4. Infections and extractions


The viral nightmares are certainly depicted as infections, setting off a chain reaction, moving from person to person, sometimes even taking effect just by reading about the viral nightmares.

We learn at the end that Donor Y appears to be asymptomatic, a warning for us in our current pandemic?

Dori’s presence seems to be an infection. Trish begins to think about this in one of the “Donor Y” chapters (49 in my edition) as she thinks about her job to “spread awareness.” She also ends the book with the sense that Dori has now infected whomever might read the report of her whistleblowing.

Extraction – transfusion (information transfusion?) -- “’We will never overdraw your daughter…. I make this promise at a moment when people are plunging their straws into any available centimeter of shale and water, every crude oil and uranium and mineral well on Earth, with an indiscriminate and borderless appetite” (128). As I read this, I envisioned There Will Be Blood and every ecological apocalyptic nightmare-scape.

How do you see the infection / extraction motifs relating to one another?


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    @WildCard said:
    The viral nightmares are certainly depicted as infections, setting off a chain reaction, moving from person to person, sometimes even taking effect just by reading about the viral nightmares.

    I wonder where the inspiration came from?

    The Haemaphilia Society said:
    The contaminated blood scandal

    In the 1970s and 1980s 4,689 people with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders were infected with HIV and hepatitis viruses through the use of contaminated clotting factors. Some of those unintentionally infected their partners, often because they were unaware of their own infection. Since then more than 3,000 people have died and of the 1,243 people infected with HIV less than 250 are still alive.

    Many people who did not have a bleeding disorder were infected with hepatitis C as a result of blood transfusions during that period. A large number were unaware of their infection for many years before diagnosis. It is estimated that as many as 25,000 people may have been infected as a result of the contaminated blood scandal.

    ( https://haemophilia.org.uk/background/ )

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    As mentioned before, I'm not sure I go with the "bad dreams = undesirable" equation which the story seems to posit. But I appreciate that isn't really the question you are raising here.
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    I was commenting to a friend this week that COVID is the ultimate test of selfishness. Masks work such that it matters more what masks the people around you are wearing that the one you wear. They keep you from breathing a fine spray of moisture out on everyone else, but as for breathing in .... might as well try to keep mosquitoes out with a chain-link fence. Soooo, if you wear a mask, you don't do it for yourself - you do it for others. I suppose you might take the selfish angle that you wear it so they will, which protects you. But wearing one is no guarantee that you neighbor will. Anyway, is there any application in that to this story?

    In relation to the blood scandal mentioned above, a certain portion of the US populace decided the best way through the epidemic would be to just carry on as normal (maybe even more aggressively so than normal) and expose everyone so that "herd immunity" will work itself out more quickly. I heard of COVID parties where people (I almost hesitate to grant them that status) took their kids to get exposed in the same way parents used to try and get chicken pox to spread around and 'get it over with.' Sigh. The real pandemic is ignorance and stubbornness.

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    This book certainly draws inspiration from tainted blood and blood donation. It's the main model, I think. But it also draws on the ethics of infectious disease treatment and of abortion, and of pain-killing drugs. So it's not simply that Russell re-skinned the tainted blood scandal.

    The dreams are, perhaps, a bit of a sideshow. For most, the sleep transfusions exist so they can get something they very badly need - sleep. Those who don't get it will eventually die. And so the program exists. But like any program, it can be opened to abuse. There may be some who don't need the sleep because they can sleep just fine on their own, but become junkies for the experience of living other people's dreams. There's something illicit about that. People who use dream serum for this purpose are taking it from others who need it to survive. It's the ultimate act of selfishness.

    Then there's the matter of nightmares. People don't want them. They then begin to suspect the program out of fear. This is very much like when people don't want a COVID vaccine because they're afraid it will give them covid. Or a vaccine in general because it will give their kids autism.

    Some people, including someone I know - a highly educated and very rational individual - don't like vaccines because they don't believe that big pharma is really operating in our best interests, and doesn't trust them to be completely honest with is. They think the risk of taking the vaccine is higher than it the risk of not taking it. Given the death rate of 1%, they would rather take their chances with the disease. Sleep Donation touches on this, too. How can we trust the system that's lying about what happens to the donations? Even Trish no longer trusts the system at the end, and would rather take her chances with the disease.

    So this is quite a complex book, in my opinion, considering its length.

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    @Apocryphal said:
    So this is quite a complex book, in my opinion, considering its length.

    I agree. I was delighted by it. I hadn’t yet read it when I selected it, so I don’t have any emotional defensiveness against assertions that it’s a 3.5 star book, but I don’t see it that way.

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