Dancing to the Grave
A short poem inspired by Romeo and Juliet (we jsut finished reading it in class)
They spun around her,
Whispers careful, never too close.
Sweet words twisting into images,
Of deathly perfect days,
But the look in their eyes were of a ghost
Never too close is what they told themselves
A sick game is what they played,
Crafted ever so carefully,
Making sure it was nothing more.
Yet their heart longed,
They couldn't imagine a life without her
She dipped and laughed,
Pulling them a little closer
Words a sea of endless love confessions
She chased, they ran for both of their lives
She was innocent,
They had the world upon their shoulders
And yet, they danced together
Same body, same tune
Wax, they melted into each other
She fell, deeply
An inevitable curse to fall upon her
Their laughs were far too bright, too strong
She rushed into them
They should have tried harder
But, oh, it was so hard not to love
"I've danced this dance a million times over"
She her laugh was the smooth, soft rain
"Of course, you have, so have I. Everyday"
For she was the sun, they were the moon
And they understood all too well
"I danced this dance before poets rhymed"
Her eyes, bright lightning, sparking in interest
"I've met you, a different time, different place,
Thousands of times have a met you,
It ends the same every time"
Death is what they did not say,
The word lingered on their lips
She smiled and kissed lips
Until the word was no longer in memory
They danced with her, as one
Crimson blood leaked from their bodies,
Wilted roses were her cheeks
Death has their eyes
News called them modern day Romeo and Juliet
Oh, if only they knew
They were to live and dance, begrudgingly
She was to be born, she found them
Forever stuck into a loop of tragedy and woe
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Space based story with prison camps: problematic parallels?
Unethical Medical Experimentation (in the post and resources)
I'm writing a sci-fi novel set on Mars in the 25th century. There are two countries on Mars: Country A, a hereditary dictatorship, and Country B, a democracy occupied by Country A after losing a war. Country A's government is secretly being puppeted by a company that is illegally testing experimental technology on children. On orders from the company, Country A is putting civilian children from Country B in prison camps, where the company can fake their deaths and experiment on them. (1/2)
My novel takes place in one of the prison camps. I am aware that this setting carries associations with various concentration camps in history. Specifically, I'm worried about the experimentation aspect, as I know traumatic medical experimentation occurred during the Holocaust. Is there anything I should avoid? How can I acknowledge the history while still keeping some fantasy/sci-fi distance from real experiences -- or is it a bad idea to try to straddle that fence at all? Thank you! (2/2)
We are far from being the only people to have suffered traumatic medical experiments..
TW: Unethical Medical Experimentation (in the post, and all of the links)
Medical experimentation in history
Perhaps without intending to, you have posed an enormous question.
I will start by saying that we, the Jewish people, are not the only group to have unethical, immoral, vicious experiments performed on our bodies. Horrific experimentation has been conducted on Black people, on Indigenous people, on disabled people, on poor people of various backgrounds, on women, on queer people... the legacy of human cruelty is long. Here are some very surface-level sources for you, and anyone else interested to go through. Many, many more can be found.
General Wiki Article on Unethical Human Experimentation
US Specific Article on Unethical Human Experimentation
The early history of modern American Gynecology is largely comprised of absolutely inhumane experimentation, mostly on enslaved women (with some notable exceptions among Irish immigrant women)
An Article on Gynecological Experimentation on Enslaved Women
I also recommend reading Medical Bondage by Deirdre Cooper Owens
The Tuskegee Experiment
First Nations Children Denied Nutrition
Guatemala Syphilis Experiment
AZT Testing on Zimbabwean Women
Medical Experiments on Prison Inmates
Medical Interventions on Intersex Infants and Children
Again, these are only a few, of a tragic multitude of examples.
While I don't feel comfortable saying, as a blanket statement, that stories like this should never be fictionalized, it feels important to emphasize the historicity of medical experimentation, and indeed, medical horrors. These things happened, in the real world, throughout history, and across the globe.
