Afterland: Chapter 29

[Content Note: Transphobia]

We're going to skip ahead to Chapter 29, which is an Interlude chapter designed to tell us about the Mystery Virus, and therefore should've been given to us near the start of the book and not the middle.

AFTERLAND. Chapter 29.

"29. DirtyHarry.tv"

This is where we're going to be getting our medical information, and not from a CDC broadcast, huh? Are we just supposed to take as read that this is all accurate? We finally learn that HCV means "Human Culgoa Virus", though we don't learn WHY just yet. The "human" part of the name would imply there's a non-human variant of the disease, but nothing in the world-building has suggested that.

We're told that it is "a highly contagious flu that turns into an aggressive prostate cancer in men and boys". That's a direct quote: "men and boys". No clarification of "cis". Keep that in mind, please. Women can get the flu but it's mild and non-deadly. However, they remain carriers after the fact. Then we get the "inclusion" of trans women that I firmly believe was edited in hastily just before publish.

Unlike your racist Fox News-lovin’ grandparents, you’ll be pleased to know that CV does not discriminate on race, class, religion, or sexuality. You just need to have that Y chromosome. Sorry trans sisters, peace out: It’s the equal-opportunity fuck-you we’ve been promised since the dawn of the first mitochondrial collision.

We're told that "Culgoa has infected an estimated five BILLION people so far. That’s most of us out of a population of 7.4 billion human beings." and "HCV might kill between 500 million and one billion men. One billion men. I don’t mean to scare you, but that’s up to 1/8 of the world’s population and 1/4 of the male population! Mark my words, there will come a time when we’ll be nostalgic for dick pics!"

This book repeatedly and deliberately associates the plague with men. Not "cis men and trans women", or "people with prostates", or any other phraseology that wouldn't erase trans people. A gleeful "SORRY TRANS LADIES" addendum doesn't suddenly make the book trans inclusive. It isn't even out of sync with TERF beliefs! TERFs were *delighted* when covid was speculated to be more deadly to cis men because they thought trans women would die too. This was a GOOD thing as far as they were concerned because, (a) fewer trans women and, (b) it meant that Biology Was Truth and that viruses didn't care about our identities. So this "inclusion" from the author isn't even out of sorts with TERFdom.

We have this Q&A which feels a little too telling about the author's research process: "I googled prostate cancer and it’s linked to testosterone! ...Google will also tell you that typically it only occurs in men over 60. Guess what, kids? All the rules have changed." Moreover, I want to pay attention to the wording here. The question asks "Can I get castrated?" and the answer is "Culgoa causes castration-resistant prostate cancer." We're given lurid details of a backstreet orchiectomy, but there's no discussion (yet) of prostate removal and no discussion of reducing testosterone via non-"castration" methods. TERFs talk about "castration" all the time, this feels SO TERFy, like... how was this not written by a TERF-generating bot?

Ah, here we have what looks to be another late edit, when someone mentioned removing the prostate: It's really hard and the surgeons are all men and therefore dead. She would've been better off just not adding such a weak handwave.

No cure at all? Radical prostatectomy, or total surgical removal of the prostate, has proved effective in a handful of cases. We’re talking a few thousand. It needs to be performed by a highly skilled specialist surgeon, and it only works if the cancer hasn’t already metastasized (i.e., grown out of control, like Kanye’s ego, and invaded other parts of your body) and if the surgeon successfully removes every last scraping of prostate cells. Oh shit, but did we mention? Most urologist-specialist-surgeon-types are men, who are probably dying as you read this, or trying to surgify their own asses.

So it's a magical prostate cancer that happens even in the case of low testosterone (so orchiectomies don't help) but the author doesn't seem to realize that *everyone* has a prostate and a testosterone-neutral prostate cancer would just kill everyone, I'm pretty sure. Hell, I feel like losing only 1/8 of the earth's population to this cancer is an *amazing* survival rate in the face of this utter magic nonsense. Also, only losing 1/4 of all men and boys is... a lot fewer than we were promised. This is not a proper manpocalypse.

