Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Hywel Index

Welcome to 2008 C.E.

This is the year's first blog, and it was prompted by someone I shall refer to as 'Lady S', who read Finister closer than most would have and caught me out with a major, glaring and, to someone with a thinner skin, profoundly embarrassing snafu; cockup; goof. And, now that Finister is in the system, as it were, I can't even fix this anymore!

Well, thanks a lot, Lady S! And, no, I'm not being snippy. Flattered is more like it. That she should have been prompted to go back, for whatever obscure reason, to Finister after reading the whole series and actually applied the Hywel Index calculation to herself...

For those of you who haven't read Finister...

...the ‘Hywel Index’: named after its creator, Ifan Hywel, a Gaskarian Wearer and sage. It is an open-ended indicator of the probability that a woman will bear a favorable ratio of men-children. The index is computed by the formula: 50 x (ratio of male to female offspring in the woman’s generation) + 25 x (the corresponding ratio in the woman’s mother’s family) + 12 x (the corresponding ratio in the woman’s father’s family) + 12 x (the total ratio of male to female offspring in both sets of grandparents’ families).

The 'HI' was meant to represent a primitive and probably quite inaccurate pseudo-mathematical scheme for quantifying something that requires considerably more variables. But it fit into the general harebrained mythical-mumbo-jumbo environment in which these people live.

The problem with the calculation are the implicit singularities. Since I haven't been specific about the mathematical systems of these people--like, do they have a concept of 'real numbers' and calculus?--we might as well assume, all evidence to the contrary lacking, that they know, at best, integers and rational numbers. And the numbers of offspring in those computations are always integers. Meaning that we're in real trouble once the number of females in a ratio-calculation is zero...

Lady S rightly concluded that for her, with at least one factor in the equation becoming infinite, that would likely make her into the most desirable female around Thalonica. Actually she wrote 'revered', but the two are synonymous, at least as far as your average 'Wearer' would be concerned.

Not that I am arguing the merits of Lady S's suggestion. My life is too dear to me. And I won't even get started on the issues associated with the relative sizes of infinities. Because Lady S wouldn't be the only one with singularities in her family's HI equation. So what about others in a similar position? Would they be more or less desirable; or revered, or whatever?

Never mind such persnickety matters. The bottom line is that Lady S's comments reveal a potentially fatal flaw in my simple HI computation.

An oversight? You bet. But I am a teller of stories, and so I do what tellers of stories tend to do: try to story-tell my way out of this mess. And so, ignoring that I hadn't thought this through, here is a simple rule to get me out of this pickle.

Families and segments of family trees creating such singularities are excluded from the computation. This is because Ifan Hywel said that it was so. He didn't have to rationalize it, because the whole thing's bogus anyway, and there never was an 'Ifan Hywel' to begin with. Those who read the Tethys series, or even just Keaen and Finister, will understand what I mean.

The 'explanation' usually provided to the great unwashed masses of Finister is that folk without daughters simply haven't tried for long enough, and if they have and still have no daughters, then there's something wrong with them, because singularities in the HI equation actually reveal flaws in people who have families that create said singularities.

How's that for screwed-up reasoning? Cool, eh?

'Not believable' you say?

Ha! Have you recently looked at the world of 'religion', divine or just otherwise FITH?

As a saving grace, maybe we should allow still-births to 'count' toward the girl-child tally. That'll make it more likely that this doesn't happen too often.

All of this, including that last stipulation, has a whole host of social and behavioral consequences, direct and indirect, some quite potentially twisted and nasty, that I don't want to even start to get into! If I had thought of it when writing Finister I probably would have used all that material, but I didn't and Lady S's comments came way too damn late for me to use them.

So, where was she when her critical input was needed? Where? Huh?

I suspect I know what she might say. But I say 'bah, humbug'!

So there.

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