Several Aggregators picked up “Moving Pictures“, a couple of posts back.   (If I’d known that mutilation porn would get me so many hits I’d have got necrotizing fasciitis years ago.)   There’ve been a lot of comments, here and elsewhere, and a lot of people asking the same kind of questions. So to try and answer the most common, I present for your edification:

Flesh-Eating Questions

1. What drugs are you on?

Basically, none. I was on morphine for the first few days in the hospital. I was on antibiotics until a couple of weeks ago. Right now I’m not on anything, really: I pop a couple of Tylenol 3’s a half-hour before the nurses show up to reflay my leg, although it kinda hurts anyway (not as much as you might think, although just pulling sticky gauze off an exposed muscle aches in a diffuse, never-thought-we’d-need-a-lot-of-sensory-nerves-that far-down kinda way). I’m half-convinced those pills are placebos but I’m too chickenshit to put that hypothesis to the test by not taking them, just in case they aren’t.

So, yeah. All those pictures of people stripping gunk off my muscle or jamming sporks into the hole — two Tylenols. Back at the hospital they described my pain threshold as somewhat higher than the norm, and this may have been why it took them so long to diagnose the problem; apparently the primary diagnostic difference between NF and plain old cellulitis is that NF is agonizing, and I wasn’t showing any of the screamy-waily reactions. All I did was go into shock and quietly pass out from the pain, which at least made a few medtechs and one of those oxygen machines sit up and take notice for a few minutes until my skin de-grayed.

I am, evidently, a tough motherfucker. Which I try my best to remember every time I do these goddamn tendon-stretching exercises, which always make me want to scream and cry like a little girl.


2. Why are you wallowing in filth?

I’ve seen a number of comments along the lines of holy shit that guy’s insides are all out and they’re swapping the dressings on his coffee table? and That wound nurse is breathing right into the hole without a mask! All of which basically boils down to incredulity that we’re swapping out body parts in a back alley and I haven’t turned into a massive hopping pustule of infection. Especially since I’m not even on antibiotics, and haven’t been for a couple of weeks now.

This actually surprised me as well. Apparently, if the wound had been stitched up and sealed, then ongoing antibiotics would have been called for because bacteria could be festering in the dark wet spaces beneath my skin (in much the same way that Citizens United allows the Koch brothers to provide unlimited funding to their Republican lapdogs while remaining out of public view). As it is, though, the bugs colonizing my exposed musculature are the same ones that thrive in their trillions all over our skin; they’re everywhere, but they’re pretty harmless. That’s the official story anyway, and I’ve seen no evidence to contrary, with the possible exception of the fact that much of the flesh around the edge of the wound has recently become numb, and assumed the appearance and consistency of an overcooked turkey drumstick. (Oh, and with the possible additional exception of Streptococcus pyogenes, which is also a pretty harmless denizen of the skin except on those rare occasions when it decides to level up and become, well, necrotizing fasciitis.)

3. What have you done to Banana’s ears?

The claim that Banana the Cat is not a Scottish Fold has provoked some cruel and unwarranted rumors to the effect that I am somehow responsible for the (admittedly adorable) mutilation of his ears. This is not true. He was that way when I found him. Banana lived a hard life on the streets of Toronto for a good ten years before I got ahold of him. His left ear — the one that’s folded back and fused to itself — is a victim of frostbite. The shredded cartilage in the right was self-inflicted, since the poor guy was driven to compulsive scratching by the world’s worst ear-mite infection. (Also most of his teeth have been extracted, as they were all rotten and abscessy.)


4. Do you maintain any kind of sterile field while swapping out the packing?

Pretty much. The nurses wear latex gloves, and we boil all necessary surgical instruments on the stove between visits (the fact that I have a decent dissecting kit has definitely come in handy). The foam and the tape that gets stuffed into the wound comes pre-sterilised, and we have a set of tweezers handy to pick off any stray cat hairs that might settle on the muscle.

Also I have a squirt gun. If any cats climb up onto the coffee table while my leg is open, I squirt them.


