Warning: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features a botched first contact, intolerance of asexuality, sexual assault, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.
"Proving a Negative"
First contact was such a disaster that
if it hadn't been for second contact, there
might have been a complete withdrawal.
The planet known as Aspen was
discovered during an exploratory mission
out in the fringes of the Laceum.
The crew who found it were
delighted to meet new people,
but soon they realized that
the residents of Aspen were
not the same as other humans.
They lived in Families,
but not in couples.
There were children,
but not pregnant women.
When asked where the babies
had come from, the locals
shrugged and said, "From
the Child Gardens, of course."
The spacers were rather insulted
that anyone thought they'd believe
the cabbage story at their age.
They insisted that somebody,
somewhere, had to be having sex
no matter how repulsed the locals
were by that insinuation.
"You can't prove a negative,"
the captain grumbled when
the natives claimed to have
neither the ability nor
the interest for sex.
There were arguments,
mostly quiet at first, but then
the explorers became more violent.
There were a few sexual assaults
by spacers saying things like,
"How do you know you don't
like it if you haven't tried it?"
and "Maybe you just haven't
met the right man yet."
Soon a team of shapeshifters
had to be called to Aspen
to clean up the mess.
They didn't argue with the natives.
They smiled and nodded and asked
to be shown the Child Gardens.
The gardens were serene and beautiful
under trees with quaking green leaves.
Now and then a pod would open,
very much like the bassinet pods
that a hiveship could grow, and
reveal a new infant ready to be
taken up by human hands.
"When our ancestors first came here,
their ship crashed," said the head gardener.
"They thought it was an accident, but then
the pods sprouted and they realized that
God had given them a way to renew
the community without sin."
On closer examination, the natives
turned out to be biologically asexual.
They still had male and female organs,
but those were mostly vestigial.
The Child Gardens really were
the source of the colony's reproduction,
somehow gathering genetic material
from people and using it to make
the infants who grew in the pods.
Adults wishing to raise a child
had only to inform the gardeners
and wait for a pod to mature.
So they were officially declared
a new species, Homo tremuloides,
in honor of the Shaker ancestors
who had sought freedom in the stars
and found far more than they ever hoped.
* * *
Asexuality is an orientation of people who do not feel drawn to copulate. Learn how to understand asexual people and consider whether you are asexual.
Shakers represent an interesting confluence of religion and asexuality. Some people wonder whether sex will die out.
The quaking aspen, or Populus tremuloides, is a tree whose leaves stir in the slightest breeze.
Asexual and sexual reproduction both appear in nature, with many variations. Ferns and honeybees have asexual modes. Several organisms use a polyp-and-medusa cycle of asexual and sexual modes. Jellyfish may even appear in single-sex populations.
Species can be defined in various ways, but among the more robust markers is a population that can reproduce within itself but not with other populations. Because the colonists have a different method of reproduction, this distinguishes Homo tremuloides from Homo sapiens.