Culgoa, Australia is the first place they heard of the disease. But then this? It's been around for years and you've probably had it a dozen times BUT/AND then you instantly die before you can get your prostate out. SCIENCE!!!!!

HCV has been going round and round the world for years now. Think about every time you got the ’flu in the last decade. It might have been Culgoa. You and everyone you know has probably already been infected, like, six times over.

This makes no sense! None of this is scientific! The jokey tone of this chapter is bullshit ("Think of it this way: with one billion of us gone, at least global warming is going to slow down!") and it's so clearly only here so that the science can be softer than butter. "Consider, if you will, the impact it’s going to have on industry and farming and transport and mining and power and construction and fire-fighting and satellite maintenance, which are all traditionally penis-centric." Yeah, this is REAL respectful of trans people.

There's a note at the end which informs us that the shitty not-an-actual-doctor "doctor" explaining all this is a gay man living in Dallas Texas with his husband, which of course implies that they're both dead or going to die. Thanks, book. Oh, and then we reach a *second* note at the end: "UPDATE: This article is massively out of date, but we’ve left it up as a historic artifact for future (female?) internet historians to look back on and see how terribly na├»ve and hopeful we were about the death toll."

I don't know what to even do with that "(female?)" there. Like the book is actually questioning whether Feeeeemales can be internet historians. Does this author know that women already do these things? Oh, here we go. "Current estimates (as of 18 January 2023) are 3.2 billion men, boys, and people-with-prostates dead, including this article’s author, Mark Harrison, which leaves about 35–50 million boys and men alive around the world." Cool, cool, bury the gays. *casually adds a few more pages to the shredder*

I'm stunned by the choice to NOT explain your world-ending virus until halfway through the novel, THEN to provide a *wrong* explanation, THEN to add a note saying "everything about this was probably wrong, don't ask specifics, byeeee." The cowardice is almost breath-taking; if you point out that any of this is inaccurate, it's like "well, YEAH, the CHARACTER was a dumbass and didn't know what he was talking about". Well, gosh, is that all.

"In the meantime, can we implore those of you with wombs to please, please, stick to the 2021 Buenos Aires Accord: obey the global reprohibition, beware of blackmarket semen, and don’t go trying for babies until we know it’s safe out there!" WOMBS. So we're back to a global reprohibition, which means that the presidential candidate running against reprohibition was promising to break an international treaty. I'm sure the rest of the world will love that.

That's the chapter which deals with trans women and I'm pretty sure it's the only chapter which does so. It's garbage. Tomorrow I'm going to do the two chapters which mention trans men. They're not good. I can't stress enough how bad this book is. It's only at the halfway point that we've attained enough backstory and flashbacks to understand the basics of Chapter 1. The plotting and pacing are bananas. Waaaaay too much of the book is taken up with misgendering and genitals, especially as regards children. If you cut out all the "man milk" and "penis-centric" and masturbation references and gendermess, you'd lose half the word count.

Nor do I understand how "blackmarket semen" is even supposed to work! You're going to hide being pregnant for 9 months, and then hide the resulting child for years until.... you can pass your 12yo off as a 14yo? Because there's got to be a growing gap here! Like, I don't know when the Accord was passed, but between that day and now, there's a gap during which new babies aren't supposed to exist. So the longer you wait, the more you have to pass your child off as born later, before the Accord cut-off. So apparently women are going to be trying to hide *having a baby/child* for literal years from the law. Good luck. Good fucking luck.

Final thought #1: Again, the only people I know who describe modern medical testicle-removal as "castration" are TERFs.

Final thought #2: The author of the "DirtyHarry.tv" FAQ being a fictional gay man makes that sassy "SORRY TRANS SISTERS" paragraph *even worse*, ugh.

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