10 May 2006: from Greer Watson to Jacqueline Lichtenberg
In my last e-mail, I said that about half of the Simes are changeover
survivors from the Genfarms. It occurs to me that, in light of what I have
said before about the drugging of kids of establishment age, I need to say a
bit more about this.
Pen Gens are drugged. There is no doubt about this: it's right there in
canon from the very start. The question then becomes when they are
Certainly, I hold by what I said about the small-time cottage-industry
Genbreeders: they need to keep all their Gens drugged all the time, if only
so that they won't be tempted to kill them themselves when the Gens throw a
panic attack. Being drugged into stupefaction, they are mute and numb. The
males only breed if drugged into potency. The women produce drug-addicted
children, who are raised addicted (and never learn proper speech), and then
either establish (and are killed) or die in changeover from the various
complications that come from delays caused by the drugs.
However, through most of the history of Sime Territory, children on the big
Genfarms are not drugged. There are certainly cultural shifts caused by
the loss of the kids sent as tribute: polygeny is one such shift; another
is the common sight of a Sime overlord, especially around tribute time.
But, in other respects, life in a Genfarm village is a lot like life in a
farming village in Gen territory. In particular, a close watch is kept on
kids of establishment age, and those who show symptoms of changeover are
killed. I honestly don't think the Simes who run the farm are going to
care: the kids who hide out and live to change over are going to kill
“their” breeders (which is bad); and, if they escape, they will become
competition for Gens (also bad). There will always be some kids who
escape. Not many, but some. For most of the history of Sime Territory
they are simply the new replacements for the Simes who die. Since children
are few, they would be the principal replacements.
As I explained, the Simes taken into the actual raiding band (i.e. the
Genfarmers) are the longest lived. They are hence likeliest to raise kids.
So they aren't going to want to share their privileged position with
escapees unless they have no natural heirs. A few escapees may be hired to
work for the Genfarmers as junior labour; but, increasingly, this would not
be possible. Therefore, increasingly, escapees would be forced to head for
other areas. At first, this might mean joining a band of raiders, and
killiing in Gen territory. Later, as proper Sime villages and towns are
built, it would mean heading there, instead, finding some sort of work, and
relying on the Pen system.
Most escapees have to take scut work. They may eventually work
their way up the ladder, if they're enterprising. But they start at the
It is also possible that escaping is seen, at least in the early days
(before there are more than a tiny handful of pre-Sime children), as a sort
of rite of passage—something that all young Simes have to go through in
order to prove themselves worthy of belonging in Sime society.
In the years from a bit before House of Zeor, but increasingly swiftly up
to Zelerod's Doom, there would be a major shift in the Sime population.
First, the relatively slow increase marked by Zelerod would start to
accelerate because of the better nutrition. This would not at first affect
the number of escapees; instead it would affect the death rate among those
But then the increase in the number of Simes would mean greater stress
on the long-established pattern of life on the Genfarms. Suddenly, a lot
more Gens have to be taken as tribute.
There would be an incentive, for the first time, to drug at least some
of the kids of establishment age, even on the big Genfarms, because there'd
be fewer adults around to keep close watch on them. Not all Genfarms would
do this though. Certainly not at first.
Nevertheless, in those areas where drugging became common, the number of
escapees would go sharply down.
Countering this population trend would be the increase in the number of
pre-Sime children. First: there's generally better nutrition, for the kids
as well as the adults, so more live. Second: their parents live longer,
and so are able to care for them until they are adult—so more survive.
Third: their parents live longer, and so have more kids: moderate sized
families with three or four children are no longer an astonishing rarity.
Also: their parents live longer, and hence are more mature. I know all
about the First Year bit, and how it adds about ten years to their apparent
age. But frankly, I know I was more mature in my thirties than I was as
an undergraduate; and more so yet today.
Hey, probably for the very first time in Sime history, there are
parenting classes! Sime Territory had a baby boom!
I suspect that this starts quite close in time to Zelerod's Doom. And
that means that the increased child population is still some ways off
maturity at the time of the book.
The joke is this: because of the drop in the number of escapees, there
probably would soom have been a natural—albeit temporary—drop in the Nivet
Sime population as the older Simes died without being replaced.
But then, of course, a few years later, this would have been more than
compensated for as the larger than usual cohort of children started to
It's all moot, anyway. The events of the book intervened.
Another thing: I said in my first letter to Margaret that, since most Simes
are accustomed to seeing Gens who are drugged, they expect them to always be
Clearly, this cannot be true for the escapees (though it would be true
for the other half of the population who have Sime parents). However, I
would not be surprised if the escapees find it a lot easier to kill if their
victims are drugged for as long as possible. At the last moment, the drugs
wear off, they go in and terrify their Pen Gen into a scream of “Don't!
Please! Don't!”—but their intil by that time is far too high for them to
care. Probably the need to kill has so overwhelmed them that they can't
even make out the words.
For the other half of the Sime population, though, the words would just
sound like an incomprehensible babble. And they, of course, have been
raised to think of the kill as wholly natural, and right and proper. And
they are the only ones who come from actual Sime families, which means the
only ones likely to have inherited money.
By the time of Zelerod's Doom, there is a fairly new, but pretty firmly established,
middle and upper class in Sime society. These are the people who actually
do most of the governing—and they are almost all born and bred from Sime
Greer's previous e-mail
Jacqueline's last e-mail
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