The story of this kind of human experimentation is one of immense cruelty, and the complete denial of the humanity of others. Experimentation was done on unwilling subjects, with no real regard for their wellbeing, their physical pain, the trauma they would incur, the effect it would have on families, or on communities. These are stories, not of random, mythical "subjects," but of human beings. These were Black women, already suffering enslavement, who were medically tortured. These were Indigenous children, who were utterly powerless, denied nutrition, just to see what would happen. These were Black men, lied to about their own health, and sent home to infect their spouses, and denied treatment once it was available. These were Aboriginal Australians, forced to have unnecessary medical procedures, children given brutal gynecological exams, and medications that were untested.. These were inmates in US prisons, under the complete control of the state. These were prisoners of war. These were pregnant people, desperate to save their fetuses, lied to by doctors. These were also Jewish people, imprisoned, and brutalized as part of a systematic attempt to destroy us.
The story of medical torture, of experimentation without any meaningful consent, of the removal of human dignity, and human rights, is so vast, and so long, there is no way to do it justice. It is a story about human beings, without agency, without rights, it's the story of doctors, scientists, and the inquisitive, looking right through a person, and seeing nothing but parts. This is not some vague plot point, or a curiosity to note in passing, it is a real, terrible thing that happened, and is still happening to actual human beings. I understand the draw, to want to write about the Worst of the Worst, the things that happen when people set aside kindness, and pick up cruelty, but this is not simply a device. This kind of torture cannot be used as authorial shorthand, to show who the real bad guys are.
On writing this subject - research
If you want to write a fictional story that includes this kind of deep, abiding horror, you need to immerse yourself in it. You need to read about it, not only in secondhand accounts, and not only from people stating facts dispassionately. You need to seek out firsthand accounts, read whatever you can find, watch whatever videos you can find. You need to find works recounting these atrocities by the descendants, and community members of people who suffered.
Then, when you have done that, you need to spend time reflecting, and actively working to recognize the humanity of the people this happened to, and continues to happen to.
You have to recognize that getting a stamp of approval from three Jewish people on a single website would never be enough, and seek out multiple sensitivity readers who have personal, familial, or cultural experience with forced experimentation.
If that seems like a lot of work, or overkill, I beg you not to write this story. It's simply too important.
If you study public health and sociology, it is often a given that the intersection of institutional power and marginalized populations produces extreme human rights abuses. This is not to say that such abuse should be treated as an inevitability, but rather to help us understand, as Dierdra says, how often we need to be aware of the risk of treating our fellow humans poorly. Much of modern medical history is the story of the unwilling sacrifices made by people unable to defend themselves from the powers that be. Whether we are talking about the poor residents of public hospitals in France during the 18th century whose bodies were used to advance anatomy and pathology, to vaccine testing in the 19th century, to mental asylum patients in the 20th century who endured isolation, lobotomies, colectomies and thorazine, one can easily see this pattern beyond the Holocaust.
Even when we shift our focus away from abuse justified by “experimentation”, we have many such incidents of institutionalized state collusion in abuse that have made the news within the last 20 years with depressing regularity. Beyond the examples mentioned above, I offer border migrant detention centers and black sites for America, Xinjiang re-education sites and prisoner organ donation in China, Soviet gulags still in use in Russia, and North Korean forced labor camps (FLCs) for political prisoners as more current examples. I agree with Dierdra that these themes affect many people still alive today who have endured such abuses, and are enduring such abuses.
More on proper research and resources
Given that you are going to be exploring a topic when the pain is still so fresh, so raw, I think you had better have something meaningful to say. Dierdra’s recommendation to immerse yourself in nonfiction primary sources is essential, but I think you will also want to brush up on many established works of dystopian fiction featuring themes relating to state institutions and the exploitation of vulnerable populations. While doing so, read about the authors and how the circumstances of their environments and time periods influenced their stories’ messages and themes. I further recommend that you do so both slowly and deliberately so you can both properly take in the information while also checking in with your own comfort.
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