Thursday, September 11, 2008

Julie Czerneda on Sex in the Clan Chronicle Universe

As part of John Scalzi's "Big Idea" series of interviews, Julie Czerneda talks about how "a graduate student's observations of fish in a a laboratory" fueled her "Clan Chronicles" series.

How powerful is sexual selection? As species evolve, mates choose sex partners based on whatever they see, hear, smell, touch, or taste that convinces them this one (or however many) will do better than all those others. Being a biologist, my use of the term “do better” is all about the success of the generation that results from that partnership. (Aside: I picked well. We have great kids. Although I can’t say I was thinking along those lines at the time.)

I could see in my tanks the cost in energy, risk, and survival male minnows paid to attract females. Or flipped around, the price expected by the females. Many would only breed once in a lifetime, if that. From all evidence, this extreme works for them.

What about us? How far could sexual selection go within a species that understood its own biology? Surely intelligence would curb extraordinary, risky behaviour. (I can hear you snickering, but I’m talking species here, not teens.)

Those speculations lead to her invention of The Clan, an alien species where females will only mate with males who have been tested and proven to be as strong or stronger as themselves. That strategy turns out to have limitations:
However, being intelligent, you’d expect they’d notice that encouraging more and more power in their females might increase this ability but also will one day seriously limit the number of suitable mates — especially if failure to be chosen means death.
The first book in the series, A Thousand Words For Stranger, starts out by following a female, Sira, who no male can match, and who realizes their species may be in trouble. Since then Czerneda's explored that universe in three series of novels, with the latest, Riders of the Storm, released this month.

Read the whole big idea.

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1 comment:

Arvind Mishra said...

Quite interesting ! Going stronger on
the footprints of Darwinian natural selection !