Friday, 7 October 2016

Meanwhile...And Later

In a fictional universe (or multiverse), we want to know not only what happens to a group of characters over time but also what happens to other groups of characters at the same time and also what are the later consequences of earlier events. Therefore, we are pleased when:

we are told that stories overlap in the Technic History;
characters in other stories refer to van Rijn;
van Rijn himself appears in a fantasy series;
we infer that the Kirkasanters are descendants of the Aenean exiles;
time travelers visit the Maurai History;
Lir sinks Ys, then later Mananaan Mac Lir helps Skafloc who sees the sunken tower of Ys.

According to the blurb for SM Stirling's The Sword Of The Lady, a man seeking the source of the Change comes to:

"...Nantucket, an island overrun with forest, inhabited by a mere two hundred people who claim to have been transported there from out of time."

Thus, a welcome later consequence of the Event in the Nantucket Trilogy.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And I hope you enjoy reading DIES THE FIRE, the first volume of Stirling's "Emberverse" series. And I very recently finished the latest volume, PRINCE OF OUTCASTS.

My chief complaint with both the Emberverse and Nantucket series is the common and implausible use of women as soldiers. Considering how much strength and stamina you need for military work, I just didn't believe it would be plausible to have more than a few, rare exceptions like Marian Alston being soldiers. I simply don't believe one third or one fifth of an army can be composed of the top ten percent of female athletes capable of handling the most rigorous, physically demanding military drill and route marching, etc.

Stirling could just barely make me suspend my disbelief on this point in his Draka books. But only because he had Draka women training, practicing, studying, and drilling in the military and martial arts from age seven. And in THE STONE DOGS we see the Draka manipulating genes to make this easier for both males and females.


S.M. Stirling said...

Women soldiering actually happened fairly often historically.

Apart from a small but persistent trickle of women who cross-dressed and "passed" as men in various military settings (often only being revealed when wounded), who are well-attested right up until the 19th century, there were cultures where women soldiers were unexceptional.

Eg., in the kingdom of Dahomey for two centuries the elite Royal guards and shock-troops of the kingdom were women, comprising about one-third of the army -- and Dahomey was a ferociously warlike, predatory slave-raiding and slave-based state, constantly engaged in wars with other expansionist and warlike neighbors. The officers of the Amazon corps were also high officers of State, serving on the king's advisory/policy council.

During the French conquest in the late 19th century, the Foreign Legion soldiers remarked that the Amazon corps (the Fon term for them translates as "Our Mothers", oddly enough) were savagely aggressive and effective, better than the rest of the Dahomean army.

This isn't the only case: women warriors were common among the Sarmatians another North Iranian nomads, and in some other times and places.

In other words, fighting has been largely, but not by any means wholly, a male specialty throughout most of history.

I suspect that the reason for the predominance of males in war can be accounted for mainly by three factors:

a) a very large percentage of women in the relevant age groups in preindustrial times being either pregnant, nursing infants, or caring for toddlers throughout their adult lives.

Typically this would be about 75% of women between their early 20's and mid-40's, and that's not counting nursemaids and relatives helping tend to children. There's a much stronger "biological" argument for women being specially suited to child-care than there is for women being physically unsuited to fighting.

Fighters have to be mobile. Typically occupations which involved moving around a lot were predominantly male -- loggers and sailors, for example.

In the case of Dahomey, the Amazons were forbidden to marry or bear children while serving in the army -- technically they were "royal wives", which gave them an inviolable status. Lapses were severely punished.

b) preference on their part. My observation is that women are often good at fighting but just don't -- on average -- get as much of a charge out of it as men do, though that's speculative, and:

c) sheer prejudice, of the sort that used to bar women from many professions and jobs. There was never any -physical- reason women shouldn't have been, say, bank clerks or doctors or lawyers.

Men just didn't let them.

Paul Shackley said...

Mr Stirling,
According to Engels, biological differences explained a sexual division of labor in hunter-gatherer societies. Pregnant or breast-feeding women could not easily creep or run after animals so women gathered the staple diet/"daily bread" of nuts and berries while expendable male hunters produced the occasional luxury of meat. Men were expendable because a tribe could survive the loss of most of its men but not the loss of most of its women. Descent was matrilineal because no one knew which man was the father of any given child - or maybe originally even that there was a father? When men switched from hunting to herding, they accumulated wealth and wanted to pass it to identifiable male heirs so they imposed patriarchal monogamy with, for the first time, a distinction between legitimacy and illegitimacy, but the son of a slave could inherit if the wife did not produce an heir.

Paul Shackley said...

Dear Mr. Stirling and Paul,

Mr. Stirling: I grant the exceptions you made, about there being some cultures which had a large number of women soldiers/warriors. But the fact that only two, in widely separated times and places, the Sarmatians and Dahomeans, institutionalized this practice would seem to support my skepticism. Your own comments about how the Dahomean women soldiers only serve in the army as long as they remained unmarried and childless indicates how rare this was. And the fact that, thru out history, women generally nursed and cared for children while their men did things like hunting and farming also bears out my view.

And in various articles I've read about the issue of women in the military, I've seen complaints by many that most women were simply not as large and strong as male military at a comparable age. That training standards even had to be LOWERED to allow an appreciable number of women to pass thru training into regular service. And that does not include what I read about the damage to discipline and morale caused by having mixed sex military units.

On balance, and allowing for the rare exceptions you noted (and fictional cases like Draka women), I still found your extensive use of women military a strain to accept. With rare exceptions like Marian Alston and Tiphaine d'Ath.

Paul: I'm not so sure that the role of the father in procreation was understood as late as Engels seems to have thought. In both Anderson's "The Little Monster" and "The Forest" we do see males who understood the idea of "Paternity."


Paul Shackley said...

But, when it was not known which man was the father of which child, all men were "fathers" and there was no patrilineal descent. A "gens" had a common ancestress. I think that the idea that people did not know that there were fathers is my elaboration of the argument and I agree that that could only have been at a very early stage.

Paul Shackley said...

Kaor, Paul!

I do agree that, at a very early stage of human culture it was likely that most most males did know who their children were.

Your use of "gens" reminded me of the old Roman system of clans, such as the gens Julii, Cornelii, Porcii, etc., both patricians and plebeians. But my understanding is that descent within these gens were reckoned patrilineally, not matrilineally.


Paul Shackley said...

Roman descent was, of course, patrilineal. Anthropologists applied the word "gens" to an earlier stage. The stages were:

unrestricted sexuality within the tribe;
increasing sexual taboos against incest;
the pairing marriage, terminable by either partner at any time;
patriarchal monogamy where the man owned herds, slaves and his wife whose role was to produce a male heir.

In the pairing marriage stage, it was forbidden to marry anyone with a common ancestress. Anthropolgists called people with a common ancestress a gens.

Paul Shackley said...

Kaor, Paul!

Understood! That explains what I thought was an odd use of the word "gens." And one form of marriage among Roman patricians was NOT terminable.