In my current WIP, “Under the Ember Star,” I have a character who is a hybrid, a genetic cross between a human and an alien race known as the Kelmerians. His name is Duash and I’ve enjoyed writing him. The ‘human’ part of him allows me to make the connection I need to fully imagine the character, and the ‘non-human’ part gives me free range to create any weirdness I might want. That’s where the most fun comes in for me.
Strangely enough, though, it wasn’t until after the book was largely done that I considered the influences that led me to Duash. First up would be “Spock,” of course, from the TV series. Spock was such a great character. He was enough of an ‘us’ so that we could identify with him, but enough of an ‘other’ to make him “fascinating,” and to allow the show’s writers to say a lot about the nature of humanity, both good and bad. Spock allowed us to examine the painful experience of prejudice with just enough of a remove from the real world to make it less threatening. We saw the wounding of Spock, despite his vaunted logic, and we also saw his dignity and quiet competence, which make the most powerful weapons anyone has against such prejudice.
Star Trek used the ‘hybrid’ theme again and again throughout later entries in the series, although never to such great effect as with Spock. Counselor Deanna Troi, (Human/Betazoid), B’Elanna Torres (Human/Klingon), Whorf’s mate, K’Ehleyr (Human/Klingon), Whorf’s son (by K’Ehleyr) Alexander, Sela, (Human/Romulan), and many others, are examples. Of course, the theme did not begin with Star Trek. “Half-breeds” have long been a staple character in westerns. And far, far before that we had the demi-gods and various hybrids of humans and gods in Greek mythology.
Here’s why hybrid characters can be so compelling and such a gift to the writer. Conflict is key in fiction, whether on the screen or the page. The hybrid character is by nature a source of conflict. Not only do such characters have to deal with the prejudices and expectations of others, but they are often in conflict with themselves. Which world do they live in? Which culture do they express? And then there is the whole backstory conflict as well. How did the hybrid character’s parents get together? Consider the fireworks that must have ensued in those relationships.The potential is enormous.
To close today’s post,let me say that we’re starting a new year here on Novel Spaces. There have been a few changes; the schedules have shifted a bit. This year we’re going to leave some posts up for two days, which I think is a plus for generating reader comments. We’re also considering monthly themes and a few other things. We’ve discussed keeping the focus more on writing themes. For those of you reading this, what kinds of things would ‘you’ like to see here? How could we make the site better?