9 May 2006: from Greer Watson to Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Okay, your e-mail raises quite a number of points (and actually doesn't answer
one of my questions). So here goes.
1. You say:
I believe the balance point is not 1:1 -- but way before that.
Absolutely. In fact, my numbers show that the balance point is at 54:1. In other
words, when (in any Sime Territory) there are 54 Gens to every Sime, you have
reached the point where the Genfarms are producing at maximum capacity. You
can maybe push it a bit by going to “efficient” Genfarming; but this could only
be a temporary measure because it doesn't actually improve the output of the
Genfarm, it only strips off some of the breeders.
Once the ratio drops below 54:1 the Genfarms are no longer able to
produce enough Pen Gens to satisfy the Simes. It then becomes necessary to
deplete the supply of breeders. But you are then, so to speak, living on
capital. Even fewer kids are born; even more breeders have to be taken; and a vicious
cycle develops that spins out of control.
Or perhaps I should say “would develop”, because—as we all know—Simes
get really panicky when they can't see where their next Gen is coming from. As
you quite rightly point out, the theoretical Doom point would never actually be
reached, except in a restricted area like Ardo Pass. Long before that, you would
get the break-down of society that happened in Norwest.
Norwest was probably not at the 54:1 point. But it may have been close
to that before something hit it. Not the drought, I shouldn't think: at least not
unless the climate on the west coast has radically altered; and that would mean
major global climatic alterations. I suspect that in Norwest the problem was
triggered simply by the fact that they were getting close to the 54:1 ratio, Pens
were starting to get sticky about Gen distribution, something caused one or two
Pens to run short (maybe local geography, such as snow closing a pass), and that
As you point out, in Nivet they were actually far from the 54:1 ratio. After all,
until the drought, they controlled the breadbasket of the continent, and hence could
support a lot more Gens. The drought affected food production, especially in the
central area, and that would have affected the food supply to Genfarms
everywhere, and that probably would up affecting the distribution system to the
Pens. That triggered the government to put in local controls in some areas. Then
the news from Ardo Pass and Norwest did the rest.
Ardo Pass is a special case. It sounds like a very artificial sort of community by
Sime standards. As a rule, you'd expect to find a Sime town (a small village by
our standards) at the nexus of a group of fifteen to twenty Gen villages. The Gens
being tithed are simply sent to the Sime town, where the Pen is.
Ardo Pass sounds as though it was established—uh, maybe I should say
built to avoid the word “establish”!—in a region inimical to farming, simply in
order to control the pass, and then as a trading centre for pack trains coming in
on the various trails (giving the opportunity to trade and turn round, rather than
go on into foreign lands). That would mean that it would not have the support of
its own Genfarm. It would be completely dependent on the importation of Gens
from elsewhere. Close the pass, so that Gen shipments cannot get in and desperate
Simes cannot get out to raid, and you have disaster.
As a result, it demonstrates Doom at a time when the continent is actually
a good twenty years or more off the actual Doom time.
The 1:1 ratio is not the balance point for Doom. Not really. It is the ultimate and
inevitable development from the balance point. It is what happens after the
2. You say:
Simes are predators by nature, and have (to varying degrees) a sense for others'
emotions (even fellow Simes). Therefore they prefer to live far apart from each
other and from Gen concentrations. Simes can become
“civilized”—forming towns and
villages, and even cities—only when construction techniques reach the point of
being able to insulate one room from another, and inside from outside
(otherwise they prefer underground and caves—which doesn't create
First point here: there is no reason why you cannot build a town in a system
of caves. It's been done often enough, in appropriate areas around the world,
including the American Southwest. It does suggest that the first fairly large group
of Simes living together probably lived in a hilly or mountainous region, where
limestone has been formed into extensive caves. I'm not familiar enough with
local geology to be able to pinpoint likely areas. And, of course, there is no
reason why Sime civilization need have started in Nivet just because that happens
to be where most of the stories are set.
Second point: the earliest way of insulating rooms probably was to build in stone.
People have certainly done that world wide; but again it is only possible in
certain areas, where stone is readily available. It does not seem unreasonable to
think of quarrying as a major Sime industry.
Third point: of course, the size of Sime settlements would be small! By our
standards, their “cities” are towns; their “towns” are villages;
and their “villages”
probably only consist of two or three well separated stone huts. I notice in
Zelerod's Doom that Risa seems astonished by the size of the town where the
assembly is held.
If you look at my Sime history, I suggest that in the Dark Ages most
young Simes are killed within a month or so of changing over by being tracked
down by a large group of (obviously) very brave and very desperate Gens from
their home village, probably accompanied by a pack of large, savage dogs trained
to attack Simes. Dogs run faster than humans, and have shorter memories for
seeing their fellows killed. I daresay a fair number of dogs would die to bring
down a single Sime—but that never stopped people using them to hunt boar.
Since only a few kids would reach changeover from each village each year,
and even fewer would escape detection, this means that there would not be much
chance of their ever meeting up with another Sime.
