Gordon Havers thought that he was the last man on Earth – after a virus killed off everybody else. So he lived on much as he had before the pandemic that wiped out humanity, eeking out a living as a trapper in the Canadian Rockies.
But one day, there is a knock on the door of Gordon’s log cabin. And when he opens the door, he finds an attractive young woman on his doorstep to his infinite surprise. So perhaps Gordon isn’t the last living human being after all? And maybe there is still a future for the human race.
There’s only one problem. Joanna Creed isn’t human…
Read an excerpt.
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Some background information:
- The Hybrids is a novelette of 13400 words. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
- Along with “He has come back to me…” and Rites of Passage, The Hybrids is one of my oldest surviving pieces of fiction and was written for a writing class during my second semester at university. I actually wrote much of it by hand during a boring lecture.
- The story was written in response to Fredric Brown‘s famous super-short story Knock used as a writing prompt. Knock makes a good writing prompt and I have used it myself in my classes. I eliminated any direct references to the story, but echoes are still hanging around at the beginning.
- The Hybrids was pretty obviously influenced by my love for the X-Men, while the Canadian setting was partly an homage to Wolverine and partly sparked by one of my professors who was a scholar of Canadian history.
- Joanna even shares a surname with Victor Creed a.k.a. Sabretooth of X-Men and Wolverine fame.
- The names Gordon has given his animal friends are mostly pop culture references as well. We have another Wolverine reference as well as references to The X-Files, Northern Exposure, A Song of Ice and Fire, Groundhog Day and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. Joel and Marilyn, the moose, were not just named for two characters in Northern Exposure (of which I was a huge fan at the time I first wrote the story), but also for two stuffed toy moose I own. Coincidentally, most of those references were added during the rewrite, especially since several of the works referenced did not yet exist back when I first wrote the story.
- Silverfox, the mining town mentioned in the story, was actually named for Wolverine’s first nations girlfriend and fellow mutant Silver Fox.
- The Australian family who survived the plague only to collectively commit suicide that Joanna mentions is a reference to Nevil Shute’s end of the world novel On the Beach, wherein Australia alone survives a nuclear war, but then collectively commits suicide via government provided suicide pills, when clouds of radiation drift inexorably south. I’m not a fan of On the Beach at all, because the film adaption of which traumatised my teenaged self and besides, I misspelled Shute’s name in my MA thesis. Indeed, once I realised that Australia was the only continent I had forgotten in Joanna’s list of plague survivors, I thought, “Well, they probably committed suicide just like in On the Beach.” So it went into the story.
- Of course, the story has been significantly rewritten since I first wrote it at the age of twenty (trust me, you would not want to read an unedited version of anything I wrote at the age of twenty). For example, most of the description of the deserted town was added in during the most recent rewrite, since the original version was almost all dialogue, particularly towards the end. In fact, the published version of The Hybrids is four times as long than the original version.
- Among other things, I also inserted a mention of Gordon accessing the internet during those rewrites. For when I first wrote the story, the internet was still the realm of specialists and Facebook and Twitter were not even a gleam in the eye of their respective creators. Coincidentally, the miracle that is the internet also helped to plug a plot hole, for in the original version of the story, Joanna simply happens to find Gordon in a remote location on a big planet full of dead people, probably due to some unexplained Hybrid superpower. Having him post his location on the internet made things so much easier for both Joanna and me.
- In the original version, Joanna’s car was a Jeep. It was obvious to me that she’d need an four-wheel-drive off-road vehicle to get around in the Canadian wilderness and Jeep was the only manufacturer of off-road vehicles I knew, since they weren’t popular in Europe at the time. In fact, Jeep used to be the generic term for off-road vehicle in Germany. However, when I rewrote the story, I checked which vehicles are actually used by the Canadian army and it turns out they employ Mercedes G-class vehicles, which made the scenes involving the Joanna’s car a lot easier, since I have actually driven a G-class Mercedes (albeit a civilian model) and could also pop down to my local dealer to ask questions. Besides, I rather like the idea that only car still functioning after the apocalypse will be a Mercedes.
- The chili that Joanna and Gordon eat was actually in the first draft of The Hybrids, one of the very few details that were. However, in the first draft Joanna makes chili from scratch, since I obviously did not consider where fresh beef would come from after the apocalypse. The macaroni and the marshmallows were both added during the rewrite. I mainly included the marshmallow roasting scene to give Joanna and Gordon something to do during their little heart to heart.
- The cover is a photo I took of a farmhouse at the edge of the Westermark woods in Gessel near Syke during a winter walk. It doesn’t look a whole lot like North Canada, though it does have that isolated, end-of-the-world vibe.