Academic journal article Hecate

Hot Property: Mutants, Metaphors and Radiation

Academic journal article Hecate

Hot Property: Mutants, Metaphors and Radiation

Article excerpt

Hot Property: Mutants, Metaphors and Radiation

`You are aware,' she said with a half smile, `that if you only had a cancerous knee, it would be a lot less interesting to everyone here.'

`What, you mean that my cancerous cervix makes the topic sort of -- hot property?' I exclaimed.

`Exactly,' she said `and what a marvellous title!'

A Note on Method

Women's identities are constructed through the experience and reproduction of femaleness which is always signified contradictorily because gendered power relationships simultaneously denote and subordinate `what it is to be a woman.' The three cancer stories that follow are told within an intertextual framework in which the overlapping power relations of embodiment and science constitute cultural notions of illness and health and interrogate each other through allusion, metaphor and contradiction. Intertextual writing intercepts the linear process of reason by deliberately disrupting the expected flow of the text. In this paper, different kinds of texts, the experience of cancer diagnosis and treatment, comparisons of conventional and alternative approaches to cancer and science fiction identities are read against each other as starting points. The notion of `against' is not meant in an oppositional sense, but as the conjuring of a thematic network of ideas, illusions and allusions. The thematic task is to juxtapose, to highlight the similitude and the points of contrast in the texts, to read science fiction against science, against personal diaries, fantasies against social theory and allow poetry to illumine politics.

FIRST VOICE: The last week in July, 1992. I don't remember exactly when I thought something might be `wrong' with my body. There is a series of ironies in this. I remember telling a friend I thought I might be menopausal because my periods were a bit irregular. She retorted I was too young. Even then I felt unsure. My periods have always been erratic, arriving without much fuss sometime within a timespace of anything from twenty-one to fifty-six days, since menarche when I was twelve.

Perhaps it was simply that I was stressed and had been so for several months of a heavy teaching load, only months after my mother's death from cancer which spread rapidly from her pancreas. Then there was my recurring dream of golden-red snakes with burning golden eyes. All my illnesses had been heralded by dreams of snakes. Freud would have loved it. My totemic sexuality, sudden death, chthonic, fluid femininity. At a conference, during my presentation, I had a sudden momentary flash of self recognition as I clicked a slide of an eastern goddess with a snake arching out of her vagina onto the screen. There was my fascination for the science fiction presentation of cancer as a barely conscious potential for transformation, integral to our humanity, a theme in Octavia Butler's trilogy Xenogenesis. But on the last night of the conference I lay awake, affirming a reluctant but frightened decision to visit the doctor on my return home.

He freaked out at the sight of my cervix, described as lumpy, angry and bleeding to touch, and four days of numbing drama began. Within hours I was waiting at the emergency department of the women's hospital. Three hours wait, a tentative examination and then another hour while I sat half naked on a examination table awaiting a registrar to advise what the `next step' should be.

While I waited, a fifth year medical student came to take my notes. For the second time that day I estimated the date of my menarche, the length of my periods, critical dates in my reproductive history, how many children, were they normal pregnancies, and normal (that is, vaginal, births, details of my previous illnesses, family illnesses, whether and to what extent I drank alcohol, what kind of alcohol, did I smoke, take drugs, have daily exercise, did I work, was I particularly stressed about anything, did I eat a balanced diet and what was the date I last `had sexual intercourse. …

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