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Apr 11, 2013

Gynodioecy in Exode

Last year I decided to include religion as an important part of Exode. One of the great features of science fiction is that it allows for imaginative exploration of "alien" societies and imaginary religions. In Exode, the Prelands know that they, as a species, have been created and engineered to be a hermaphroditic primate variant. Preland religion includes the tenet that the Prelands are part of a great project of intelligent design by which the Creators are gradually transforming Earthly primates into a godlike artificial lifeform that will transcend primitive human sexuality and biological reproductive processes.

It is fun to start with a conventional religiously-motivated belief system like this and turn it on its head in a science fiction story. How could there be a human religion that includes the idea that heterosexuality is an abomination? In his Cadwal Chronicles, Jack Vance imagined a "freakish cult" that attempts to use cloning to maintain a population of asexual adherents to the "Monomantic Creed", a belief system that condemns heterosexuality and conventional human sexual reproduction.

In Exode, the pek promote a Genesaunt religion that, on planets such as Hemmal, can lead members of the Buld Clan to abandon human-like sexual behavior. The story shows that there are some Genesaunts who rebel against Preland-style religion. As the story Exode unfolds, these Buld rebels work to save Earth for we bisexual humans and thwart the original plan of the Huaoshy to phase us out and replace we humans with Prelands who can only reproduce using artificial means.

The Future of Reproduction
hermaphrodite
When I decided to introduce Noÿs into The Start of Eternity I played around with the idea that humans from 10,000,000 years in the future were not normal heterosexuals. Just how different is the genome of Noÿs compared to that of a typical human of our era? How far has sexual behavior and the reproductive system of humans 10,000,000 years in the future diverged from what we Earthlings experience now?

In The End of Eternity Asimov presented a description of the slow rate of evolution during the millions of years of Earth's history that were controlled by the time traveling Eternals. Humans from 3,000,000 years in the future were described as having 4 fewer teeth, but otherwise they were little different from you and I. Supposedly the Eternity time travel system prevented Humanity from evolving and diverging.  The Eternals, while trying to protect and perfect human society, prevented Earthlings from making full use of dangerous advanced technologies like nuclear power and "matter duplication".

But what of the "hidden centuries" and the far future human population that included Noÿs? I imagine that in the three million years worth of "hidden" time leading up to the "home when" of Noÿs there were both important technological advances on Earth and significant biological changes in the human species. For Exode, I assume that Noÿs was from a population of humans with gynodioecy. That reproductive strategy allowed for a fairly stable symbiotic relationship between humans and nanites.

The question becomes, if she is from a culture with no males, why would Noÿs select a Reality in which she falls in love with a male? There are many interesting questions about Noÿs and her biology that are important for an understanding of her motivations. For example, I've been struggling with the issue of just how long the human life span might be among the humans like Noÿs who live 10,000,000 years in the future. I toyed with the idea of allowing Noÿs to survive 10,000 years with the help of her nanites. That would allow her to have a son (Thomas) in the 20th century, go back in time 10,000 years and then live long enough to meet Thomas again (not to mention herself). However, I prefer to imagine that she "only" lives a couple of hundred years. How would a stable population be maintained when the average life span is 300 years? Isaac Asimov confronted this issue in his science fiction and he ended up imagining that the long-lived Solarians became hermaphrodites.

Dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism
About 40 years ago I read an amusing science fiction story about a collapsed galactic empire. After a long "dark age" without space travel, the empire began to recover and once again spacecraft went out to the stars, often renewing contact with worlds settled long ago by humans. In the story, a lonely male spaceship captain makes radio contact with a long-lost planet. He is thrilled to arrange to land on the planet and meet the very pretty woman he has been talking to. Unfortunately, when he lands he realizes that the woman is more than twice as tall as he is.

For Exode, I assume that Noÿs and other women of the far future are twice the size of the hermaphrodites (there are no males). Noÿs is not unusually large: the hermaphrodites of the far future are small. Noÿs knows that in her future, females are eventually also engineered out of humanity then the remaining hermaphrodites become extinct. Noÿs is fascinated by the males of the far past and she selects a Reality in which she makes use of Andrew Harlan to destroy Eternity.

chromosomes
I've long been bothered by the unlikely prospect of Noÿs being fertile with males from 10,000,000 years in her past. However, the pek come to the rescue by studying the genes that Noÿs brings to the 20h century from the far future. The pek learn how to make "false" Buld who can father children with Noÿs. Parthney has an interesting combination of genes from Prelands, Earthlings of the far future and the Buld Clan. Parthney can pass himself off as a typical Earthling, but his brain does have some capacity to interface with the "Noÿs nanites" that come to him by way of Thomas.
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Note. I later decided not to rely on the Buld population as the source of an Interventionist who would go to Earth and become Parthney's father. The Ek'col are another human variant that was designed and created specificically for this purpose. Also, Trysta is an Asterothrope, although made to look human by nanite-mediated developmental modifications.

Related Reading The role of androdioecy and gynodioecy in mediating evolutionary transitions between dioecy and hermaphroditism in the animalia

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