Why Can’t I Marry A Human, Mom? Genetics in Fantasy and Science Fiction

Before we begin, I must thank a few people.  First, Sharon Hughson for her comment that I am, indeed, a writer who “likes to do the math.”  I love to do math, at least when it applies to vital pieces of my life.  From finances to science, I have an obsession with research.  I freely admit, my preferred writing genre is Fantasy/SF and Science Fantasy.  With that said, we all remember this wonderful half-blood, don’t we?

leonard-nimoy1

Well, a Facebook comment got me over-analyzing again.  Well, biologically, he shouldn’t exist.  At all.

See, there’s this thing called blood that is vital to both species (No, Vulcans are not another race.  They are another species.)  Okay, back to blood.  The oxygen intake mechanism in human blood is comprised of iron compounds.  The metallic element in Vulcanoid blood is copper.  Although one fan source claims that Vulcans are genetically similar enough to Humans to produce offspring, I have a feeling this falls in the “because Magic/Science, that’s why,” category.  Copper-based blood with an unknown cellular delivery method is the first of a list of physiological and anatomical differences that just make Spock impossible.  I mean, really?  Vulcan hearts are where Human livers reside.  How would a child like that develop without major anatomical deformities and abnormalities?

So, how does this fit into Fantasy? ‘shakes head with a sigh’

Half-Elves and Half-Orcs.  How do they exist, and how do they work?  The short answer is, that entirely depends on the creator of the world.  Clearly, Star Trek began in a time when we didn’t understand enough about genetics or necessarily anatomy and physiology, for Gene Roddenberry to have easy access to the latest scientific breakthroughs.  No Facebook, no Google or Bing, none of it.  Spock can be forgiven as an anomaly of the past, a delightful Science Fiction anachronism.

Moving on.  We now understand enough about genetics to realize a few things.  A donkey and a horse will never breed true.  It will be a mule or a hinny.  End of story.  A tiger and a lion?  Liger or tion all the way.  Frankly, the response on Facebook to my last post sums it up well.

Usually fantasy has some origin story for the elves that has them a special race created apart from humanity and the other races. Krynn, the world of Dragonlance, has the gnomes splitting into the dwarves and the kender due to the interactions with a certain magical artifact. They also have Ogres as the fallen evil descendents of a good race called the Irda. Magical interference aside, I see no reason why ANY of the playable races should have a half-breed version. Unless they came from a common descent, there isn’t a chance of interbreeding possible. Same with science fiction like Star Trek. Sorry Spock, but you are not possible. Your dad could have married a sheep and the same results would occur.

~Michael Miller

Perhaps the predominant humanoid races on a world have chromosomal patterns that do match up fully. However, certain protein match-ups in the DNA strand have created enough differentiation that they are all essentially sub-species, and can interbreed, but again, you will still get something very, very different than the original parents. Additionally, there would be susceptibilities and other issues that would not exist for the parents.  That’s my take on it, anyway.

What are your thoughts?

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