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babies and castes and mutual sterility

What would a society be like if it contained species of intelligent beings -- which, being species, could not interbreed with each other?

A lot of SF and fantasy writers don't like the problem.  You get the most improbable abilities to interbreed, even among beings that evolved independently in separate star systems.

But unlike earthly caste systems, where the most valiant attempts to prevent interbreeding have failed, these ones would enforce themselves.  Perhaps they would be encouraged for those who did not want children, or were not wanted to have children, but that use would, obviously, be self-limiting.

Much would depend on the respective characters of the races.  If dwarves were the fantasy stereotype that firmly stuck to mining and metalwork, or something like, it would sort by occupation.  If it were Advanced Energy Beings of Great Wisdom, it would be a caste of higher or lower.

What would their interactions be like?  How would the pressure of politics go?  When Lucius Volumnius became the first plebian consul in ancient Rome, he was married to a patrician wife.  Leading to an ugly scene when she was barred from a ceremony for Patrician Virtue because her patrician birth did not suffice -- but not half so interesting as the situations where there could be no connections between the patricians and plebians, whatever they are.  Reminds me of Augustine's explanation for incest taboos:  to force people to enter into new relationships, instead of doubling up on their old ones.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 7th, 2014 04:56 am (UTC)
When I've thought about this question, it's been in the context of machine civilizations occupying the same planet as organic-being civilizations, and I imagined them in the main keeping separate, living in their own communities, but interacting in certain areas.

But if you had two organically arising, intelligent species in the same space? I end up thinking about how we interact with dolphins, or squid, or great apes--or even pigs and grey parrots … and as I think about it now, I'm thinking, a whole lot would depend on (a) whether the species developed the ability to communicate and (b) whether they were brought into conflict over living space … which, of course, is also a problem even intra-species.
Apr. 7th, 2014 11:11 am (UTC)
Well, they would have to communicate to constitute a society.

Living in very different environments would also create a caste issue, on top of all the others, but when they can live together, the problems would be most acute.
Apr. 7th, 2014 03:39 pm (UTC)

Larry Niven played with this idea in his Ringworld novels - there are several hominid species on the Ringworld, and they are depicted as taking advantage of their intersterility; “diplomacy sex” is a common method of sealing agreements, a sort of “political marriage” without the complications of issue from the union.

As for asakiyume's idea, having recently rewatched The Animatrix, I can imagine how that machine species might make “compatibility models” for the same purpose, but I'm not sure it would work out well in practice. I mean, I'd have serious qualms - that thing is intelligent and it's a machine and it might be able to replace destroyed parts but I can't, y' dig? I'd just keep myse'f to m'se'f, thank 'ee…

Click for Larger Image

Um, no thanks, really…


Star Trek finally got around the problem of “Why the heck do all these “aliens” look like ordinary humans with prosthetic appliances” by postulating that SF staple, the Forerunners, who basically used primeval human DNA to make Vulcans, Klingons, whatnot, which is why they ARE interfertile!

[I don't imagine it's easily achieved, though, cultural barriers notwithstanding; mules aren't common even when horses and donkeys are free to work on the problem. I use this in a fanfic I work on occasionally; the Human has a Vulcan girlfriend, which is physiologically odd but quite acceptable (she's not human, but he needs no adaptor…) and convenient in that the “saving throw” against pregnancy is absurdly low; only a weird fluke (or determined, sustained effort) would produce another Mr Spock.]

Edited at 2014-04-07 03:43 pm (UTC)
Apr. 7th, 2014 04:16 pm (UTC)
"diplomacy" suggests a certain distance in itself.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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