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Guest Post: Frankenstein and Me - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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Guest Post: Frankenstein and Me

This is a guest post promoting the anthology Outlaw Bodies.


Frankenstein and Me

By Lori Selke

When it came time to write a story of my own for the anthology Outlaw Bodies, which I co-edited with Djibril al-Ayad for The Future Fire, I knew exactly what I was going to write about.

The original science fictional outlaw body. The horrible fruit of Mary Shelley’s imagination, sewn together from stolen corpses and reanimated by fire from the sky. The creature without a name.

Frankenstein’s monster.

At the time I was editing the anthology, I was also supposed to be undergoing a course of physical therapy for a minor medical problem. I got a referral from my primary care physician, a nice professional-looking piece of paper with a phone number in the top left corner to call.

I called.

I hit an automatic phone tree that eventually shunted me to an answering machine. I left a message.

I called again the next day.

This time the phone tree shunted me to a real person – two cities away from the office I was trying to contact. She could not, for some reason, patch me through to that office. “Sometimes we answer their phones when they’re over capacity,” I recall her explaining. She took a message.

I waited a week to try again. I got shunted to the same wrong office, where they could not make an appointment for me because they did not have a referral.

This went on, with minor variations, for six more weeks.

It was at once infuriating and completely banal. I’m certainly not the only person to have been trapped in the bowels of managed care, snarling at the idea that I should be grateful to have insurance at all if this is what it meant in practice. It wasn’t even my first time through this particular sort of dance. I spent my entire pregnancy nursing a deep pain in my right foot from plantar fasciitis because my podiatrist and my favored blood lab belonged to two different HMOs, and I didn’t want to risk switching over midstream.
And yet, I still had health care, right? It could be so much worse.

I can get a little wacky under deadline pressure. I make weird juxtapositions. I’m more likely to draw heavily from real life. I ask myself “why not?” a lot more and scribble down the results quickly, before I can change my mind.

In this case, I thought, “Could be worse. I could be Frankenstein. Wouldn’t that be funny? Frankenstein Meets Managed Care.”

Why not?

I did worry a little as I wrote the story that it was too U.S.-centric for an anthology co-edited from the U.K. But I figured that the underlying themes weren’t so culturally specific. Medical-bureaucratic systems are going to pose challenges to people who inhabit nonstandard bodies. Either their nonstandard features will be minimized, or they will be magnified – pathologized -- and everything else ignored. There is no neutral space left once you enter the medical system – any medical system.

The field of medicine as we know it now enacts institutional control upon our bodies. Modern medicine is not a peer-to-peer collaborative system; it’s top-down and highly authoritarian. It shares this characteristic with a lot of other systems we interact with day-to-day, systems that may also try to control our bodies one way or the other.

And while I’d love to read a story or three that imagines a future for medicine that has made changes for the better, at the time I was working I definitely felt the opposite was more likely. For a while.

I’ve spent a lot of time working on the periphery of the medical field, as it happens – writing articles on health, working for a time as administrative support for a government contractor involved in supervising Medicare programs – and it was nice to get a chance to put some of that experience to use in a science fiction story. It’s not exactly writer’s revenge, but close enough.

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pickledginger From: pickledginger Date: November 12th, 2012 01:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Sounds fun!
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