Errata "R" Us

The alert reader of yesterday’s post may have noticed a logical inconsistency big enough to drive a freight train through. The opening scenario dealt primarily with HIV-1, yet in the second scenario, the evil dude is clearly concerned about either another, more virulent virus or perhaps a number of diseases acting in concert, analogous to the introduction of Old World diseases to the New World in the 16th and 17th centuries. O.K., so perhaps he alters his genes so that his descendents would be immune to all these diseases. But that deprives us of the neat, binary opposition of a single savior vs. anti-savior. And it isn’t at all clear to me that a retrovirus could be transmitted in any way other than through sex or the mixing of blood. The really virulent ones are lytic viruses like Ebola, for which vaccinations could probably be developed.

So the concept would need a lot of work before it could be shaped up well enough for a novel. (Probably could still form the basis of a workable movie script at this point – Hollywood producers have never let glaring inconsistencies and implausibilities get in the way of high drama and pathos!) Additional complexity would actually help in the layering of meaning, I think.

As I pondered the novelistic possibilities in the shower this morning, I realized I would want it to be narrated in the twin voice of a woman with two heads. There actually is such a young woman somewhere in Britain, I believe. Both heads are fully functional, and are treated by everyone as two separate persons. Each has her own ambitions. The way I understand it, the town conspires to keep her identity secret (along with its own identity). This was something I read in a legitimate news source, not a tabloid.

In any case, the legal, theological and romantic implications of a human being with two, fully functional heads are interesting. It would be fun to place her in a culture where twins are revered. As a narrator, she would speak ordinarily as two sisters, sometimes bickering, sometimes finishing each other’s sentences. We could have each head studying different languages, or one head performing simultaneous translations for the other, etc. During moments of heightened awareness, she/they would speak as one in a distinctly hair-raising manner, like the plural voice of God in Shoenberg’s Moses and Aaron.

Mind you, I don’t see myself writing this novel. No, I envision a co-authorship between Barbara Kingsolver and Orson Scott Card. That’s the kind of artistic partnership that could lead either to prophetic vision or to mutually assured destruction. Maybe both!

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