I’ve been thinking of various books I’ve read where a pivotal part of the Strange Land aspect of the narrative has been a style of reproduction that varies from the human norm – either technologically transformed human reproduction, or else an entirely alien style of reproduction displayed by the Strange Creatures in the narrative.
I’ve read about artificial uterine devices, about systems where humans use a computer program to combine personality features to create a new personality in an artificial intelligence environment (one which may be granted a corporeal body of their own design at a future date), a gazillion and one explorations of various aspects of genetic engineering and many more (mustn’t forget the clones). I’ve read about the variations in reproductive patterns between aliens from K-selected species and from r-selected species, species with three or more individuals needing to combine genetic material to propagate offspring, hermaphroditic species, species where only one body in a family group has a conscious mind (and sometimes these species take turns in hosting the mind), species who don’t mature to social adulthood until they’ve finished their reproductive years, and many many more.
Most of these stories are, in some way, an exploration of the way our own reproductive patterns have shaped our social roles and expectations, especially with regard to gender apartheid.
So, this week’s question: what’s the most fascinating exploration of reproduction you’ve read (or seen in image-based media)?
Two for me:
- Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, which attempts to show both how biology shapes us and how we build our own social systems on top of actual biology through events in a hermaphroditic society.
- David Brin’s Uplift series, where a broad array of species with different reproductive patterns and strategies strut their fretful hour upon the stage at various moments