The Culture of the Creatures Loki: Chapter 13
To understand the Creatures, we must first understand their family structure. Since the Creatures are hermaphroditic, they lack the male-female dyad which we humans have. Because of this, they do not have our one male/one female plus children family structure, but rather organize themselves into ``nests,'' much like Robert A. Heinlein's Martians. These are groups of anywhere from two to twelve adults who have decided to make a lifetime commitment to each other. (If a creature proves incompatible with hir nest, sie is free to leave---sort of a ``no-fault divorce''.) The members of a nest enjoy an emotional, physical, and spiritual closeness which corresponds roughly to that of a Human marriage. The only reproduction which is permitted in Creature society is within a nest---the members of the nest will determine that a particular member should become pregnant, sie will eat sufficiently to ovulate, and the paternity of the child will typically be left up to chance, and will never really be known. The group collectively cares for the young, but the parent is still dominant in the life of the individual child. A parent may raise more than one child at a time, but children are usually separated by at least four or five years. In this way, the older is capable of assisting in the care of the younger.
One will note that the nest continues even if a member dies---because of that, a nest which has a diversity of ages amongst its members may last for many generations before dying out, if it dies out at all. Every city will tend to have at least one influential nest which controls much of the city's wealth. These nests will have no dearth of suitors, and will tend to last for a goodly long time.
Because a nest operates like a human family---i.e., often as a single organism, when resources are scarce, there will be inter-nest competition. This leads us to the subject of inter-nest relationships. A Creature will be loyal to hir nest and the nest of hir birth, even unto death, and since a nest may last several lifetimes, inter-nest conflicts may last for just as long. Some of the less pragmatic nests have been known to keep a feud going for upwards of two hundred years, long after the reason for the feud has been forgotten. (The Creature's literature is full of (Romeo and Juliet) style star-crossed love stories. In fact, this phenomena appears much more often than it does in Human society, possibly because the large numbers of Creatures in a nest make conflicts of this sort far more likely to affect the life of an individual creature -- imagine what happens when there is a nest which would be perfect for a given Creature, except for the presence of one child of a nest which is engaged in a feud with the Creature's parent nest).
The entire nest shares in the child-rearing responsibilities, with the mother taking the lead role. The child's relationship with its mother is extremely close, and its relationship with the other adults in the nest is less close -- something along the lines of a nephew/niece - uncle/aunt relationship.
When a child reaches the age of maturity, it is more or less expected to leave the nest it came from and either join another or found a nest of its own, in much the same way as a young human adult is expected to leave its parents and find a spouse. (Remaining single for some time is, however, considered acceptable). Although a child may continue to live with the nest which begat it or return to visit, it may never be a member of that nest -- it is always a child and may not be sexually active with any member or child of that nest. This anti-incest taboo has developed as a precaution against inbreeding.
Because the Creatures can ovulate more or less at will, the human strictures on extra-marital sex are unnecessary. (We believe these strictures evolved to ensure that children born into society have a secure family structure to draw on for emotional and financial support). Instead, Creature society has evolved strict dietary controls -- an individual creature may not eat beyond what is necessary to satisfy the appetite unless it is part of a nest, and single Creatures who have children are shunned by most of society. It is considered extremely immoral to have young which one is incapable of caring for.
Sat Feb 18 00:31:33 MST 1995