After the discovery of helical silicate genetic structure by Zarfnab the Agar-Stained, Tirinia the Crystallographine, and Chian-Bai the Magnificently Funded [citation needed —A the C], it seemed that the field of gnome genomics would be wide open. Alas, unfamiliarity with these intriguing test subjects may have slowed work with them, when they are clearly ideal populations if a few small issues [insensitive re: gnome size? —A the C] are handled. Here follows an outline of suggestions for some of the more tractable of these issues.
The short gnome generation was the first aspect of gnome biology that seemed ripe for a thorough study of the gnome genome. Other humanoid species have generations nearly twice as long, leading to more difficulty sorting out correlation in phenotype. However, this promising trait is accompanied by many others that take a more careful hand and population control. While gnomes have a usefully open attitude toward their own familial relationship, revealing readily to researchers and any other questioners the parentage of a child regardless of the formality of its conception, this openness is of comparatively little use when one begins to consider the disproportionate role of mutation and epigenetic expression in gnome genetic behavior. For substantially sylvanian humanoids such as elves, these factors can be minimized, but for gnomes they appear to be central.
Further, Gnomes appear to believe that Lamarckism is not nearly far enough, and anyone who does not go so far as to steal the actual traits they find appealing for their descendants is simply not trying. One will frequently encounter a gnome who will proudly claim that his hands come from Master Gerfan the next workshop over, not through inheritance, but because his mother chopped them off and ran away with them, severing the child’s own hands in favor of the cleverer appendages. The silicate helical structures appear to adjust to these amendments with equanimity one could hardly expect of mute molecules; the kin and affines are not nearly so sanguine, often chasing after Master Gerfan’s skilled hands with the assiduous attention one would expect to such an heirloom. Who will be able to pass on the dexterous hands, the strong back, the astute nose, is a source of much dispute in gnome communities, and while this would seem to be a topic for gnome anthropologists, it has an immediate bearing on gnome genomics that cannot be underestimated. This adjustment means that in a carefully controlled laboratory population, desired traits for study may be propagated almost immediately.
In fact, while we in the harder [not to say geologically proximate! ahem — A the C] sciences are not accustomed to allowing anthropologists and sociologists the first place, some sense of when and how it is not permitted to remove traits from a family member is called for if we are to have any hope of sorting out who has inherited what from whom, under which circumstances and at what age. That being the case, a wise course of action might be first to fund intensive sociological/anthropological study of gnome communities and their mores, while the silico-biological sciences focus on a more tractable set of problems—say, for example, the kobold populations. When a thorough mapping of kin-group taboos is available, further study might be more feasible to untangle. When these problems are solved, the newly founded Gnomish Subjects Board should be entirely sufficient to ensure the fair treatment of these intriguing laboratory specimens. [Have you ever met the kind of person who is willing to serve on one of those boards? —A the C]
In addition, this kind of attentiveness would prevent unfortunate incidents such as that of Min-Dihar the Incompatible, formerly known as Min-Dihar the Intense [only to himself, but let it pass—A the C], whose gnome study subjects felt that his ears would make a useful contribution to their genetic pool and who were most disconcerted to learn that they could do no such thing. They did eventually take back the ears they had left him and were even more miffed to discover that he would not (in their view; could not, in his) take back his own. Independent research in gnome communities is not, for reasons such as this, recommended. To put it more plainly, among the gnomes, bring research partners and sleep in shifts. Their lack of malice should not be taken as goodwill. [This is also true of funding boards.—A the C]
For early research, perhaps a small and fairly isolated community of one or two kin-groups would be the most practicable. While travel to Farthest Bathmaratar presents its own funding difficulties and is of course difficult to arrange, the gnome community there is extremely small and might just limit the types of problem described herein. However, exposure to radiation may if anything be more intense, so researchers undertaking such a project should learn well from the example of Togar the Lead-Lined.
[I do not recommend this letter for publication. It is wrong-headed from start to finish. Some bright-eyed journeyman will see it as a promising project and go off to make their name. Journeymen are always trying to organize and unionize these days, and if the gnomes get organized or unionized beyond their clans, their ability to collectively propagate the best of their traits will take over the rest of us in three of their short generations or less. Keep the journeymen from the gnomes at all costs!!! —Artamixiana the Cantankerous]
Marissa Lingen is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She lives in the Minneapolis area with two large men and one small dog.