The following article was written by science fiction author Cassidy Frazee and submitted to SciFi Ideas as part of Alien Week 2012.
First off, hello to everyone. It’s been a while since I’ve graced the pages here, and it’s been a long, strange trip since I was last here. But you don’t wanna know about that—
You’re here for the aliens. So, lets talk aliens—lots of special aliens.
Get into space opera, or stories that deal with enormous galactic empires, filled with planet after planet of strange, wonderful species, and eventually you’re going to run into one of the most well-known tropes of science fiction: the alien hybrid.
Some lonely gentleman from Procyon is laying over on Bellatrix while his ship is being overhauled, and during an encounter in a pub, he not only wooing a lovely lady from Far Antares, but discovers a few months later—congratulations! You’re going to be the proud father of a . . . squid. Like it or not, you got yourself a hybrid.
Science fiction and fantasy have taken this idea for a wild ride for a good hundred years, if not a little more. There are hundreds cataloged over at the TV Tropes website, but you should go look for yourself if you don’t believe me. Tolken had a couple of hybrids, Robert E. Howard had a few, Lovecraft had a whole bunch of them running and swimming about—due largely, in part, to his extreme views on miscegenation.
Harry Potter’s world had humans and giants knockin’ boots and producing offspring—Hagrid being the result of one coupling, Madame Maxine being another. Nearly all the main characters in the Percy Jackson stories are half human/half Olympian god—but that’s keeping with Greek mythology, which is full of hybrids because certain gods (mostly Zeus) and goddesses just had to spread the love.
But lets talk science fiction. Mostly, lets talk about romancing the alien.
The first really well-known sci fi pairing was that ol’ warlord himself, John Carter, and his comely—and naked save for a few jewels most of the time—Martian princess, Dejah Thoris. John is a Human, 6 foot 2 inches, Caucasian, with black hair and steel-grey eyes. Dejah is a Martian, shorter than John, with coal-black hair, lovely curves, and copper-colored skin. The crazy kids hit it off—and why not, because John is a total Martian babe magnet—and they eventually get married and have kids.
Oh, did I mention? Martian women lay eggs. So after a long courtship, John and Dejah settle down, get into a family way—and then she lays the royal eggs, and they wait a few years for the kids to hatch. Almost like having a built-in Martian stork.
Now, we can say that John may not have been human: there were hints throughout the stories that he was very old, and had no recollection of his childhood. Still though . . . unless he was Martian himself—and he wasn’t—why would be the least bit interested in Dejah? Besides her constant nakedness . . .
Carl Sagan professed that, while a lover of science fiction, he always had a problem with the idea of alien hybrids. There was one in particular that he pretty much loathed, if for no other reason that this particular hybrid was widely known and loved.
We are speaking, of course, of Star Trek’s Mr. Spock.
Sagan hit the nail on the head when he said that not only should Humans and Vulcans have been incompatible when it came to reproduction, but why would they ever find the other desirable. Sagan made the argument that Vulcans, for all their logic, would have found mating with Humans to be something akin to Humans trying to mate with, say, a komodo. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that . . .) In Carl’s world, it didn’t make sense logically, and it couldn’t make sense biologically.
In the case of a Vulcan-Human hybrid, you have another problem. The book, The Science of Star Trek, pointed out that copper (the base of Vulcan blood) and iron (the base of Human blood) are chemically incompatible, and all the handwavium in the world wouldn’t allow them to combine. And if somehow they did combine, the new blood cells couldn’t carry oxygen.
The writers of Star Trek, and its future spin-offs, weren’t all that worried about biology. Deanna Troi was half-Betazoid; B’Elanna Torres was half-Klingon; Worf, a Klingon, was going to have a child with Jadzia Dax, a Trill that is two aliens in one, but we never got to see the little bundle of raging joy, as she was murdered by Gul Dukat, who sired his own hybrid with a Bajorian woman.
Hybrids are good for several things in science fiction story telling. As was shown on all the different Star Treks, it’s a way for a writer to show the effects of racism on a person. After all, it’s bad when you’re the member of a species that no one likes, so it’s worse when you’re half that species.
Hybrids also get to show that inner struggle that a character who comes from two different cultures has trying to reconcile those differences. With Spock—his emotional Human half is always fighting with his logical Vulcan half, so there are plenty of chances to deal with that struggle. With B’Elanna Torres—her half-Klingon side was always struggling with her half-Human side, usually telling her to pound the hell out of something.
B’Elanna brings up an interesting point that sometimes afflicts hybrids: people fall in love with them. There’s B’Elanna and Tom, floating in space, dying, and they are so bound to be together after that, to the point where she has her own little hybrid, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that just because you come from two completely incompatible species, that doesn’t mean you’re sterile. Riker had the thing going with Deanna, and eventually married her—and if you read any of the novels that followed, she managed to also get pregnant, but had lots of complications. And then there’s Mr. Spock and Nurse Chapel, the later who held a very long, steady, slow-burning torch for the half-Vulcan First Officer—maybe something she developed when she was his first officer . . .
It is true that some stories and shows have shown that while people of different species might enjoy a little private time together—or as Ringworld’s Halrloprillalar called it, rishathra—they can’t have kiddies. Farscape said that while it was possible for just about everyone on Moya to, well, bed just about anyone they wanted, most of the species were not compatible in terms of producing an offspring. Babylon 5 also indicated that creating hybrids was pretty much out of the question, and with some species—Centauri, I’m looking at you—getting down to business would be impossible with aliens. In one case, an alien species had no idea how human sexuality worked, which proved the not all civilizations in the 23rd Century had access to the Internet.
(We won’t get into the handwavium that allowed Sheridan and Delenn to have a child, because that gets into transformations and the fact that one of Delenn’s ancestors was the former manager of Babylon 5 who went back in time to become her ancestor. Talk about wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.)
But, as impossible as it seems to be, hybrids of all sorts will continue to pop up in science fiction for a while to come. Why? Because . . . just because. Because if there’s one thing that all species enjoy—well, probably will enjoy—it will be those romantic moments while you’re relaxing with a person from Eta Cassioeiae on the shores of some beach with black water, blue sand, and purple sky.
Or, as was said in The Doctor Dances:
The Doctor: Relax. He’s a fifty-first century guy. He’s just a bit more flexible when it comes to ‘dancing’.
This article was written by science fiction author Cassidy Frazee
Rose Tyler: How flexible?
The Doctor: Well, by his time, you lot are spread out across half the galaxy.
The Doctor: So many species, so little time.
Rose: What, that’s what we do when we get out there? That’s our mission? We seek new life and . . . and . . .
The Doctor: Dance.
. Read Cassidy’s blog at http://wideawakebutdreaming.wordpress.com/