I suggested that any young junct who survived more than a month or two
without being tracked down, did so by moving around a lot. That would increase
the chance of their finding another Sime—but it would almost certainly be
someone from another village. If the other kid was of the same sex, they probably
squabbled a lot; but they might (or might not) stick together for companionship.
Simes are not Gens, but that doesn't mean they are inhuman. It can help to have
someone to talk to, even if it's only comparing notes your on near escape from
being murdered by your parents. If the kids are of the opposite sex, the attraction
might be greater. On the other hand, the squabbles might be fiercer.
Some young Simes might even seek to zlin out other survivors for safety
in numbers after some disastrous raids on watchful towns. In raiding villages, it
helps to have a friend to watch your back. Desperate terrified Gens can still throw
spears. It is, however, entirely likely that early raider bands were sometime
Fourth point: to get enough Gens, the first band to make treaties with the Gens
would need to draw on at least fifteen villages or towns to get adequate
sustenance, bearing in mind their fondness for augmentation. I don't know how
large a Gen village was at that time; but Indian villages in Eastern Canada could
often have 500 people living in them. A “large” raider band might have five
young juncts in it. Of course, villages could be bigger; raider bands could be
smaller; and in that case the ratio would be tilted even more in favour of the Gens.
However, the figures I just gave you result in an initial ratio of 7500 Gens to 5
Simes, or 1500:1.
It's a long, long route from there to the Doom balance point of 54:1.
Fifth point: clearly if there are fifteen (or more) Gen villages to every little Sime
village, then the Simes have to be well spread out!
Furthermore, as Simes do develop their techniques of building in stone (or
other insulation), there would be a natural tendency for people who are craftsmen
and merchants to gravitate to only some centres. Initially this would be for
trading there; but then you'd get people actually settling permanently in the trade
centre. Probably this would initially be in areas near the source of insulating
Most of the Sime villages would therefore become solely Genfarm centres.
In other words, the people living there would be the people actively involved in
tithing the Gen villages, which would later develop into running them as a
It doesn't strike me that this would need a lot of people. Especially as the
Gens become more docile, fewer Simes would be needed to strike terror into
them. The Genfarmers would probably go in regularly to make sure that a
suitable level of terror-driven subservience was maintained. (Just the sight of a
Sime is scary.) But, on the whole, since the food production is done by the Gens,
the principal job of Genfarmers would be administration. Well, except when the
Pen Gens are selected and shipped out.
Sixth point: I totally agree that, in the areas paying tribute to these little Sime
raiding villages, you would initially get a fairly stable population of Simes.
Basically, you'd get the number of Simes sustainable from the tribute paid by the
Gens living in “their” villages.
It is after the development of trade centres, and people moving to them,
that you'd start to get an increase in Sime population.
3. You say:
So the Sime population growth rate will exceed the Genfarm production
Yes, the first stage will involve the Sime population exceeding the previously
established levels of tribute. I suggest that, through various stages, this will result
in the need for ever-increasing hands-on control of the Gen villages by the Simes
who “run” them. Probably this is starting shortly before the time of First
Channel. But, for a long time, the degree of control would not be very great.
Of course, by the time of House of Zeor, Genfarms are heavily
controlled by the Simes who run them. But you are still far from the Doom point:
it's more a question of an alteration in the culture of the Genfarming Gens. At
this point, very likely, a high proportion of the boys and a fair number of girls are
being taken for the pens. But you probably have nothing like the situation I
described in detail. That was solely in order to derive the 54:1 ratio—which, as
you rightly point out, we never get near to, except maybe in Norwest.
We don't hear much about the running of Genfarms in House of Zeor; but it's
obvious that the system is working quite efficiently, with plenty of “slack” in it.
This is likely the situation I describe as involving arranged polygyny, with very
high fertility levels. There'd be a real culture on the Genfarms. They'd have
lots of kids: there'd be kids everywhere; and they'd be expected to help on the
farm with the lighter work. A large number of the adolescents would “leave
home” (for the pens, but the adults would sort of gloss over that bit). The
remaining boys would get their first wives; the other girls would become second
or third wives to older men. And these people (“breeders” to the Simes) would
be set for about twenty years of normal life as farmers, with a pretty stable overall
population of adults. People with large families would be supported by them even
as old folk. Sentiment would demand this in the Gen villages. I doubt if the
Simes would mind: at this point the number of adolescents still exceeds
Exponential growth in the population of Simes is only starting in
Zelerod's time, and the curve is barely steepening at the time of House of Zeor.
Zelerod was a good enough mathematician to predict where the curve would go;
but, to most people, the population growth still looked pretty flat until long after
Only at the time of Zelerod's Doom is the steepening of the curve
starting to have effects that are apparent. And, as you point out, you are still far
off the actual point at which the Sime and Gen population curves meet. But, as
soon as the effects become apparent, it triggers Sime nervousness over having
enough Gens. And that triggers panic.