5. What’s that yellow stuff on the muscle?

It is not, as many have assumed, fat. It’s what’s left of that lubricating gel that Felicia was squeezing into the wound a couple of posts back. The gel is meant to keep the dressing from sticking to the exposed meat, and it works, sort of. Unfortunately there appears to be a civil war going on within the local nursing community. One faction believes in the use of this gel with all their heart, and they dispense it as liberally as pepper spray and rubber bullets at a peaceful G20 protest. The other faction, sadly, believes that this product just messes up the wound, and they come in the next day and scrape the stuff off my exposed muscle with little garden rakes. Just the other day one of them — a very nice lady by the name of Annemarie (or maybe Susan; it’s hard to remember through the haze of trauma) — dug around in the undercut beneath the skin, then triumphantly held up a Q-tip blobbed with a greasy yellow substance. “See what that is? That’s that gel! Just rotting in there!”

I am doing my best not to take sides.


6. So, what about the lesion that started it all?

By which you mean, the lesion that provoked the biopsy that infected me with necrotising fasciitis in the first place. We’re not quite sure. The biopsy report came back as “necrotizing vasculitis” (no relation), which is a technical way of saying Your blood vessels are inflamed and we don’t really know why. Underlying causes range from drug allergy to cancer. The first batch of blood tests were either lost or inconclusive. Just yesterday a specialist siphoned about half my blood volume into a dozen little tubes and told me to pee in a cup. We’re pretty sure the underlying cause isn’t an allergy, or rheumatoid arthritis, or Crohn’s disease. The specialist says she is “reassured” by the fact that the lesions have not resurfaced, but I’m still waiting for a definitive diagnosis. The investigation, as they say, is ongoing.

But I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify something that seems to be a source of widespread confusion.  Whatever those lesion were — and despite the fact that the label hanging off of them contains the word “necrotizing” — they were not the source of the necrotising fasciitis. NF kills fast, spreading at up to 5cm/hour and frequently killing within a day. I was complaining to you guys about these lesions back in January. If I’d had NF that far back, the cats would have eaten my carcass down to the bones months ago.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 9th, 2011 at 5:35 pm and is filed under Flesh-Eating Fest '11. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

76 Responses to “F.E.Q.”

  1. blue

    I’m a blog lurker who’s glad to see that you’re doing well! Thank you for keeping us posted and I hope that your healing continues going well.

    Just a quick query/nitpick. I’m not sure it’s necessary to gender the comment: “Which I try my best to remember every time I do these goddamn tendon-stretching exercises, which always make me want to scream and cry like a little girl.” I understand that it’s one of those classic cultural shorthands, but it’s also a phrase that ties into all the ‘girls are weak/bad at anything physical/cry at the drop of a hat, unlike manly, tough boys’ cultural norms. I dunno, maybe something more like ‘cry like a baby/little kid’ could do the same trick?

    Just a thought. 🙂

    Hope the recovery continues, and best of luck with the yellow stuff nurse wars.

  2. Alex von Thorn

    I’m glad you’re alive. I hope your recovery is without incident. May your future WIkipedia page updates be about new books you are writing instead of other personal drama.

  3. jmcdaid

    I’m very glad indeed that you are a such a tough motherfucker. Who else would make the connection between Citizens United and necrotizing fasciitis. Best wishes for a continued uneventful recovery.

  4. ScottC

    How would you know if the lesions had resurfaced? That private clinic kind of instituted “scorched earth” on the problem area. Got rid of those pesky lesions, though!

    Also, don’t Tylenol 3s have codeine? I’d hate to think of you facing all this without some kind of decent drugs at hand. Or at least a case of scotch.

    Care to speculate as to which you’ve received more fame from: being an award-winning hard writer of hard science fiction, being a convicted felon and political bramble in a minor transnational incident, or being a bona fide medical curiosity?

    On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad should people who were making jokes about your lesions being NF, before you went and actually contracted NF, feel about themselves? In fairness, they may have thought they were making those remarks to a baseline human, and not to a walking karmic singularity radiating an inescapable gravitational pull to any unfortunate probability in a three mile radius. Still, that’s got to be good for some guilt. Or possibly cookies.

