Loneliness, Impersonality and the Tecton: A Critical Essay
One of my favorite series of books is the Sime~Gen universe by Jacqueline Lichtenberg. The eight books (four of which are to varying degrees co-authored by Jean Lorrah) cover a span of about a thousand years. Having read and re-read them many times, I find that I prefer the books set earlier in the internal chronology of the series to those set in its later years. The breaking point between the books comes with the establishment of the Modern Tecton, the first non-junct Sime government, and how it turned into a cold bureaucracy after the death of Klyd Farris. As a reader, I find myself wondering if my feelings about these fictional works have something to do with our present world.
We live in a society in which people can be surrounded by other people every day and yet remain lonely all the time, even to the point of despair and suicide. People don't touch one another. Not so much physical touching as people don't reach out emotionally to one another. Everyone keeps everything locked up inside, as though it were vaguely obscene to reach out to another human being as a whole, complete person. Relationships are kept carefully impersonal, with strict rules governing exactly what is permissible, with no allowances for individual differences. When people are hurt because of it, most people will say that it was too bad that that person had to be hurt, but that exceptions couldn't have been made without leading to social disruption.
But we cannot completely deny our deep longings for strong emotional contact and support, only repress them. Thus so many people turn to reading fiction in which there is a strong component of emotional interaction between the characters, where they can vicarously experience a world in which people are permitted to transcend the barriers and touch one another. Hence the extreme popularity of the romance novel. And in science fiction one sees a strong growth of stories in which emotional interactions between the characters is as important, if not more so, than physical action.
This is one of the attractions of the Sime/Gen universe. Here is a world in which the characters literally partake of one anothers' lives, with the Simes deriving their physical existance from the life- force of the Gens. And when the Gen gives freely to a Sime, there is a powerful element of caring that passes between them, the sharing of those very elements that are so woefully lacking in our own lives. This is the great discovery of Rimon Farris, which enables the Householdings to create a healthy, dynamic society in which innovation and the regeneration of civilization can occur.
The Householdings that are created as a result of this great discovery are a place where every member is a part of a community that actively cares. No one is ever allowed to be left alone to muddle through their problems without at least someone always ready to listen. People can feel secure in the knowledge that there will be someone there to shore up their self-esteem during a time of depression, to catch them if they fall. And in a community small enough that the channels can know all their renSimes personally, genuine love and affection passes along with the selyn in every transfer.
But then comes the disaster of Zelerod's Doom, which is averted only when Klyd Farris overthrows the junct Territory government and replaces it with the Tecton, the organization that had united the Householdings. But in order to make his promises to provide every Sime with selyn work, he has to be able to spread the channels far and wide across the Territory. This means that they must go out of their Householdings and serve strange renSimes, people they have never seen before and know nothing about. Worse yet, they cannot form any close relationships with these renSimes, for the Modern Tecton requres them to move as necessary to keep up with changing situations. And even the channel-Companion relationship that had been the most beautiful and uplifting thing of the Householder lifestyle, from which the channels derived the love and satisfaction they channeled to their renSimes, is broken up and replaced with a depersonalized system of Donors who can be given and taken away at a moment's notice. And to cap it all off, transfer is no longer a deeply personal, private interaction between two human beings, but is instead subjected to the most dehumanizing regulations that mandate a by-the-numbers uniformity.
In Unto Zeor Forever we see the world that is created by this system, and it is a far cry from the uplifting vision of House of Zeor or Ambrov Keon. The Tecton keeps everyone alive, but no more. Gens are protected from the specter of the kill and Simes get the selyn they need for life, but nothing more. Almost no one gets the deep satisfaction and personal caring that enables a person to live a complete, fulfilled life. It is as if everyone is going around only half alive, going through the motions of life and never realizing what they're missing. Everything is kept carefully impersonal, as though even the tiniest allowance for individual difference might lead to disaster. And the closeness of the Householdings has been destroyed, leaving only faceless corporations that bear their names, with a Sectuib who is more a Chairman of the Board than a loving intermediary of life among his followers.
It is actually a wonder that we don't see more abberations in the society of Unto Zeor Forever, more people going crazy from the impersonality of their lives. Perhaps it is only the relatively low sensitivity of the renSimes who make the bulk of the Sime population which saves the entire society from collapse.
In RenSime!, the book that is set last in the internal chronology, Laneff comes to see that the Tecton's practice of separating Sime from Gen through rigid bureaucratic rules about transfer actually perpetuate junctedness. However Laneff still comes to reject Distect-style Gen transfer for channel's transfer, albeit through a personal relationship with a single channel who serves her need each month.
I hope that one day it will again be possible for Jacqueline Lichtenberg to publish Sime~Gen work and that she will be able to extend the chronology of her universe to show what happened after Laneff's lifework.
Last updated October 19, 2012