[LMB] More stray thoughts

Gwynne Powell gwynnepowell at hotmail.com
Fri Jan 25 07:00:03 GMT 2019

My thoughts stray a lot.

It's interesting to see how various cultures in Lois's books deal with younger sons.

In most human societies people tried to have as many children
as they could. In most early societies the infant mortality rate was
around 50%, so you had to have a few spares.

Even today our social superiors in the upper classes still like to
have 'an heir and a spare'.

In the Sharing Knife world, Farmers like to have as many kids as possible;
they need the workers on the farm.

But once the new generation grow up, you have the problem that
suddenly those extras are no longer needed. What do you do with

Lakewalkers have no problem: Patrollers!

Farmers need to get rid of the extras when the elder son starts his
own family, so they send them off to break new ground (which is
causing huge problems), or just to find work somewhere else. It's
not always a happy solution.

On Barrayar Vor used to put spare sons into the military. Now they
seem to hang around as town clowns. I wonder if things change a
bit after Vormercier and Vorbataille both spectacularly showed the
problems with having Town Clowns who don't have enough to do.

Beta solves the problem by not having extras; birth levels are tightly
controlled to keep the population stable and supportable.

Pen's family and presumably similar rural lords seem happy to keep
the spares hanging around; he was traded in marriage, his title bought
a wealthy tradesman's daughter for the family.

In Cedonia they castrate a spare son.

No real point to all this, just looking at how lives are affected by
random things like position in family: Clover is happy to see Fawn
married and gone, Whit out of there, the twins dislodged, to make
space for her own offspring. One minute you're vital to the family,
the next you're tossed away as surplus to requirements. Byerly is
son of a younger son, barely on the edges of High Vor society, an
unneeded remnant. (Why didn't Pierre name BY as his heir? Count's
choice after all, and By would be better than Richars. Zap the cat
would be better than Richars. Adopting a nephew to be his heir
would have been a good idea.) The structures and customs needed
to keep society going aren't always kind to the individuals involved.

More information about the Lois-Bujold mailing list