By Quinn Parker
The more ways we have to live, the more ways we have to die.
I should know. Growing up with diabetes does that to you. It reminds you of two facts, every single day.
The first? You’d probably be dead if you were born fifty, fifteen, or even five years earlier.
The second? You owe your life to a machine that could very easily kill you.
Diabetes is common enough that you probably have an understanding of it, but in a nutshell the illness means you either don’t produce enough insulin to survive, or you’re resistant to the insulin you’re making.
By a lot.
I mean, a whole fucking lot. But this isn’t a math lesson. This is about the technology that keeps our fragile selves alive and Crash Code, an anthology exposing all the ways that tech can kill you.
Some—not all—Type II diabetes patients can be treated effectively with just diet and exercise. The remainder, the Type I people, the yours truly, don’t get that lucky.
I grew up on an insulin pump. It’s a hodgepodge of gears and computer code that control a reservoir of insulin, which flows down a tube and into your body via a catheter, which needs to be changed every two to three days. The catheter gets inserted via a roughly .5 inch needle, though the size and method vary between devices.
A rectangular piece of plastic about the size of an old flip phone controlled my blood sugars, and if the AAA inside died, I’d only get a few hours before I died, too.
That’s called my life, until it’s called my cause of death.
Flash forward to today and my inspiration behind my new anthology Crash Code should seem pretty obvious. My existence itself hinged on that insulin pump, and using medical technology is far more and far less than embracing transhumanism. It’s every single thing. Every single day. Like a dog with a short leash. Never certain whether you’re in control or being controlled.
Getting out of bed meant checking my waistband to make sure the pump was still clipped to my clothing or searching around in the sheets if it came unclipped (or if I slept nude, of course). It meant unclipping the plastic port from my body before taking a shower. The adhesive left sticky residue on the skin, not to mention weird circular tan lines. Meals involved doing math to tell my machine how not to kill me, how not to let me bite the big one. Exercise, even more math, not to mention that different types of exercise affect diabetes in different ways.
Ever go for a walk that turned into a jog or sprint? Did you have to stop to think about whether this impulsive decision would result in your death?
If you said ‘no,’ then you’re pretty lucky, friend. Less understanding friends have mocked me for eating salads, for not drinking soda or alcohol, for getting up at four in the morning to make sure I can exercise and stabilize my blood sugars before work. Those that do understand the struggle pity me, and that’s somehow worse.
Having an insulin pump means always being a little overweight so I’d have somewhere to insert the needle without pain, yet knowing that you’ll be in pain eventually anyway. Jabbing a half-inch needle into yourself ain’t fun and the longer you do it the more scarring you get. Scar tissue’s no joke.
It meant making sure I was back home at certain times to change it, and budgeting what I’d do afterward in case the line occludes and I didn’t get the medication.
It means, no matter how much weight I gain or lose, I’m always going to have scars on my stomach. Little hills and valleys for the Mars Rover of a lover’s finger to graze over. Red pockmarks from the multiple daily injections I now take instead. Sex always involved an awkward pause while I detached myself from the anchor of my remote pancreas. A hesitation while I wondered if my partner was staring at the plastic port. Were my scars ugly? My tan lines a turn off? Would my blood sugars be too low to actually have sex? Would the activity cause them to drop? I don’t dare count how many times I wasn’t in the mood, or was outright nasty to my partner, because of highs.
My greatest fear, out of all this, isn’t dying. It’s the possibility—even probability, given how long I’ve had this disease—of dying slowly.
I’ve spent my whole life living in fear of the gradual decay diabetes inflicts. The coldness, the numbness, the tingling in hands and feet as my limbs rot. Neuropathy, I hear, is a bitch. This disease could take my sight one day. My hearing. My sanity. There are new treatments coming out every day, new pain creams, bionic limbs, implants, but that’s all they are. They don’t prevent problems, just fix what’s broken, and each repair job comes with its own set of side effects.
To date, I haven’t had any major complications. No neuropathy, blindness, nothing.
I have died twice though. More on that in a future post ;)
People who don’t rely on medical tech forget, or simply don’t realize, how disability permeates. I try to put myself in other peoples’ lives; it’s a big part of why I write science fiction. How much thought goes into waving hello once you start using a cybernetic arm? How do you deal with heartbreak when you have a pacemaker? Should zoom lenses be illegal for bionic eyes for fear of Peeping Toms?
I’ve tried glucose sensors, but none of them work well for me. I don’t like the Dexcom and Medtronic sets that can control my insulin pump, because I’m not turning my entire means of survival over to a machine that needs to be calibrated twice a day. The Freestyle were always notoriously inaccurate for my sugars, sometimes reading over 200 points off. I briefly used the Eversense implant, a device meant to sit under the skin and track blood sugars for three months; my body didn’t take well to it. Had it removed after five weeks. Only got to use it properly for one.
How much technology have you had inside you?
We invent more and more, we process, we design, we thrive against all odds. Everything we do is low-key existentially horrifying as fuck. When our bones break, we graft metal to them. Same to realign our teeth. If our vision is impaired, we mold silicon with plastic, then place it directly on our twitchy little eyeballs. We break down easily, so we set bone with steel, mend flesh with staples and thread.
What we can’t fix, we simply remove. My mother had her gallbladder out because… shit, why not? It wasn’t working, fixing it would’ve been a hassle, so slice it out, kids. Everything’s like that. Appendix? Remove. Tonsils? Gone. Intestines? Well, you don’t need all of what you’ve got. At worst, you’ll get a colostomy bag. You don’t need your liver. Or your stomach. Not even your heart. There’s a new surgery, a new process, a new technology for anything you don’t need.
Every time we embrace this next stage of our species’ revolution, we find new ways to end it all. Each method of extending life also brings the risk of ending it. Just ask the cancer patients who’ve died of chemo. Ask the diabetics who got killed by a faulty insulin pump.
That’s Crash Code. Not strictly cyborg horror, not medical technology gone wrong, but the gestalt technological apocalypse. We have stories from every end of the world: a man who uses black market military tech to extend his life expectancy; a self-driving car that knows it has lost control but can’t save its passengers; a group of outlaws who harvest high-grade medical tech from the rich so they can redistribute to the poor; a mindjacking virtual reality game leads to an all-too-permanent GAME OVER.
When the great machine of human kind finally grinds to a halt, the wasteland will be greater than the sum of its broken parts. We’re just giving you a preview.