MONDAY AND FRIDAY BY JOE ENGLAND

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COMMENTS FROM THE AUTHOR

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30th Mar 2018, 12:27 AM

Joe England

Happy Easter, everyone! And if you don't celebrate Easter, then Happy Spring. I couldn't think of a better picture than this, a peek into the future of Sam and Mary's family. As a matter of fact, my sister happens to be expecting as well, so this was an especially resonant scene. Best wishes, Sarah!

Speaking of bunnies, I thought about trying to fit Black Betty in there somewhere, but... let's face it, no sane parents would let the maniacal nightmare nudist within thirty yards of their babies.

Monday will bring another little illustration as I scramble to stay ahead of this twice-weekly schedule. I'll almost certainly fail and fall behind, but for now you can expect the story to resume next Friday. Have a wonderful weekend, holiday or otherwise!

-Joe

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COMMENTS FROM THE AUDIENCE

30th Mar 2018, 4:06 AM

Kerinbot

OMG! Cute, adorable Sam-babies! (Head explodes with cuteness)

Best Spring Equinox pic evar! (OK, Spring Equinox was back on the 20th of March, but it still applies! That's part of where the traditions associated with "Easter" came from anyway.)

Yay!OMG so cute. PS: is that all one batch, or are they a few years spread here?

thanks for the pic!

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30th Mar 2018, 8:18 AM

Voidbane

Which one is named Lily?

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30th Mar 2018, 11:00 PM

Guest

Not Lily. *Tawny*.

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31st Mar 2018, 8:59 AM

Voidbane

Thank you;
I had actually gone back to edit to meet with failure.

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1st Apr 2018, 11:42 PM

Joe England

Sam might have considered naming one of them Tawny, except that's traditionally a feline name where he's from and he would've found it just slightly weird, especially since none of his kids carry much orange or brown in their fur.

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30th Mar 2018, 8:38 AM

Siansaar

The one with the cap looks like he's gonna be a great trucker one day :D

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30th Mar 2018, 2:22 PM

Thormation

All the trucking jobs will be going away once demonically-possessed self-driving trucks start becoming a thing.

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30th Mar 2018, 9:15 AM

Casewerker

Oh, come on. The babies would love their crazy auntie Betty! Come to think of it, that might very well be a valid reason to keep her away.

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30th Mar 2018, 9:43 AM

O. B. Juan

A very cute picture.

In the past, you did a series of April 1st pictures. These no longer show up when paging back through previous years pages.

Are these available in another location?

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31st Mar 2018, 12:49 AM

Joe England

Hmmm. I'll be looking into that. Ideally I'll be tracking them down and putting them in a particular section of the site, like a sub-archive or something. I'll mention it in a news post when I do.

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30th Mar 2018, 9:55 AM

jb

You do realize, I am assuming, in a couple of years you are going to have a <i>huge</i> overpopulation problem...

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30th Mar 2018, 2:23 PM

Thormation

That will be taken care of when other kinds of people discover that all of Sam & Mary's kids taste delicious.

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view Joe England's profile

30th Mar 2018, 7:35 PM

Joe England

I suspect that they'll largely live underground.

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31st Mar 2018, 4:56 PM

O.B. Juan

In a hole in the ground there lived a rabbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a rabbit-hole, and that means comfort.

What? Tolkien? Never heard of the guy.

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31st Mar 2018, 6:55 PM

Valentine

Maybe, but that doesn't solve the problem long-term. Like with real rabbits, a litter size of six indicates an r-type reproductive strategy built around fast population growth to exploit open niches and offset high mortality to predators or disease. If civilization brings their mortality in line with modern humans, each generation would triple in size. More if, like humans and rabbits, a rabbit woman averages more than one pregnancy over her life. With a small starting population, this could keep up for a while without problems, but exponential growth trends tend to dominate long-term forecasts. In particular, this means that the rabbit people can’t have both 1: a society in which most people get to have children and 2: a stable population without mass mortality.

If the return of magic allows the survival of stable societies with large economies and advanced science and technology, one solution would be ovulation suppressants to reduce litter size. Even without something like that, the issue would get worked out one way or another. It’s just that the implications as presented give an ominous tinge to the overt portrayal of hope for the future.

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31st Mar 2018, 11:48 PM

jb

Even if they live underground they still gotta eat, and last time I checked most food comes from above ground -- you know, where the sun is. If six is a typical litter size you are going to run into trouble a whole lot faster than you might think. I don't think you really thought this through!

