Readers of “Before the Storm,” have noticed the status of women changed at some point between the present and 3300 AD.
Women in New Persia, with some notable exceptions (whom we meet in the course of the story), have limited choices for how they live their lives. Marriage is expected of everyone, men and women, but is vital for women to maintain any standing at all. Women are expected to marry by the age of 20. After, they are expected to raise children.
This isn’t fair. I don’t advocate this kind of role for women, as it seems to me there is more to life than staying at home and raising children. I say this as someone who stayed at home and raised a small child. It was easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
The reason I wrote in the roles for women in New Persian society was to keep the setting consistent. This is not a result of the dominant religion in New Persia. To colonize a new planet, any society would have to grow its population. In order to have the large societies existing in 3300 AD, the population must have grown quickly. Without far-future technologies like cloning women would have to raise many children during their lifetime.
Beyond that, the nature of the environment requires many people to populate land cleared by Earth life. Without people, the native plants will move in and take over. Simply in order to survive the population must be sustained at a high level. The state of medicine in New Persia is roughly equivalent to the rest of the technology, so antibiotics exist. That helps, but there are many other ways to die, including the large wars which break out every generation or so.
And there are the seed storms. The fires kill many people, and the chaotic aftermath kills more. After the passing of a storm, huge areas of burned land lay fallow and must be re-colonized before the native life gains a permanent foothold.
All of these factors call for large families for a society to have not only successfully colonized New Persia but to have survived to 3300 AD. That requires a certain role for women which the present-day 21st-century world of Earth is leaving behind. I don’t advocate a return to the 1950s roles for men and women. The problem for me was the planet itself would wipe out any civilization which didn’t value a large number of children every generation, which requires marrying young.
A problem I’ve always had with many SF universes is that they are full of people, billions of them, but family sizes are too small to sustain the numbers or to have colonized planets in the first place. My ancestors who were pioneers in America routinely had 9 or 10 brothers and sisters. A frontier society cannot afford small families.
I intended the role of women in New Persia to be a tragic consequence of the environment.
The good news is technological advancement is on the cusp of changing everything in New Persia, if only it can survive the seed storm and the war with Azania.