It has been 40 years since Random House published The Stepford Wives, Ira Levin's immensely popular tale of submissive suburban robots, writes Senior Editor Jesse Walker. Thanks to the book and the film it inspired three years later, the word Stepford has entered the language, an easily recognized synonym for feminine docility and for conformity in general. The novel owed an obvious debt to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and other science fiction stories in which aliens impersonate or possess human beings. But the villains in this thriller didn't come from outer space. They came from the other side of the bed.