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1st Apr 2018, 12:56 AM

Joe England

This is a good creative exercise, actually. JB, they wouldn't live entirely underground. They'll be more along the lines of Hobbits than Morlocks. O.B.'s got the idea, though in a more modern setting and with enough resources they're likely to expand into whole subterranean complexes in the more luxurious warrens.

Incidentally, not every rabbit on Earth is going to be experiencing the benefits of the ripple effect. In fact, a relatively small percentage will undergo the change into "High Rabbits." Mostly the ones who came within a number of miles of Sam or Mary at some point after the spell was cast (they've toured the country a bit). Once he realizes what's happening Jack will eventually "quiet" the spell so that the happy couple won't keep irradiating nearby bunnies.

As for the birth rates, Valentine, Sam and Mary's experience is a little unique. As a side note, it's worth mentioning that rabbit overpopulation isn't much of a problem on Sam's world, owing to the relatively tiny percentage of rabbits in relation to the multitudinous variety of other animals and the general acceptance of romance across species lines (which also keeps their collective population's numbers much lower than ours).

But while Sam's natural traits have contributed to a large pregnancy in this case, Mary, being a transformed human rather than a genuine alien, carries her own natural traits which are also being passed on. Most of the mutating rabbits on Earth will have fewer children than their "Low" ancestors, adapting a somewhat more human rate of reproduction thanks to Mary's influence on the trend.

However, births will still be high, and Jack and the other wizards on the Magi-Net will recognize a population explosion as a potential problem. After much deliberation with Sam and his family and any other rabbits who have grown sentient enough to participate in the discussion, the Magi will perform rituals to send amendments after the magic which initially triggered the "Leap" (as it will come to be known), further limiting this new race's reproductive potential and bringing it more surely in line with human norms.

Jack comes up with a name for the program but is shouted down. It's vulgar.

I think I'll mention this all in the next news post, it's good stuff. Any other questions or suggestions?

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1st Apr 2018, 9:04 PM

jb

I'm something of a math and science geek, so I guess this sort of thing just pops out at me more than for most people. But any sort of exponential growth is eventually going to cause problems.

In 1900 there were about 5,000 Old Order Amish in the United States. But they had big families -- six kids was actually rather typical -- and today there are over a quarter million. Another hundred years at that growth rate and there could be ten million. Another hundred and it could be 300 million. Another hundred..., well, you see where this is going! And we're talking here about humans, who normally only bear one offspring at a time. If litters of six were typical for rabbit-people, the women could easily bear 30 or 40 children over their lifetimes, rather than just six or so. I assume you can see how this is a recipe for disaster, and sooner rather than later. So yes, arrangements will definitely need to be made!!!

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1st Apr 2018, 10:29 PM

Valentine

That should handle the situation on Earth adequately. Apart from the ultimate concern of bumping into actual resource constraints, the main concern of fast population growth is that when population growth exceeds economic growth, average wealth decreases, and society becomes a dystopic catastrophe due to the breakdown of positive incentives. Population growth that’s fast by modern First World standards is manageable if wealth per capita increases too.

I do have a couple comments on world building that looks unlikely to matter for things that make it to publication, but they may be interesting to think about. First, from the description of how Earth’s rabbits are becoming sapient (they’re already sentient, as are most complex animals), the population distribution of High Rabbits will probably be mostly in clusters centered on where Sam and Mary traveled. This may result in most rabbits living in communities that are mostly rabbits despite being a small part of the overall population. As such, they may develop their own culture that is significantly distinct from broader society. There may be dialects, holidays, foods, clothing styles, hobbit-style villages, etc. along with some tension between those with more insular inclinations and those more interested in the broader culture and economy.

Second is further removed from the current story, but it has some long-term implications for multi-species societies that you may want to consider. Given the presence of inter-species romance in Sam’s world, I thought that the situation you mentioned would be plausible, so I didn’t mention it in my last post. It’s a decent approximation of a solution to the population problem (plenty good for most narrative purposes, I’d say), but it’s only metastable. As one instance of the “most people don’t get to have children” scenario I mentioned, there are some troublesome implications. Depending on the cultural strength of interspecies relationships and the relevant narrative causality, that system could last a while. However, intelligent beings are still organisms subject to evolutionary processes, and “self-select to not produce offspring” being culturally hegemonized into the majority position brings all sorts of unpleasant selective pressures into play.

