The chimera in the mirror

Mashed-up mutants aren’t only the stuff of legend and fiction.

Imagine a creature that’s part lion, part eagle and part snake, a creature that breathes fire, a bad-ass scourge. One that looks like this:



It’s called a Chimera, and it exists only in ancient Greek mythology. It’s not the only hybrid creature in literature and pop culture.

There’s also the Griffin, also Greek, a lion/eagle mix.


These creatures, imaginary as they are, are genetic abnormalities. They are not supposed to exist in nature, mythological metaphors to serve some higher literary purpose. In Left Among the Mutants I wrote about mutating animals (and humans) as a way to convey change, loss and grief.

But it turns out that, to some degree, many of us are freaks of nature. We may all be a little monstrous.

The New York Times published an article that suggests that many humans harbor cells with completely different genetic codes. Theoretically each one of our cells should have the same genetic codes. Not so.

For example:

–A British woman donated blood, and the cells were a mix of Type O and Type A. People are supposed to be only one blood type. Scientists concluded she absorbed cells from her twin brother

–Another woman gave birth to children who were not genetically hers. Doctors say that she originated from 2 separate genomes; some of the other genome gave rise to the eggs of 2 of her 3 children

–In one study, more than half of women had cells with the Y chromosome in their breast tissue. Women aren’t supposed to carry the Y chromosome at all – the Y is men only

Note that this is called chimerism, courtesy of that lion/eagle/snake creature.

How does all this happen? Scientists are just beginning to explore this question. What we do know-at this very early stage-is that we may not be who we think we are. We may be others as well.

Aside from the scientific implications, what could this mean for literature? Movies? TV?

Come on, writers, there’s a whole mountain of possibilities waiting to be mined.

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