Sunday, January 07, 2007

Grandmothers and Insufficient Mating Material

It wouldn't be true to say that I cannot imagine a world without grandmothers.
I can. However, a world without grandmothers doesn't interest me, and it has been done before.

How dysfunctional were the "futuristic" societies of the sort of fiction we studied as "The Moderns" in the 1960's? I remember a rather bleak world view, when infants were incubated outside their mothers' wombs, and brought up in institutions, and segregated according to where on a Greek alphabetical scale their were judged to be in intelligence, physical ability, and career potential.

A bit like ants, really!

I like grandmothers, and family trees, and primogeniture because I think those are great ingredients for a good story, even if it is set in an alien world. When building a new world, I heartily recommend spending the time to draw up a family tree at least going back as far as the great-grandparents.

(But, don't publish dates!)

As it happens, my alien Empire is a little bit dysfunctional... and I can account for that if I wish, by claiming it is because all the protagonists' grandmothers seem to be exiles or fugitives or else they were not emotionally cut out to be our ideal of motherly when motherhood or grandmotherhood was thrust upon them.

When FORCED MATE came out, some readers were uncomfortable with Grandmama Helispeta's formal --ever so formal!-- speech. She never used contractions or abbreviations, and she always addressed other people, even her grandchildren, by their proper given names.

One of my grandmothers used to have a kind way of calling a halt to my childish dramatic, poetic, or vocal performances.

"I think that you have delighted us sufficiently..."
she would say.

Another grandmother used similar phraseology to announce that we had eaten enough of her expensive Sunday roast.

"We have had an adequate sufficiency..."

That probably influenced my "Voice" when I attempted to bring Grandmama Helispeta to life. MATING NET was the story of the biggest mistake of her youthful life. It was a short story. One day, maybe there'll be another chapter. Her role is much expanded in Insufficient Mating Material, as she considers it her duty to interfere in her grandson's life.

Have a good week.

Rowena Cherry


  1. Anonymous2:11 PM EST

    Good for you, Rowena. And thank you. I, too, have an alien (humanoid) society in which I'm developing a family and their backstory in order to find out how their society ticks and how they got where they are, not to mention how that influences their perspective on the often exasperating but always intriguing "humans". And it's kinda fun to see how these things shape the story; aliens can have skeletons in their closets, too, you know.

  2. Anonymous3:33 PM EST

    Oh, I love psycho grammas who don't live up to stereotypes! Hey, in real life, families come all shapes and sizes and most of them are dysfunctional in some way. I'm a history major, and I love anthropology and mythology. I've found all sorts of wierd families in Europe's royalty. Ever read a biography of Catherine the Great? Started out as minor German princess, ended up pyscho-empress of Russia whose children were most not fathered by the Tzar himself.

    Kimber An
    *For some bizarre reason Blogger thinks I don't have a user account all of a sudden. Probably got zapped into the mirror universe.