Thackery T. Lambshead Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases

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.