3/9/03: Building a better disease

Word count: 2873 A very productive weekend for getting chores done. Not very productive for writing. Did have a nice long chat with Pam Davis, an old friend who is a nurse, on medical stuff. The best human analogy for the alien disease seems to be graft-vs.-host disease (GVHD), in which transplanted bone marrow begins attacking the patient. Treatment for graft-vs.-host involves suppressing the immune system, which opens the patient to opportunistic infections — it’s a no-win situation. Pam suggests that increased dramatic tension can be obtained by having an initial visible symptom (e.g. smallpox blister or KS lesion) which provides an unambiguous signal that “you are infected with this untreatable fatal disease, and everyone you’ve had any contact with has already been exposed.” If the symptom is one that can be hidden, that provides opportunities for duplicity and self-deception on top of that. I don’t think a visible “pox” makes sense for this disease, but some kind of patchy rash or “ick” is a possibility. (I still haven’t nailed down what the Taurans have for integument.) OK, maybe this is an AIDS metaphor after all. Pam also asked some interesting questions such as “What keeps this resistance fighter from just sharing the aliens’ vulnerability through some public mechanism such as the internet?” and “Are there no alien medicos?” I came up with an outline of a solution to these and other issues she raised, and it is a really scary situation for the characters. Mwah hah hah.

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