Xen is a mythologic tale from the distant future. This complex allegory deals with xenophobia, man's fear of others who are different from his close associates and family. The story begins with the origins of Wind, Water, Fire, and all of life on Earth. Wind becomes concerned that mankind will destroy the Earth, since he has already learned to make, if not control, Fire. Water disagrees in this debate and bets Wind that mankind will turn out just fine, becoming another brother or sister of theirs. This Bet is then framed in the chapters that follow, telling the story of Pawkey Seneschal.
Pawkey is a misanthropic scientist in a failed marriage who attends a conference in the City. A consummate observer of life, he considers his own xenophobia, his initial fears and prejudices as he encouters others on the subway; the sexism that objectifies all of womanhood; the power of illicit drugs; and the massive and wasteful consumption in our society that are prompted by the power of propaganda, the media, and government. While asleep months after the conference, he has a dream in which Water adjusts the chemistry in his brain, giving him an idea for overcoming this xenophobia.
Pawkey ultimately sets out to learn the origins of xenophobia.
He acquires huge wealth, which he uses to learn what causes mankind to be a predator, greedy, selfish, lustful, lazy, as well as understanding intelligence, honesty, charity, faith, and all the wonderful characteristics that set mankind apart from other species. He also seeks the keys to the aging process as well as overall health. His research is successful. In the process he develops the power to save or destroy mankind. He unleashes a viral plague upon the Earth. With this armageddon, mankind is divided into the scumbags, the incorrigibles, who will not see another day and the survivors who will give rise to a new civilization of mankind. A truly perfect society is created. Pawkey keeps his role in this transformation a secret.
In the distant future, long after mankind has been settling the stars, an alien species comes to Earth and confronts these descendants, forcing them to learn about their true origins. Hence the story of Pawkey Seneschal is told and the Bet is finally settled.