from a letter by Greer Watson dated 3/July/2006
sent to Margaret Carter
Now, as to Sime~Gen. I'm not sure exactly where Jacqueline plans this
to go. I think she wants it for Companion in Zeor. I've
been HTMLing it all: the two excerpts from the letters to you, my
correspondence with her, and your comments from your last letter. How
much of this she will want to put on the website, I don't know. She may
prefer not to have the later correspondence. However, if she puts it all in,
I guess she'll need to have you sign a release, since one of the bits is an excerpt
of stuff you wrote me.
I've been doing the HTMLing myself because of the tables. Nasty
tricky things they are—and, of course, it is essential that they come out
The young male breeders are young, Margaret. You were married
to a twenty year old: most of the male breeders are culled before that.
I think people reading the series don't really get the implications of
changeover happening at puberty, no matter how many times they get told that in
Sime Territory you are considered an adult as soon as you change over.
It's a teenager's dream: to be considered an adult at twelve or thirteen!
To account for the high frequency I posit for the male sexual performance,
you need to consider the following:
They are young: fourteen, fifteen, sixteen.
They have no other activity required of them. They do
not have to fit sex in before or after work. With so few men on the
Genfarm and the women taking care of babies and toddlers, most farm labour is
done by the older pre-Gen children. The men's schedule runs: sex
early in the morning when they wake up, sex shortly after noon, sex in the late
afternoon or early evening, sex before going to sleep. Reckon on about
four hours in between.
Selective breeding is not only done for female fertility but also
for male libido. Guys who don't make the grade get culled. Those
who are most able to perform over and over are the ones who father the
next generation, who therefore are genetically inclined towards a high sex drive,
something that is further accentuated with each generation of selection.
Generations are short for Genfarm male breeders. A
female breeder might be kept until she is fifty if she pops them out regularly
enough. A male breeder might only be kept for three or four years.
That means constant turnover. Historians today generally reckon on three
generations a century; but a male breeder's sons might be breeders themselves
within fourteen years of his own birth, meaning seven generations a century.
Obviously the effects of selective breeding won't occur with the rapidity
they do in dogs and cats, let alone fruit flies; but they'll become obvious faster
than you think.
The other thing you need to consider is that the Genfarms I describe probably
never exist in their “perfect” form. I describe only the
ultimate development of the tendencies that are in progress. However, the
full development would only happen when the population of Simes grows to the
point where it becomes necessary to strip the Genfarms of as many Gens as
possible in order to sustain the Sime population.
During almost all of the history of Sime Territory, the number of Simes
is far lower than that level. The Genfarms therefore have a more normal
distribution of people on them. Relatively speaking, there are more men
and fewer children. In fact, there's probably a thriving community with
a persistent culture. It would be geared towards a regular tithe or tribute
of some of its youngsters, but probably only a minority of them.
I suspect that this could well be true even at the time of House of
Zeor. Although Zelerod had already calculated his numbers by then,
from what Klyd says, it doesn't seem as though most people have put any
credence in them at all, assuming they've even heard of them. You might
compare this with the general knowledge of global warming today versus
twenty or thirty years ago. Back then, a lot of people had never even heard
of the term, and were certainly unsure what it meant. People today still
don't actually do much about it; a lot of politicians are in denial of its
implications; but at least everyone's heard of it.
That's the situation by the time you get to Zelerod's Doom:
conditions are shifting, and more people are familiar with the potential for disaster.
However, that hasn't got them joining Householdings. Things have
not yet got that bad!
After all, it is not the increase in Sime population that triggers the actual
crisis in the story. Rather, it is a climatic shift, producing a dust bowl in
the centre of the continent, that forces a population shift, which creates an
imbalance in the population, that causes problems with the distribution of the Gens
to the local Pens, which causes panic. (There's a House-that-Jack-Built
quality to that sentence.) In Zelerod's Doom, they still aren't at the actual
Doom point calculated by Zelerod in terms of the population; so it is entirely
possible that they aren't yet running the Genfarms quite as I describe.
They would, however, be tending in that direction.
Excerpt from Margaret's letter of 19/May/2006