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Date: Thu, 30 Jan 2003 08:40:16 -0600
Subject: Re: (urth) DOORS: The hive-like society
From: Adam Stephanides 

on 1/26/03 10:25 AM, Michael Andre-Driussi at mantis@siriusfiction.com

> I do not insist that all dolls belonged to pre-bridegrooms, nor that only
> men give them up.  I am trying to solve the puzzle of why we are told more
> than once that Otherworld women become destructively violent at the sight
> of a man with his doll.

Actually, I think I basically agree with you on that point.  A man who holds
onto his doll is choosing an ideal woman over a real woman, and hence
depriving a real woman of a chance for motherhood.

> Which brings us to the question of how could species-perpetuating
> reproduction happen if it is literally suicide for the male?  (Granted that
> spiders and bees and ants and all sorts of others do it this way.)  It
> seems to me that some men would mate/die for Love (Eros) along the goddess
> worshiping lines, and others might mate/die for suicide (Thanatos) . . . so
> what is the suicide rate among men?  What if this number were channeled
> into fertilization programs, where each one donated enough zygotes for a
> woman to have many more than 25 offspring?  (How many more, anyway?  Total
> 50?)  Could this suicidal minority support the species?  Seems possible.

Well, the math is easy to do.  Assume, to be liberal, that the average
mother has fifty children (since the average lifespan of human women is no
higher than in our world, it could scarcely be higher).  Assume also that
the sex ratio of babies is fifty-fifty, since there's no indication of
anything else.  Then each father produces an average of twenty-five males to
replace himself, which means that for the population to reproduce itself the
suicide ratio among men has to be at least 4%.  That seems awfully high to

> About the "Family Maintenance" bill in Otherworld Congress, Adam wrote:
>> I'd forgotten that quote.  But while it proves the existence of
>> "super-mothers," it seems to tell more against than in favor of your theory
>> as a whole.  Powerful groups are rarely targeted for involuntary
>> sterilization; note also that the bill has been vetoed, meaning that it had
>> passed Congress.  It's more likely that the motive for the bill is similar
>> to that of extreme right-wing proposals in this world to sterilize "welfare
>> mothers": that children in such large families are likely to be badly reared
>> and/or drains on the public purse.
> Really?  I thought that Microsoft/Bill Gates was targeted for
> "sterilization" precisely because of power.  (Since I'm stressing the
> sociopolitical power of motherhood in Otherworld I think it is misleading
> to think of "eugenics" programs against non-elites in our world.)

Again, I may be forgetting something, but I don't recall any evidence in the
book of the mothers' sociopolitical power.  And while I know what you mean,
"eugenics" isn't really the right word for what I'm getting at (after
twenty-five children, it's a little late for eugenics).

> (Hmmm.  I saw "family maintenance" as translating to "making families
> available to more women"; a broadening of the franchise.  You posit "family
> maintenance" as meaning "maintain or restore the strength of the family by
> limiting its size," if I understand it correctly.  And supposing that
> political talk translates at all!)

Actually, I hadn't been thinking of the bill's title at all.  But now that
you mention it, I think that the reading you attribute to me fits better
than the one you prefer.  Of course, bills here frequently have anodyne
titles which don't reflect their contents, let alone the motives behind them
(USA Patriot Act, anyone?); presumably it's the same in Otherworld.

> But I see no evidence of a welfare system at all in TAD.

While it may not be mentioned explicitly, I think it's safe to say that one
exists.  Firstly, in matters not gender- or reproduction-related, Otherworld
society seems similar to America in the late 1940s or early 1950s.  We had a
welfare system then, though much less extensive than the Great Society, so
it's reasonable to suppose that Otherworld does.  Secondly, Green thinks at
one point that a society dominated by women would care more about children
than ours does.  Though realistically there's no reason why Green should be
in a position to know (he seems to observe very little that's not related to
his quest for Lara), I get the feeling we're supposed to regard his
ruminations on Otherworld as reliable.  So if postwar America and Otherworld
differ in this regard, I'd expect the difference to be in Otherworld's
favor.  Third, and most importantly, the practical aspect: a woman living on
her own, raising twenty-five children, could not possibly support herself
unaided (unless she were rich).

> I do not see
> motherhood in Otherworld as stigmatized in any way -- to the contrary, it
> seems to be something so alluring that women (not all, mind you) are
> willing to commit murder.  So while I can see your eugenics reading, I
> cannot see the social situation it seems to rely upon; otoh, the eugenics
> reading does not address the drive of Otherworld women to become mothers
> when it is not entirely a biological necessity.

I didn't say that motherhood per se was stigmatized; rather, having many
children and being an excessive charge on the public purse is stigmatized
(again, as welfare mothers are here).  In many societies in our world, women
have a strong desire to be mothers, though it's not biologically necessary;
as for the question of "murder," women presumably tell themselves, and are
told by their culture, that the fathers' deaths are necessary for the
preservation of the species (as they are).

> I'm happy you can see the "super-mothers," although I'd rather you see them
> as just the mothers that I think they are.

On p. 2, Lara tells Green that mothers on her world bear "Perhaps three
children.  Perhaps three dozen."  This implies a broad range, and suggests
to me that twenty-five is above average.

> I sense that you still cannot
> see the rather desperate pre-mothers: Gloria Brooks (maybe), the ice queen
> (definitely), and even Fanny.

I don't recall Gloria, but my impression is that the ice queen is too young
to be really desperate.  I'd attribute her sudden violence to a combination
of her great triumph of attracting a man to her float being suddenly
snatched away, combined with Green's unfavorably comparing her to the
goddess (as she must think as she undoubtedly thinks, not realizing that for
Green Lara is a flesh-and-blood woman).  And Fanny is happy to give up the
putative advantages of motherhood in favor of being able to "do it over and
over" with Green (309).  Which is not to say that women in Otherworld don't
strongly desire to be mothers, as I said.