4. You say:
As the Gen population explodes, the absolute number of Simes surviving
changeover and making it to Sime Territory increases—spurring the
increase in the in-T Sime population.
Well, there is certainly an increase in the Gen population. I'm not sure about it
exploding: even gradual increase would, over time, create a need to fill up the
“empty“ lands that originally formed buffers between the various Sime and Gen
territories. In fact, I suspect that originally there probably were settlements in
many of these buffer zones. (In “Icy Nager“, for example, there is mention of
such a settlement.)
As Sime Territories became more certainly established, with firmer
boundaries, there would have been constant raiding of the villages beyond the
boundaries by people who did not want to join the organized band (or pay them
for the Pen Gens they provided). This is where you'd start to get the distinction
between Freeband Raiders and civilized Simes.
As a result of the constant raiding, the border Gen villages would have
been abandoned, producing the buffer zone.
Even a gradual increase in the Gen population would result in an increasing
number of people taking the risk of trying to start new settlements inside the
buffer zone. The buffer zones consist of perfectly good farmland, after all. It's
not wasteland; it's just not lived in. So the temptation is there.
Of course, this stimulates more raiding by Simes. Zlinnable Wild Gens
always stimulate raiding by Simes.
However, in Zelerod's Doom, we are actually told that the approach of Doom
has been accelerated by an increase in the Sime population because they are living
longer. It is this that has required Ediva to recalculate the figures.
If the Simes live longer, there will be a rapid increase in the number of Simes for
two reasons. First, you don't subtract as many deaths; but you still get the same
number of new Simes added through changeover (both from in-Territory pre-
Simes changing over, and escapees from Gen Territory making it over the border).
Second, people who live longer have more children. You don't need to increase
Sime fertility for this: they just have a longer period of life over which they have
the opportunity to procreate. Also, there are fewer orphans—a significant point
because the death rate of orphans is usually higher than if their mothers take care
of them right through to adolescence.
So why are Simes living longer? What has changed?
I wonder whether, between House of Zeor and Zelerod's Doom, there
wasn't a big bug on nutrition. Someone really got the news out that, if you ate
properly, you'd live longer. If a sufficient proportion of Simes actually decided
to force themselves to “go on a diet”, so to speak—if it became the latest fad to eat
nourishing food rather than a lot of desserts—then it might actually be enough
to affect the average lifespan.
Another lesson for us?
5. You say:
So for in-T figures, look more to maybe the 1500's and 1600's in Europe—or
perhaps Africa would be the better model.
Ah, no. Those are the people who have an average of eight children. Average.
Don't mix up the number of children born with the number who survive. People
back then had an average of eight children, most of whom died. That's still true
in Africa, with AIDS just making the death toll worse (and not just among the
That's the model for Gen Territory, at least until the increase in population
and developing industrialization (and growing cities), which happens around Unity
and post-Unity, which is why I generally compare Gen Territory with the late
However, as you point out, Simes don't have that many kids. Neither do
we in the developed world. The reasons are different, of course. Simes don't
need birth control: they are birth control. (So to speak.) The junct life
provides its own brake on fertility. But, from what you say, the birth rate is
functionally equivalent, even though the causes are completely different.
Well, okay. It was certainly lower in the early days. Zero at first,
However, I'm interested in the birth rate at the time of Zelerod's Doom.
At that point there are real Sime towns, even though they are small. From what
you say, there are a fair number of people having kids, even though most working
class families are, by our standards, “single mother” families. And the
middle-class people have real families, since they are surviving long enough to acquire
property for which they want to have heirs.
Yes, your article is posted on the site. I just wanted to get an actual figure
from you that I could use in calculations.
6. Which brings me back to my original questions. That was
one of them; and
you've answered it. The Sime birth rate is no higher than ours; and, if anything,
I should estimate lower. So I should use a birth rate that is about the same as
ours, rounded down, if rounding is needed.
However, I still have two questions.
One: what is the population of North America at the time of Zelerod's Doom?
I'm only looking for a very rough approximate figure.
Here are some examples for comparison. From U.S. census figures, the
population of your country was about 30 million in 1860, 40 million in 1870, 50
million in 1880, 76 million in 1900, 100 million in 1920, 132 million in 1940.
More or less, since I've rounded off.
Pick a number.
Two: what proportion of this population lives in one of the Gen territories, and
what proportion in one of the Sime territories?
“What proportion lives in Sime Territory” does not mean the same thing
as “how many Simes are there”. Most of the people living in Sime Territory are
either adult Gens, or the children of Gens.
I'm just asking what proportion of the continent is controlled by the Simes,
and what proportion is controlled by the Gens.
What I want to do is work out the maximum number of Simes there could be
living in North America. The “carrying capacity”. That is the number that you
would be getting at the Doom balance point.
As you so rightly point out, they never actually reach that point. Which
means that the number of Simes has to be lower than that. But I'd like to know
what that number is. I suspect it's astonishing low; but I'd like to be sure.
Jacqueline's previous e-mail
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