So, if you’ve followed along with the various rants, lore books and whatnot concerning races and species in Harem Collector, you’ve probably surmised I have a more than passing interesting in evolution and biology. Especially cool weird stuff like cordyceps mushrooms, the ploidy and reproduction of worker ants, and theoretical technically-asexual semi-parasitic clone aliens.
Elves present an interesting challenge, because they’re supposed to be an older, more evolved race. So, I have to hook up some futurist prediction evolution shenanigans. Awesome.
Elves were the first sentient species to form civilization in the world of Harem Collector. When humans, orcs, dwarves and whatnot were still banging stones together to make funny sparks, elves had already discovered advanced magic and formed a world-spanning civilization.
This has to do with the particulars of the Elf genetic code. Because they can live for centuries and only reproduce a handful of times, Elf-genes are particularly prone to mutation and differentiation. This is why, in a handful of generations less than a millennium after the fall of Elven civilization, isolated pockets of Elves have differentiated into the various subspecies- aquatic, high, wood, dark, blood, etc.
This genetic advantage lead to the Elven race to evolve in infrequent leaps rather than at a steady pace. This, combined with the treasure trove of experience held by their long-lived elders, caused the Elves to advance rapidly ahead of other species. But, as stories involving Elves often go, they became victims of their own success.
Eventually, having become masters of their terrestrial domain, Elves began to evolve again to better suit their circumstances. That is, since natural selection was no longer a factor, social constructs began to take the place of the usual evolutionary pressures.
Female elves began to have less and less interest in the aspects of male elves that would help in a natural selection situation- things like physique, prowess, and personalities compatible with caring for young- stopped being the qualifiers for elven attraction. Instead, qualities associated with social advancement- the ability to attain money and political power- took their place. And the same time, male elves stopped seeking things like a healthy physique and healthier sexual appetite as desirable qualities in their mates, and instead looked for other qualities- emotional support, the ability to keep a home, and acceptance and support of the male’s hobbies.
In short, female elves had evolved to become coldly ambitious gold diggers and male elves had evolved to become emotionally needy manchildren. Rampant xenophobia meant that no Elves were mating with other compatible species to help genetically mix things up, either. And this is totally not meant to reflect the social realities of any IRL cultures at all, whatsoever.
You might begin to see the problem here. Certainly, both sides of the Elven species had unreasonably high standards for the other, but that’s only half the problem. Even for Elven couples that did end up together, the desire for actual sex had been bred out of the species. The raw, primitive desire to stuff parts of one partner’s anatomy into the other partner’s anatomy was gone, replaced by a set of calculated social variables.
This lead Elven society to grind to a halt, and eventually fragment and fall apart. Elves now live much as the other races do, but in isolated communities flung far apart from one another. The species, never really numerous, simply began to die out. The isolated pockets of Elfdom straggle on, usually because clan elders force enough Elf couples to bump uglies long enough to produce offspring, much like modern zoo do with pandas. But the Elfs are a species on the way out, a process accelerated by the fact that not many young Elf men have the power and money Elf women have been bred to expect.
If only there was some rich, powerful, and virile young Hero come to pull the Elven species out of this genetic, extinction-bound tail spin. Oh well, only time will tell.
11 Replies to “She Ain’t Messin’ With No Broke Elves”
Heh, the bit about elves inadvertantly breeding the desire for sex out of their species reminds me of the revelation in Normalman that one side effect of universal superpowers on Levram was that fighting had replaced the usual biological drives.
Norm: “You mean that’s how they get off?!”
I’ll buy an Elfish slave or two…
its elf breeding oclock
Hmm, contemplating the scenario described, one plot device to bring you know who into contact with the elves could be some far thinking elf leader becoming very involved alchemical research into aphrodisiacs – possibly recruiting some hero to either gather rare ingredients or ‘convince’ some of his local elves to participate in his clinical trials.
Orcs are the traditional cure for Elven lack of sex drive. Or so my Japanese animes tell me.
One last one:
The more I think about this, the more unlikely it starts to seem, to be honest. First of all, the idea that the reproductive urge would be actively selected AGAINST is kind of far fetched, since reproductive ability is always a (if not the) prime factor in any kind of genetic selection. Secondly, if the reproductive urge did start to fade out of the species, those genetic throwbacks/holdouts who still possessed it would almost certainly start seeking each other out, because if you are one of the few people in a society who still has a sex drive, you are almost certainly going to seek out others with the same condition, simply out of sexual frustration.
Now, there is one solution to how this might have happened that I can see. It strikes me that, once the reproductive urge started going away from the elves, those who retained it left to form their own community, where they could engage in sexual acts away from the judgmental gazes of the ‘frigid’ elves. This would not only solve the problem of how the reproductive urge got bred out so fast (those who retained it left to be with like minded elves somewhere else), it would also exacerbate the problem of those elves that remained (anytime a ‘sexually deviant’ (read: active) elf was born, they’d leave to seek out the legendary village of the horny elves, rather than stay and reinvigorate the failing elf population in their home village). This would also be likely to lead to the home of the horny elves being more genetically diverse than other elf communities. In fact, the interbreeding between elf races (and possibly even non-elves, if they find their way there) that would likely occur might mean they don’t even look like elves anymore.
In short: If this bit of elven backstory is true, there should probably be, somewhere in the world, a secret community full of strange-looking but very hardy ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterosis ) elves with strong reproductive urges and (given how they were brought together) a great cultural and social appreciation for sex.
Just my two cents.
All good points, and you’re probably right. I’ll admit, I started from where I wanted elves to be, and conjectured to that point.
While your secret community of horny elves is great story fodder that I’ll tuck away for later. The other half of the coin is that, unlike orcs, elves are capable of actual interbreeding with humans. A sufficiently frisky elf, in the absence of interested partners, might go with the closest compatible species and end up with a happy little family of half-elves. I’ll call this the “stables-at-the-all-girls-boarding-school” addendum.
I’m kind of impressed, you managed to describe literally the opposite of what one would expect to happen given the evolutionary traits as described.
Significantly more mutations are negative than positive, natural selection works because the negative mutations die out while the positive ones survive. The more complex (advanced) a species is, the less it can afford mutations. Your long lived, rapidly mutating, slow reproducing elves would be expected to melt away into tumorous masses before ever achieving anything.
Flutterby already touched on this, but really isn’t going far enough. As natural selection works through reproduction every elf would be mutating on their own, so the only way the elves without a sex drive would out-compete those who did have one would be if they were somehow having more children. The more realistic expectation would be the more sexually active elves being dominant.
Of course the way to fix this would be to make the elves extremely slow to mutate instead. There’s enough animals that have slow life cycles, but I don’t really know enough about those myself to say what evolutionary factors are involved in that and whether they’d apply to a society of advanced humanoids, so I wouldn’t be able to tell you how to change that part to make it fit.
Again, that’s probably true. I really didn’t consider that elves that don’t want sex wouldn’t be the dominant reproducers, and I sort of strapped the whole “rapid mutation every once in awhile” thing to describe how a race that rarely breeds would be differentiated into the “high” elves of Harem Collector and the “dark” elves of Fairy side within a handful of generations after the collapse of their society. I’m probably going to have to go back to the drawing board for the whole explanation, really.
Or, use it as is and lampshade the fuck out of how impossible and illogical it all is.