Friday, May 26, 2006

What's a hybrid?

A few notes on the origins of hybrids as used in my novel.

First, a link to the competition results page where more judges' comments and details of the runners-up can be found.

Hybrids have many qualities:
  • Are part human-part technology
  • The technology has to be electronic
  • The victims must merge with gadgets they use frequently
  • The condition is the result of a transmissible disease, probably a virus
  • The sufferers have to be adolescent when they get the disease
  • The disease operates on the dna of the subject.

Where did the idea come from?

I get asked this a lot. As there are so many aspects to hybrids, the different ideas have different roots:
  • Flan O'Brien's Third Policeman contains a literary antecedent. A character uses his bike so much he ends up swapping molecules with it and the bike begins to display human qualities - it can be found in the bar - and vice versa - our man is seen weaving down the gutter late at night. That's not electronic though.
  • There's obvious parallels with cyborgs - Star Trek's Borg, Cybermen - except that they have the emotion taken out and are mindless enemies. Hybrids are very definitely human. Maybe more like those in Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner by Ridley Scott) as they lament their lack of humanity (but androids aren't cyborgs, they're artificially created humans)
  • Mutants - like the X-Men - have their DNA altered. But it's always puzzled me why they always seem to benefit from their mutation - and either want to save the world or destroy it. You never get a mutant who is in agony due to their condition. But that's the limitation of the superhero genre. Nevertheless, since I used to edit and write Marvel comics, I'm a big X-Men fan, especially Grant Morrison's version.
  • Aids, and how it and its victims were seen in the '80s - and still are in many places
  • On a personal level, being slightly disabled, I have always felt the discomfort and sense of 'outsideness' disabled people feel when they look at the able-bodied world. Hybrids are outside the system.
  • This can transform into growing political awareness as you realise the socially-constructed barriers to acceptance, and where they originate.
  • Genetic engineering; our dependence on and obsession with technology, how it is permeating our lives, dematerialising, and how this is fed and led by corporate expansionism. Bio-chips.
  • Our changing relationship to our bodies - we often despise and want to change them.
As regards the storyworld, this is a development of that found in my '80s work, Doc Chaos.

Is that enough?

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