In this episode of our Two for Tea podcast, editor-in-chief Iona Italia talks to researcher, journalist, historian of science and novelist Alice Dreger—one of the most fascinating polymaths among the current crop of public intellectuals and also one of the most difficult to pigeonhole politically. Their talk focused on Alice’s recent novel The Index Case, written under her pen name Molly Macallen, which explores the treatment of people with bodies once considered deviant or monstruous, both in the nineteenth century and in academia today. This episode is also available on Apple podcasts here and on Spotify here. Areo patrons get early access to podcast episodes. To become a patron, join us at www.patreon.com/areo.
The Index Case by Molly Macallen, the first novel in the Maddy Shanks series. Published on Lulu. You can order it here.
Visit Alice’s website: https://alicedreger.com/
Follow Alice on Twitter https://twitter.com/AliceDreger?s=20&t=CDzQ-0LkFfFGhqph0trBOQ
Alice’s Articles and Books:
Alice’s non-fiction books: https://alicedreger.com/books/
Alice’s writing https://alicedreger.com/writing/
“Visiting Your Leg” Alice’s essay on the politics of anatomy.
One of Us Alice’s book on anatomy and political and social identity.
“Dr Oz Can’t Afford Me” Alice’s essay on exploitation by the entertainment industry.
“Lavish Dwarf Entertainment” Alice’s essay on the entertainment agency.
The New England Journal of Medicine.
Altered Carbon the novel by Richard Morgan.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Alice and Colin Wright take part in a discussion about biological sex.
Alice in Genderland by Richard Novic.
Iona’s essay “On Sleeping with Younger Men.”
00.00 Opening and introductions.
4.20 Why a pseudonym for novel writing?
8.00 The themes of the book.
9.25 Alice reads the blurb from the novel.
11.30 Iona reads an excerpt from the novel.
16.50 Alice discusses how she and her protagonist’s areas of study echo each other; the politics of anatomy, how the body interacts with the world, the history of science and of medicine. How science has dealt with “interesting” bodies over the course of modern history.
22.00 How power works in relationships between doctors and people with “interesting” bodies. Alice discusses how her non-fiction book One of Us addresses this, with reference to Eng and Chang Bunker, the original “Siamese twins”.
27.00 Alice talks about the historical and contemporary exhibition of bodies; how some individuals are exhibited and exploited and how some with “unusual” bodies make money from their own bodies.
30.29 Iona reads more. Alice discusses the shift of science away from storytelling to depersonalised, anonymised specimens.
35.29 The New England Journal of Medicine as an outlier to this phenomenon.
37.00 Iona refers to Altered Carbon, the novel, and the ethical and philosophical questions about what it means to be a person and about bodily integration.
40.16 Iona and Alice talk about eugenics, disabilities and autism research and about anatomy and identity and what personhood is. How identity has changed over time away from the body and towards external signifiers. How this is explored in the novel.
43.00 Who has the right to use dead bodies? How the government may control bodies, eg: dying people isolated during the covid pandemic.
47.00 How the order of the books in the series came about. The Difficult Subject, book two, will be coming out soon. Themes around sexuality.
49.00 Alice’s enjoyment of fiction writing vs. enjoyment of non-fiction writing.
51.16 Michael Bailey and his writing on autogynephilia and transgender identities. Do we have an innate sense of gender? Alice’s recent debate with Colin Wright. How The Difficult Subject relates to these themes.
59.00 The unethical relationship in the novel. How power works in this relationship. Sex scenes and sexuality in the novels.
1.02.00 The abusive relationship in the series and Alice’s own experience. Controversy around the framing of trauma.
1.09.00 More on the development of the series. The Worst Thing will be book three. Reception of the first novel.
1.15.25 Why self-publish? Published via Lulu.
1.20.00 Summing up and outro.