I wrote a story for The Thackery T. Lambshead Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases
, a forthcoming anthology of funny, faux-Victorian illnesses edited by Jeff VanderMeer and Mark Roberts. Other contributors include Michael Moorcock, Neil Gaiman and Elliot Fintushel. Every copy is signed by all contributors, and I just read through a galley and found myself laughing aloud all the way through. Here's some of my disease, "Pathological Instrumentation Disorder (The Man With Two Watches Problem)":
The patient, a Mr. Gary Warren, presented symptoms typical of extreme mental distress--elevated pulse, perspiration, acute abdomen, dilated pupils--at the Queen St. Mental Health Center, where a preliminary diagnosis of acute stress disorder was made. The patient's serotonin levels were normalized through quick trepanning, and he was entered into a course of group therapy sessions in the newly installed microgravity chill-rooms. Mr. Warren's symptoms worsened, however, despite daily trepannings. The only visible relief came when in close proximity to diagnostic equipment (EEG, e-meters, MRI/CT Scan apparatus). Even a wall-clock, a PDA, or a thermometer seemed to help.
Mr. Warren was moved to the Bertelsmann-AOL-Netscape-Time-Warner clinic and into the care of Dr. Jojo Fillipo, a specialist in media disorders. Under clinical observation, Mr. Warren was presented with a variety of diagnostic tools, beginning with those found on his person at his admission:
* A Palm Computing "Wrister" wristwatch
* A small, homemade RFI detector
* An integrated wireless appliance of baroque appearance
* A multifunction handheld medical unit, apparently stolen from a Mexican clinic (sphygmomanometer, EEG, blood-sugar/HIV/Hep G/Pregnancy diagnostic)
* An elderly, analog light-meter
* A DNA-signature encoder
* A distributed location/presence device marketed to children for the purposes of playing text-based role-playing games
* An elderly "turnip"-style pocket watch--not working
* A "commando"-style knife with an integrated compass and thermometer
Devices were provided to the patient singly and in combination. Alone or in small groups, the devices produced a marked lessening in the patient's symptoms--in fact, the mere presence of devices intended to measure Mr. Warren's symptoms appeared to alleviate them. In larger groups, or in certain combinations (the wireless appliance and the location/presence-device, for example), symptoms were exacerbated to alarming levels. At one point, Mr. Warren lost consciousness for a period of three days, during which doctors defibrillated his heart twice due to unusual cardiac events.
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