A tangent to real-world biology: It was long supposed that, since a stable population in equilibrium with environmental constraints is a desirable situation for most species in most regards that humans would intuitively regard as important, most or at least some species should display a tendency to limit their reproduction as the population approached the local carrying capacity. When biologists looked for this in nature, they found not one species that did that. Curious about this, some particularly nerdy biologists ran the math behind evolutionary incentives related to that sort of behavior, and the selective pressures that might plausibly drive it. Unsurprisingly, “self-select to limit or not produce offspring” carries an extremely strong evolutionary disincentive. Much stronger, in fact, than any selective pressure or combination of pressures found in nature that could counterbalance it. Not content to leave it at that, the biologists devised an experiment involving insects (some kind of leaf-eating beetle, i think) in which the researchers themselves would directly intervene to supply a selective pressure strong enough to incentivize limiting offspring, to see if it would actually happen. It didn’t. Rather than limit their own offspring, the beetles developed a behavior of eating the eggs of other beetles while leaving their own, thus satisfying the selective pressure on the population to limit offspring but avoiding limiting their own. The point being that nature and evolution don’t care about what we might find desirable or even palatable, only what works. And when a big part of a population is faced with a strong pressure to not produce offspring, “what works” often includes things undesirable to civilized sensibilities.

So, what does this mean for Sam’s world? Genetics influences behavior in all sorts of subtle ways, but let’s suppose that, at the start of this thought experiment, there is no genetic influence on predisposition to participate in interspecies romance. In order to maintain a stable rabbit population with an average of 1.67 pregnancies per rabbit woman who has children (similar to the pregnancies per woman in the modern US, and it makes the numbers nice), only 20% of the rabbit population ends up having children. One in five managing to produce offspring is very low by the standards of large mammals. It’s about a third the long-term rate for humans, for example. As such, any genetic trait that emerges by mutation that affects the tendency to pursue interspecies romance will probably exert stronger selective pressure than any other factor. This means that any genes that promote xenophilia (there aren’t any in this thought experiment, but there plausibly would be in Sam’s world, as there are in real-world humans) would quickly be purged from the gene pool, likely taking with them other traits associated with openness to new experiences. Conversely, genes promoting xenophobia would be strongly selected for, even if they carried with them otherwise dysfunctional behaviors (as would be plausible in fresh mutations). Because nearly all of those rabbits would be inclined to reproduce, giving them a 5x or so disproportional share of each successive generation. Over time, this would result in a dysgenic psychological influence that might well cause a societal breakdown, and at the least sets long-term limits on how long interspecies romance can be sustained as a cultural practice without relying on heavy-duty narrative causality, even if the starting population had no such genetic influences.

But wait, there’s more! Genes are not the only things subject to evolutionary pressures. Memes like cultural practices are too, and those tend to evolve faster. For example, two minor but reasonably and comparably prevalent religious sects in the 1800s US were the Shakers and the Amish. The Shakers practiced universal celibacy, so they died out as their members died, with only a small amount of recruitment keeping the sect alive in ever-smaller numbers. The Amish, on the other hand, averaged around six children (common for the time), and have maintained about that average since. Nowadays, the majority of the native US population is reproducing below replacement, and the Amish are seeing rapid growth both in relative and absolute terms. Over ten or fewer generations, the relative population sizess of the Shakers and the Amish changed by a factor of more than a hundred thousand. In the thought experiment, interspecies romance is a cultural practice adhered to by most but not all rabbits. Those who pursue it will not have children to pass their culture on to. Those who pursue relationships within their species and have children will at least passively establish norms, even if there are no overt denunciations of interspecies romance. This is a very strong selective pressure that would have drastic consequences in a single century unless there are corresponding extremely strong cultural or other factors countering it. Of course, specific aversion to interspecies romance would be selected for even more strongly, which would have its own undesirable societal results.

So what would be a stable arrangement for a multi-species civilization? Probably something like the future Earth of Samurai Jack. Lots of small-medium homogeneous communities that tend to specialize in different things and a few large, diverse cities. The cities would not have stable populations or cohesive societies to any great extent, but they would be centers of commerce, popular culture, and large-scale politics. Rather like the Subfusc as portrayed in the comic, actually. Like the portrayal of the Subfusc implies, the greater the diversity in a region, the harder it is to form a unified polity. This has implications for Earth, which I alluded to in my previous comment. Avoiding Balkanization is going to be tricky even if magic plays nice with technology.

