Mutual attraction! Not everyone experiences it, but enough humans are up for it to have shaped history and our species. Just how inclusive this can be was shown by a recent archaeological find, of the 90,000-year-old remains of “Denny.” Denny’s mother was a Neanderthal, while her father was a Denisovan. Genetic research suggests this cross-species pairing wasn’t a singular event; some of us have a little Neanderthal ancestry, some a little Denisovan. There are hints that other, as yet unidentified, hominins have contributed to our genome as well.
As anyone whose parents come from different backgrounds can attest, one of the benefits of such arrangements is that the in-laws will almost certainly have opinions they will be anxious to share (as will the neighbors). No need to worry about a lack of conversational material when there are species, class, linguistic, cultural, and religious differences to discuss. How plot friendly! Presumably this is even more true in settings in which the range of potential partners is much broader than that offered by our present-day world.
Still, love will find a way, which means that as long as pairing (and other arrangements) are possible , they will happen. And whenever it is possible (and sometimes when it is not), children will result. Not surprisingly, this is as true within science fiction and fantasy as it is in real life.
I don’t normally venture outside of print spec-fic here, but television provides perhaps the best known example of exogamous pairing. Star Trek’s Mr. Spock’s parents managed to overcome interstellar distance, culture, and basic genetics. The result was as happy a marriage as possible for any marriage involving Vulcans, the lemon sours of the galaxy . Nor is their son, Mr. Spock, the Enterprise’s first officer, a remarkably fun guy.
Spock’s parentage has subjected him to bullying from his Vulcan schoolmates and racist micro-aggressions from ship’s doctor McCoy (something Star Fleet doesn’t appear to officially discourage). Also the occasional outburst from human crewmates, who are unclear on the differences between Romulan and Vulcan, as well as blithely ignorant of the power of a fit Vulcan to disjoint a comparatively feeble human like an uncooked chicken.
It is to Mr. Spock’s credit that despite ample encouragement to bitterness and hostility, he remains a good-natured, amicable, steadfast Starfleet officer…and even a loyal friend to that jerk McCoy.
Born of a war-time romance between ostensible enemies, Theodore Altman’s mixed Kree-Skrull heritage would have made his life awkward in either his Kree father’s or his Skull mother’s empire. Earth, something of a crossroads in the Marvel comics universe, offered a haven. Or it would have if it were possible for a superpowered being like Teddy “Hulkling” Altman to avoid being drawn into superheroic drama. Being the subject of at least two prophecies further dooms any hopes of a quiet life. Mind you, so did being a named character in a Marvel comic.
Long-running webcomic The Order of the Stick is an extended, funny riff on roleplaying games, games that often encode what we can politely call extremely pessimistic assumptions about just how inter-species children might turn out. The webcomic subverts this trope. Half-orc ninja assassin Therkla’s romantic overtures to human bard Elan end badly, but only because he was both already involved with someone else and also monogamous. In contrast, the single strip that shows Therkla’s family life (strip 555, “Half-Dragons Are Even Worse”) makes it clear that her parents were happily married. The Draketooth clan, product of dragon-human pairings, suggests that Therkla’s parents are not unique in their happy union.
Wizard Derk’s Brood
Wizard Derk and wife Enchantress Mara of Diana Wynne Jones’ Dark Lord of Derkholm are both human. Derk is a keen advocate of cutting-edge biological wizardry, with the result that of Dirk and Mara’s seven children, five are griffins. Wizard and Enchantress make no distinction between the children they produced though conventional means and those Derk created in a lab, a wise decision that serves the family well when the children have to step in for a badly injured Derk.
The Goblin Emperor’s Maia is the half-goblin, half-elf result of a marriage made, not for love, but for dynastic necessity. Elven prejudice against goblins means that Maia’s childhood is rough (after his mother dies, he is remanded to a distant manor and abused by his drunken tutor). However, exile had the happy consequence that Maia was not invited to join the rest of the imperial family on an airship jaunt—a jaunt that ended in flaming doom. Surprise, Maia, you’re the new emperor! He has ample opportunity to be a vengeful, overbearing jerk, and resists. Like Spock, he rises above contempt and provocation; he becomes a remarkably decent emperor. His misfortunes have left him with a desire to protect others from similar pain. The people of his empire should be profoundly grateful for this.
I’m sure I’ve left out various other notable pairings and progeny, so feel free to add more in comments…
1: Sometimes requiring the active intervention of godlike beings.
2: One could make a case that the real challenge wasn’t the human-Vulcan divide, but the fact that Spock’s father Sarek was a crap person in almost every possible respect. It’s not surprising that every time we discover yet another sibling or foster sibling of Spock’s, they appear to have been profoundly traumatized by Sarek’s so-called parenting skills. We can deduce from this that Vulcan has nothing resembling Child Protective Services.
In the words of Wikipedia editor TexasAndroid, prolific book reviewer and perennial Darwin Award nominee James Davis Nicoll is of “questionable notability.” His work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times as well as on his own websites, James Nicoll Reviews and Young People Read Old SFF (where he is assisted by editor Karen Lofstrom and web person Adrienne L. Travis). He is surprisingly flammable.