19-27 May 2006:   Excerpt from a letter from Margaret Carter
to Greer Watson

Your Sime~Gen demographic essay is fascinating.   Admittedly, the numbers make my head spin a little, but I get the general idea of the bottom line.   The article on infant mortality from Old Sturbridge Village, which you gave the link for, is interesting.

I was surprised to learn that 18 was the average age of menarche in some times and places.   I knew our present age of puberty is unprecedentedly low, but I had no idea the difference was that great.   What a cruel irony that adolescents are becoming sexually mature so early in a culture where social/economic maturity arrives later than almost any time in history.   True, in some cultures in earlier centuries, young people might spend much of their adulthood in a family compound under the thumb of the older generation, but at least they were married and making a tangible economic contribution.

It's easy to forget, while reading the novels, that “adult” Simes and Gens are usually kids by our standard.   Your comparison of the early Sime raiding bands to teenage gangs illuminates that early history with great clarity.

I also tended to imagine a property such as the Farris Genfarm as being much smaller, my image of a “farm”.   But the numbers have to be as large as you postulate in order to support the Sime population at approximately 12 kills per adult per year.   So I have to revise my image to the vast “ranch” you describe, maybe similar to the holdings of a Norman lord with his manor surrounded by a lot of little Saxon villages.

Your whole outline of the early history of Sime~Gen relations makes excellent sense.   In what area of the S~G webring will it be posted?

Once the Pen system gets set up, what do you think happens to children in the Pens who change over?   I've seen it suggested that many of them would have died because of the drugs.   I imagine most changeover subjects who survived would become employees/servants in the Pen complex living on a subsistence level.

The one point I find hard to accept is your assumption that each young male breeder would be expected to mate four times per day, every day.   You postulate this rate of “production” in the era before aphrodisiac drugs become the norm.   Now, I was once married to a 20-year-old male.   Three times in 24 hours is perfectly feasible.   That could credibly be stretched to four times on occasion.   But not every day, even for a week, much less indefinitely.   Besides, as you mentioned in connection with drug-induced performance, too-frequent ejaculation decreases sperm count.   Infertility specialists advise couples trying to maximize changes of pregnancy to copulate every other day.   So I think four times a day, even if that rate could be maintained for more than a few days, would quickly lead to diminishing returns in terms of fertility.

Interesting about the two methods of Genfarming, which I had never thought of before.

We've known all along that the impression given by the Sime-centered focus of the canonical novels—a densely populated society of Simes with enclaves of Gens here and there—couldn't work demographically.   But the mind boggles at trying to visualize the situation your numbers prove to be the case, the 54:1 ratio.   Without the “breeding for docility” you mentioned, it couldn't work, could it?   Surely at least some Gens would figure out that they so far outnumber their Sime overlords they could overwhelm them by brute force if they tried.   The drugs help to keep the status quo in place too, I suppose.

You mentioned that until close to the pre-Unity era, the situation probably looked quite different to the Gens from the way it did to their Sime “owners”.   Something like the way slaves on a large plantation in the South had their own culture unknown to the masters and became experts at acting “dumb” around white people.   Many Simes might not have even suspected Gens had their own language.

I'd love to read a story set in the early years of Genfarming as you envision it.   If I were writing that story, of course, I'd make a Romeo-and-Juliet / Beauty and the Beast sort of romance of it.   One member of the young couple changes over and flees to the mountain enclave.   Soon afterward, the other one establishes and is picked for tribute.   When they met again, the Gen, who turns out to be a natural donor, discovers how to give transfer to the Sime without dying, a primitive version of the Rimon-Kadi story.   Except that we've seen from Jean's work that the Sime needn't necessarily be Channel; Ren-Simes and "ordinary" Gens can sometimes work out a transfer relationship.

Greer's response

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