Guest Post: Bruce Bretthauer

I’ve long been an admirer of Bruce’s writing. He has some fifteen or so books available on Amazon, in several series. In additional to the Familes series, there’s another featuring Kalliste, then there’s the Dryad series, the cross-time police/agents series, another spinoff that deals with settling a virgin planet. He’s a very prolific writer.

I’m very choosy who I read nowadays, even more choosy about who I edit for. I’ve recently begun working with Bruce on his new novel; that one’s up to chapter 9.

He’s very different, as well as being very good (I recommend his books unreservedly) So I asked Bruce if he’d like to write something about his Families series. Here it is:

Creating the United Families


I generally write with female characters because I find women a lot more interesting than men. I hlooked in vain for a plausible and logical story set in a culture made up entirely of women. There were references to such cultures in ancient stories, but the details were sketchy. I decided to rectify that.

How could such a society happen, and what would keep it mostly female? Babies are roughly split evenly between boys and girls, so over time the number of men and women would even out…unless the conscious choice was made to select for females.

This could only occur if the population was extremely limited. The adage “Women and children first” strikes right to the heart of this. You need wombs to increase the population. So if you lost most of the men, and a high percentage of the women, you could do this.

That leaves just the question of why keep that modification when it is no longer needed.

Of these questions and premises, this last was the easiest.

Start with a marginal world, one that needs a severe amount of terraforming. Accidents happen, and there would be casualties. If there is a long enough period of these accidents, the population would end up fairly small, and given the way humans divide up work, a lot of those accidental deaths would be male.

When the originators of The Families saw their population trends they made a conscious decision to accept DNA modification so that all births were triplets. They did not need men so much as they needed women, so female births were encouraged. It would not take too long before the population would be overwhelmingly female.

We are accustomed to one man and one woman forming a breeding pair. The Families could not think that way beyond a certain point. With a limited gene pool they could not lock up one woman’s DNA with one man’s, they needed diversity. Plus there would be competition between the women for the men, and I did not want a harem situation. That meant sequestering the men so they have little or no interaction with the women, and vice versa. This also protects their health, if you think about it.

So how do the Families reproduce if the men and women can’t meet? Artificial insemination. We can do it now, it’s logical to assume the Families can do it then.

The study of the Canadian Shield and the surface of the Moon show that there have been a lot of rocks flying around our solar system. The Families had settled (however unwillingly) in a planetary system that was still forming, so they, too, had the problem of a lot of rocks flying around in space. That means they would make the decision not to have one big settlement, but a lot of smaller ones. I also assumed that in any terraforming you would not want to overwhelm any one area with a lot of people, but spread the burden, and the growth, around. This naturally divides up the settlers into a lot of groups, and those groups grew into separate Families.


The government of the Families grew from the above. Families would cooperate on large scale projects, but what would really bring them together was the swapping of genomes. Rules and customs would develop, and then formal contracts, and a means of enforcing those contracts. Disputes could be aired in such a forum, and hopefully resolved.

I did borrow one item from a custom I saw while growing up: The Eldest. There were several extended families where we lived, and when there was a dispute within those families, or something that impacted the family as a whole (usually involving land), they would take that dispute to head of the family. It might not be the oldest member, but it was someone who had quite a lot of experience and whose wisdom was respected. They would make the decision, and for better or worse, that was it. It just seemed like a logical thing to do in the Families.

That leaves the question of why the Families didn’t revert to a more ‘normal’ birth pattern after their population grew large enough. That answer is because, in their view, they are a culture that is on the brink of failure. They live on a terraformed world that needs constant maintenance, they have a population that is large but can’t be too large, and so, like other cultures that are in ‘survival mode’, they grew conservative in their decisions. Not conservative politically, but resistant to change. If something worked, they kept it. They would not make change just for the sake of it.

So here, 60 generations after First Landing, they have a society that is human, but 89+% female. All of the things we take for granted that involve men and women, including clothes, roles, customs, and traditions, those are all thrown out. Essentially it is a clean slate, albeit with certain things built in such as all births being fraternal triplets, except for the occasional male baby. They have something that is just as competitive as any other human society, but with a tradition of cooperation to resolve problems. And then people from elsewhere come calling, people who view the members of The Families as prey, and thereby hangs a tale.

And after a few iterations, an entire series.”

You’ll find his books on Amazon, perhaps other places. Try one; I think you’ll like it.

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