a traditional plague.
- Waidwen's Legacy in Pillars of Eternity is a variation. Children are born, technically, but they're hollowborn, lacking souls and being nothing but empty shells. Attempts to give them souls ended... poorly.
- Zigzagged with the Genophage in Mass Effect. Playing it straight, it's a genetically engineered virus that attacks pregnant krogan females, causing alterations to hormone production that result in offspring being too deformed to survive and thus stillborn, and a mission in the second game even involves dispersing a new strain of the disease because the krogan are evolving immunity to the old one. Subverting it, the genophage was intended as a sort of mandatory contraception enforcement — it's designed to allow a carefully calculated number of offspring to be viable enough to survive (which one of its creators notes was harder than just making it a standard sterility plague) - and its effects as a Depopulation Bomb actually owe more to krogan inability to learn from their mistakes (or admit to them in the first place) than its own inherent lethality. Mordin at one point outright states that completely sterilizing the krogan would have been considerably easier, the Genophage was designed to ensure that the krogan could survive, just at "pre-industrial" numbers. When asked why not go the whole way and wipe them out, he hotly replies he isn't a war criminal or mass murderer, and finds genocide morally repugnant.
- Off-White: No human babies have been born in the last three years because the human white spirit was eaten alive.
- This is part of the reason of the Elves isolationism in Errant Story (That and a healthy dose of Our Elves Are Better). Misa was the last known full-blooded elf birth and she's 1500 years old. No one knows why and no one's been able to fix it. Note that Elves are only sterile with each other; they can cross-breed with humans with little issue.
- In Drowtales, members of Zala'ess Vel'Sharen's bloodline start becoming affected by this as a result of their demonic taint, with the female members either miscarrying early into the pregnancy or giving birth to stillborn and horribly deformed children. It's unknown if this has any affect on the male members, but since drow trace lineage through the mother it wouldn't matter as much to them if it did. It's eventually revealed that this was intentionally done by Zala's sister Snadhya'rune, who chose this method as form of irony since Zala is known for her many many children.
- In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures , the Angels' birthrates have sharply declined to the point that they are becoming a Dying Race. It's later implied that the Dragons have something to do with that, and that the Angels aren't the only race they've rendered extinct.
- This is a common method humans use to eliminate harmful organisms in their environment such as mosquitoes and viruses. Scientists tasked with wiping out a short-lived life form often focus on disabling its means of reproduction. They find ways of infecting, poisoning or destroying stagnant water to stop mosquitoes from breeding, and the only known means of effectively killing viruses is to interfere in their reproductive cycle (i.e. interferon medicines).
- This is also the reason why the pesticide DDT was banned. The chemical bioaccumulates, meaning it remains in the body and active for a very long time after ingestion. This did not have many noticeable effects on insectivores that consumed DDT-killed insects, but as those insectivores fell prey to higher level predators the concentration of the chemical compounded. Apex predators like eagles, ospreys, and other raptors ended up with stunning amounts of DDT in their bodies that had passed through hundreds of other organisms with its potency intact. In birds, DDT causes a defect in the process that creates the hard shells of their eggs. Female raptors were laying eggs with shells so thin that they would break during routine incubation. Since these are species that usually bear rather small clutches, losing so many chicks before hatching caused their populations to plummet steeply. So steeply, in fact, that the US was for some time in danger of having its symbolic animal, the bald eagle, go extinct within its borders. Since the ban on DDT, most raptor populations have rebounded with some help from captive breeding programs and hefty fines on hunters.
- While it's not quite a sterility plague (yet), the heavy pollution in Sarnia, Ontario's Chemical Valley has contributed to a high rate of miscarriages and low (male) birth rate on the Aamjiwnaang First Nation reserve.
- Similarly, Love Canal, one of the most notorious toxic dump sites in the U.S., caused a high number of miscarriages among its residents.
- It's not a plague per se, however, the constant spread of STDs chlamydia and gonorrhea can and sometimes will, if not treated properly or in time, cause sterility when the disease ravages the sexual organs. Likewise, the same can occur from HPV, as said virus can cause cervical cancer.
- The bacterial genus Wolbachia, which infects insects and nematodes, can cause infected male organisms to be infertile with anything except infected females. If such a male mates with a female that isn't infected, any potential eggs she carries are aborted.