Tue, 17 Sep 1996 19:56:11 -0400
JL here: hasty scan of this post from Tony Z, and I see stuff I need to
In a message dated 96-09-16 07:14:45 EDT, you write:
>f, of course, English dominates the world by that time. (When _does_
>the Sime/Gen mutation appear, anyway?) English probably has more speakers
>than any other language, but 570 million or so is only a tithe of the
>world's population. Also, where exactly do the Simes come from? One
>experimental lab? A random virus infecting newborns and causing changes
>15 years later?
One important psychological dynamic of the S~G world is that the characters
DON'T KNOW AND CAN'T FIND OUT how and when and where and why the mutation
happened. They're even misinformed about what that mutation was exactly.
The uncertainty and mystery of the origin is part of what this series is
However, in my mind the mutation happened "now" (whenever now is and it's
been "now" for about 40 years and the world has changed a lot in that time).
It also happened "here" - wherever here happens to be. I live in the USA
and have a lot of pride in USA science capability, so I'm betting that the
cutting edge will stay with us, and that if there's a giant mistake to be
made it'll be made here.
Now, what the characters have to work with is a shred of linguistic evidence
on Simelan - that all its world-girdling dialects all have a common origin.
That all the words referring to Sime senses are the same all over the world,
and that the basic syntax and grammar markers are all the same.
Pronunciation varies of course, and localities soak up the surrounding
languages. So unraveling all that takes a long time, but what they "see"
from the linguistic evidence is a common origin for this language. And close
study of the unraveled language tracks reveals the markers of an artificial
language as the origin of modern Simelan.
Any explanation of the mutuation consistent with those facts must be taken as
a serious hypothesis.
In my mind, it was a military experiment involved, and there had to have been
another project going on that had an accident of some sort, and probably
other complex elements, and something totally unpredicable happened which
spread the genetic corruptor agent around the world. Decades after that
event (which was hushed up and buried deeply) the mutant children began to
change over - wild children all over the world.
Meanwhile, somewhere there's a small community of captive Simes who are
experimental subjects. They get word of the wild children, break out of
containment and the rest is history.
That's one likely scenario that fits the facts as they remain. There are
hundreds of other possible scenarios - none of which could be eliminated on
the basis of the evidence the characters have.
My point here is that we, the writers of this series, don't have to know
which of the possible scenarios really happened. The characters don't know,
so we shouldn't know. It's not knowing that is the core of the drama of the
situation - the torment of it.
Life is the business of proceding on insufficient data. JL
>For Simelan I can believe a single language base much more easily than
>Gens. If we have one experimental group escaping, it's fairly easy.
>For Gens... well, where do they come from? Hugh Vallery's government
>seems (in some respects, viz the term "New Washington") to consider
>itself a successor to the United States;
That's correct - they do. And they consider Gens to be Ancients while Simes
are the only mutation.
You and I know that's not true, but they - the characters - don't know that
until much later. JL
> I've got no problem believing
>that they're speaking English. For Gens in (say) China, unless they're
>also descended from an English-speaking experimental group, their base
>language will probably be Chinese. Maybe with English loan words and
>so forth, but they probably won't be speaking English if they came
>out of the present-day Chinese population at large.
That's correct, Gens speak whatever language is prevalent in their
geographical area at the time of the collapse.
>Then again, what _does_ happen when the Sime/Gen split appears? The Simes
>are probably driven underground (at least until there are too many of them
>to do that), but the Gens wouldn't appear any different from the Ancients,
>and would probably be acculturated into the base culture of their area.
>(Unless, of course, something killed off most or all of the Ancients,
>something to which Gens were mostly immune, in which case their might
>not be enough Ancients to maintain their culture...)
What "kills off" the Ancients is the fact that their children aren't Ancients
- their children are either Sime or Gen.
I suspect (though there's no evidence) that the first generation or two after
the mutagen is spread about produces an intermediate stage - people who
appear Ancient but aren't quite - they're carriers or latents or somesuch.
And THEN their children differentiate at puberty.
You see if this catastrophe actually happens in a snap (in 5 years or so)
then records and evidence and so on would be available - people would KNOW
and there would be a unified oral folk history of the origin at least. It
would be the same story around the world with different editorial additions,
but recognizably the same story. There would be documents to be found by
The fact that none of this exists indicates that when it became known that
something was happening, nobody know what or why - and by the time
civilization collapsed totally the confusion and dismay and outrage were
total. The total bafflement of those to whom the catastrophe happened is
part of the premise and the dramatic dynamic of this series. JL