Another Outlaw Bodies Blog Post

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Well gang, you’re in for a treat. Today’s guest blog post is brought to you by Lori Selke, guest co-editor of the Outlaw Bodies anthology.

 

A bit of info on Outlaw Bodies:

The anthology contains nine stories and an essay, six of which are also featured here in this special issue of TFF, all about bodies that are trangressive, unexpected, disapproved of, repressed, attacked, degraded, upgraded, controlled, modified, neglected or traded-in for a better or less discomforting model.

The protagonists (or in some cases antagonists) in these stories are outlaws because their bodies are controlled, sanctioned or licensed in some way, because they don’t fit or they need to be made to fit social norms, or because they have decisions made about their bodies that are outside of their control. They are androids, models, women, disabled, queer, monsters, kinky, unhappy, mutants or artificial intelligences. They are all recognisable, either as echoes of or as metaphors for our world, ourselves, our bodies.

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I have been working on this anthology long enough and hard enough that nowadays, everywhere it turns it seems I see Outlaw Bodies – past, present, and future.

The US Tennis Association threatens to bench their star player because they think she’s too fat. South African runner Caster Semenya endures incredibly intrusive inquiries into her anatomy, her hormone levels, her very chromosomal makeup, just for the right to compete in her chosen sport. A baseball player begs my local team to take him back after serving a suspension for “performance-enhancing substances.”

Japanese scientists figure out how to create viable eggs from mouse stem cells. The eggs have produced at least two generation of mice – but the technique requires the use of fetal embryonic material. Another Japanese scientist is awarded the Nobel Prize for turning mouse skin cells into stem cells.

I trip across a sentence about how the practice of medicine is stuck in an “industrial model” and how to change that.

I read stories about a new trend in body modification – implanting weak magnets into your fingertips.  Another about a 3D printer constructing a prosthetic beak for a bald eagle. And another about the downsides of cloning dogs, including a high number of clones with “physical abnormalities” and the ethical considerations that their existence – their creation – poses.

I visit the new Cindy Sherman retrospective, all of which plays with representations of the body and the tension between the image and the underlying reality – when all we have is the image. Cindy Sherman’s work says that there are stories we intend to tell and stories that speak from underneath intent.

Some of these may not seem very “outlaw” to you and that’s fine; some of them aren’t – yet. But human nature seems to guarantee that, for better or for worse, any technological innovation not only can but will be turned away from its primary purpose and toward a plethora of secondary goals. Not all of those goals will be sanctioned by law or custom.

This is the genesis of true outlaw bodies. Real-life outlaw bodies, here and now. Fiction has been running behind the curve for too long. I wanted to give it a little push. That’s one story of how Outlaw Bodies was born.

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