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The science of the Blonde Fury, part one

March 13, 2012

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How does the virus work?

It’s the question I’ve been asked—usually just after I explain the plot—since starting work on The Blondes a few years ago. While I’m finishing up a proof of the novel I thought I would spend a few posts exploring ways that a rabies-like virus could only affect women with natural and bleached blonde hair. I won’t say what’s in the book or not but I’ve always believed in how Alfred Hitchcock rationalized The Birds to his co-screenwriter and producer: If you explain it, it’s science fiction. If you don’t explain it, it becomes something else.

So, the first possible route of transmission for Siphonaptera Human Virus is: mass psychogenic illness.

This fascinating New York Times Magazine article tells the story of the twitching girls of LeRoy, NY and the surprisingly commonplace occurrence of mass psychogenic illness or, as the article says, “another way of saying mass hysteria.” The most interesting part of the article, in terms of the themes of The Blondes, is not only the true physiological effects of women reacting to domestic and social stress but that such outbreaks mimic social hierarchy, with “cheerleaders” often being index cases.

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