>> And I don't think the bill, if passed, would have increased the number of
>> male deaths.  It's true that, to keep the rate of population growth fixed,
>> more men would have to become fathers.  But I don't recall any indication
>> that the society is aiming for such a fixed target; and men aren't coerced
>> to become fathers, though there is presumably social pressure to do so.
> "Social pressure" like the ice-queen float in the parade?  "Coercion" like
> that implied when the ice queen says, "I'm not one of those people who put
> a gun to your head . . . If you should change your mind"?  Or the naked
> coercion when she  goes after him with a knife? (23)  Is the following
> passage indicative of social pressure or coercion?: [Dr. Pille talking
> about the ice queen incident and why Green was diagnosed as an "alcoholic"
> which the hospital workers call "sex change"] "Breach of promise is quite
> serious, as you must know. If I had said you were sound except for your
> concussion, you'd have been taken to another hospital, and eventually to
> prison.  By classifying you as an alcoholic, I was able to keep you at
> United and keep you off of psychoactive drugs" (101).

There are breach of promise suits in our world (or used to be), and women do
sometimes try to kill men who jilt them.  Had Green not entered the float,
he would have been unmolested.

> (The dark humor: by rights, Green should have been sent to the hospital
> prison for his [ignorant] behavior, yet North, with his violent rap sheet
> and ties to secret societies, has still been assigned to the simple
> hospital.  Shows the social weighting of their crimes, I supppose.)

In fact North had been on the Violent Ward until a few days before Green
arrived (84); presumably he'd done a good job of play-acting.

And what precisely is North's crime?  His rap sheet says he was "Arrested
8/8/68 ngri." (128), but I don't know what that means.  Actually there's an
apparent discrepancy in this regard.  North tells Green when he first meets
him, not knowing yet that he's a Visitor, "If you start and then you think
my God, I'm going to _die_, and you back out, they say you're crazy.  Same
thing happened to me." (38)  But North is a Visitor too, so he wouldn't have
died.  North could have backed out, like Green, for some other reason, but

> Green
> saying "I'm not gay" to the antique-collecting woman (233).  (I could have
> sworn Green said it another time earlier on in Otherworld, but I can't find
> it now.)

You're right; to North, in fact. (39)

> In addition to that, I find something very shady about North witnessing Al
> Bailey's "doing" by Gloria Brooks . . . that he would be so passive when
> his friend/recruit is being killed seems odd.

Well, North is planning his escape, and doesn't want to attract attention to
himself and be possibly returned to the Violent Ward. And his speech on p.
91 suggests that he would regard a conspirator who let himself be seduced as
weak and therefore expendable.

> (More about Bailey: since the post-coitus/post-ejaculation death is more
> like dying by AIDS, then how come Bailey is an instant KIA?

Did Bailey die immediately?  The only two references I found to him don't
say anything about his dying.

> Ejaculation as the death-trigger, I can see that easily enough.  And yet,
> wow, what a  Catholic Christian utopia nightmare!  No
> fornication, no auto eroticism, sexual congress is performed one time for
> reproductive purposes.

Uh huh.  (Fanny's excitement at the prospect of being able to "do it over
and over," mentioned above, fits with this picture.)

Aside from the points I and Roy have already made, the mechanism you favor
seems quite implausible, both biologically and evolutionarily.  And I
personally have a hard time imagining the human race persisting without
sexual frustration, unrelieved by masturbation, as one motivating factor for
men; though Wolfe might disagree.

But I don't really know.  I doubt that there's enough evidence in the book
to decide the question one way or another (though Wolfe might think there
is); and I'm not sure it really makes much difference for the book as a

Later mantis wrote:

> That is to say, I think that TAD shows a world where
> reproduction involves pre-fathers following Love/Death and pre-mothers
> following Power, and the other men and women being pretty much the mass of
> non-reproductive society, getting on with their lives.

This raises the question: what percentage of men become fathers, and women
mothers?  You seem to be suggesting that it's only a minority; and if you do
think that the average mother has twenty-five children, it had better be a
minority, or there would be a population explosion.  As I said, I haven't
read the whole book in a long time; but as I recall, my impression when I
read it had been that the majority of men became fathers.  There are a
couple of quotes which to me support this view, though neither is
definitive.  Fanny tells Green "Lots of men hold out for their entire lives,
damn them." (152); if a majority of men held out, I would expect her to say
"most men" rather than "lots of men."  Watching Joe's fight with Sawyer,
Lara says of the audience "They applaud him [Sawyer] now[.]  But in a few
years he will be dead, and so will they." (292)  Of course, Lara could be
speaking from an immortal goddess's perspective, and by "a few years" she
might mean fifty or sixty.  And I realize that under this view there are
problems with population increase, even if the average number of children is
somewhat less than twenty-five; I don't know what to do about that.

And speaking of population increase, where are all the children?  The only
occasion I've come across so far where children are seen in the book is the
boys who are mentioned as following the parade.

> Ah, well we are in agreement on that one: two against the world!  But their
> argument, iirc, is that Otherworld males are as biologically different from
> Earth males as O-females are from E-females -- so O-males are chaste and
> pure (until a pre-mother does something which activates them) where E-males
> are not . . .

Well, either way, O-males have to be biologicall different from E-males,
since Green can have sex with Lara without dying, whereas an O-male could
not.  But I don't think O-males are chaste and pure, though they don't have
involuntary emissions (and their sex drives must presumably be somewhat



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