Sunday, August 23, 2009
I am reading a schlock novel this morning [retirement being what it is, I read four or five of these a week, courtesy of the Chapel Hill Public Library], and since it is based on a rather nice idea, I thought I would mention it. It is called VIRUS, by Graham Watkins, and was published in 1995, which is actually ancient as schlock fiction goes, but I was drawn to it because the author, according to the dust jacket, lives in Durham, NC, and the novel is set in the Triangle area, where I now live. The idea is this: a large number of people start showing up in emergency rooms and doctor's offices with a serious mysterious illness. They all are upscale types with techie jobs or interests. It turns out that a computer virus has taken on a life of its own and is infecting the people who use the computers. I think of this as a reverse metaphor. In the 17th century, devoted subjects of Queen Elizabeth called the female in a bees' nest "the Queen bee" as a tribute to her -- mother of the nation and all. Once this metaphor had become ensconced in the language, entymologists of a socio-biological bent started ruminating on the significant fact that human beings as well as bees have queens!! Don't you love it? So here we have a metaphor -- computer virus -- that is turned on its head for literary effect. Nice.