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1st Apr 2018, 11:38 PM

Joe England

Food for thought, Valentine. A LOT of food for thought. Don't think I'm going to be able to take it all in in one sitting. But I'll definitely be coming back to this post in the future!

And thank you for correcting me on the definition of sentient versus sapient. It's always good to have things straight, especially since I'm a stickler for details! I value correct terminology very highly.

By the way, since you mentioned it, I did come up with a ghost of a plan which might salve the dilemma of a new race dipping its feet into the economy as we know it. But I'll save it for another day. It's just a germ of an idea involving theme parks and an inheritance.

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2nd Apr 2018, 3:16 AM

Valentine

I do appreciate your attention to detail. It's a big part of what I like about the comic. As the author, you can arrange circumstances that could plausibly produce just about any outcome you want. In this case, it looks like despite the difficulties inherent to the situation, taking long-term population dynamics into account could easily lead to the background for interesting settings and conflicts to explore. That's a major reason why I went into such detail above.

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2nd Apr 2018, 11:23 AM

Guest

This is all very interesting stuff, Valentine -- I have two anthropomorphic civilizations in my D&D game and I'm trying to shift it into more realistic terms. Lots to think about. Looks like "medieval zootopia" isn't a potential outcome...

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3rd Apr 2018, 1:14 AM

Valentine

As I mentioned, the right setup can give a plausible justification for just about anything. Zootopia itself seems to avoid much of the trouble above by having rather little inter-species romance, and the trouble it does have (rabbit overpopulation for one) wouldn’t necessarily occur in your scenario. Something to consider is that visibly different groups in a mixed society tend to self-segregate if given the opportunity. In Zootopia, this produces a hierarchical organization where populations of different biomes and sizes form their own communities, which are organized into semi-independent parts of a larger city. If you want your two species to mix thoroughly, there would have to be a reason for them to do so. In the Humanx Commonwealth series of books, Humans and Thranx are different enough to avoid serious competition for many desired niches, and their psychology and culture are complementary in that strengths of one cover the weaknesses of the other. Therefore, joint efforts are often more productive than single-species efforts, and they have built their civilizations together to take advantage of that. Serious physiological differences (the Thranx are giant bugs that were eusocial in recent evolutionary history) mean that they don’t trigger physical attraction in each other, but they get along well enough that interspecies friendships are common. Medieval / feudal societies are typically very homogeneous though, since there is typically very little movement of populations. The exception would be major military campaigns and large scale slavery, which might not produce the background you’re looking for. Though one option would be to have a background of a fallen empire like Rome, where people moved around enough to mix demographics. They’d still need a reason for doing that back in the day though.

For consideration, here’s one possible background that would justify Sam’s civilization despite the troubles I described above. It wouldn’t make the current state stable, but the current state of a technologically advanced urbanized civilization isn’t stable anyway. Suppose that, like the real world, for most of history, most people lived in small, relatively homogeneous communities. High mortality would keep populations stable, and with little interaction with other species, there wouldn’t be much stigma attached to interspecies relationships. When industrialization came along, economic incentives similar to reality led to the formation of large, diverse cities. However, since developing medicine for a bunch of different species is a lot harder than for one, the reduction in mortality associated with industrialization lagged far behind the real world. This means that the selective pressures against interspecies romance would be a lot weaker than in a low-mortality scenario. It would only have become an emergent issue within a generation or two of the current story, and Tool gave them something more pressing to direct their attention towards.

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30th Mar 2018, 9:56 AM

jb

OK, noted: no HTML tags.

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30th Mar 2018, 10:00 AM

McG

Now don't forget to teach them, Sam: Trix are for kids!

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30th Mar 2018, 3:33 PM

Guest

Is this the first time we've seen Mary?

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30th Mar 2018, 4:33 PM

Joe England

No, we saw her at her brother's wedding and a couple of times in pictures on Sam's phone.

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30th Mar 2018, 8:49 PM

Magnus Irongut

Having seen her a few times now, I'm curious what convinced Mary to start wearing gloves like her husband, given she's not from as much of a 'cartoony' upbringing as he was.

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30th Mar 2018, 9:12 PM

Joe England

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30th Mar 2018, 11:50 PM

Incognito

Happy Easter!

And while checking the comic tonight I recalled something. Did you ever explain what Mr. Chalk was? I don't recall an explanation for him/it.

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31st Mar 2018, 12:47 AM

Joe England

As of this writing he remains mysterious.

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