    Please continue to do your exercises, get your rest, and heal up! We’re all puling for you, or have just enough morbid curiosity to fake it!

  5. Steve

    Let’s see if we can Googlebomb a link between “Peter Watts” and “mutilation porn”.

  6. ScottC

    Let’s see if we can Googlebomb a link between “Peter Watts” and “mutilation porn”

    Well, if you google “utterly repellent porn”, eventually you’ll come across that Kirkus review of Behemoth.

  7. Thomas Hardman

    ScottC opined: On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad should people who were making jokes about your lesions being NF, before you went and actually contracted NF, feel about themselves?

    Um, actually, I wasn’t joking. I was serious. A friend of mine has a kid in highschool (DC suburbs) who has had multiple run-ins with MRSA, which of course is Staph and not Strep… but these things seem to spread in the same way. While I can’t put my hands on any citations at the moment, I seem to recall that persistent MRSA lesions make an ideal entry point for S. Pyogenes should it decide to start spreading along the fascia rather than staying on the boundaries between the living skin tissues and the dead skin tissues (the outer 3 layers of normal skin, IIRC). I see Peter’s clarification that the lesions weren’t the source of the NF; but perhaps they ate down far enough so that the staph bacteria could get down far enough to start breeding sideways along the fascia. Back to feelings, NF is obviously something I wouldn’t wish on an enemy, much less on one of favorite SF authors. Other than that, even though prediction is not causation, I do feel rather terrible, but mostly in sympathy for the good doctor’s plight.

    @Peter Watts: any antibiotics they gave you during the initial treatment probably killed off a lot of your beneficial skin-colonizing bacteria, and while the nurse shouldn’t exactly be changing your dressings with bare hands and dirty fingernails, anything that helps you get a couple of different peoples’ nicely balanced skin micro-ecologies established back on your dermis (away from the wound) might be ultimately beneficial. As to your toughness, please remember next time you are in the ER, be all weepy and wailing. Better to be insulted as a wuss, than interred as the guy who was too dignified to mention his Buboes. Still, that tolerance to pain is beneficial as at least you’re not likely to wind up as yet-another oxycontin addict.

    As for the turkey-skin appearance around the edges, IIRC once the general wound has sealed up pretty well, that stuff sort of flakes away like sunburned skin, or falls off like the last chunks of a busted toenail. Photos, please. On a page loaded up with Google Adsense. 😉

    Get well soon as possible!

  8. gary

    So does that mean that you were infected with NF via the biopsy? Hope you’re better soon.

  9. peter darbyshire

    Sure it wasn’t a First Contact scenario gone bad?

  10. Caudoviral

    Glad to know I am not the only one realistic about the prospects of being devoured by hungry felines (hopefully) post-mortum.

    Here’s hoping for your speedy recovery.

  11. jrronimo

    Yowza, Peter. I’ve wondered if I have a higher tolerance for pain than most a few times — The pair of times I’ve horribly broken my arms my response was to complain about other problems incurred int he accidents and wonder if the arms’ll be okay by morning? Nah, better have them looked at…

    I think, though, that I’ll stick to wondering: I don’t want to pick up NF to find out one way or t’other.

    Has anyone suggested how long it might take for your meat-hole to completely scar over? That’s a hell of an open wound.

  12. Emily

    I mean this in the most loving and purely hypothetical way, but were you and I ever to breed a race of next generation spawnlings, they would probably be nigh-impervious to all but the worst pain.

    I’m glad you are doing better, for ymmv thereof.

  13. Nick N.

    “If I’d had NF that far back, the cats would have eaten my carcass down to the bones months ago.”

    I’m still holding a suspicion that this has already happened and the cats are now writing the blog.

  14. Daniel

    If Nick N. is right and the cats are writing the blog, can we expect them to also finish the book?

  15. ScottC

    @Thomas Hardman
    “Other than that, even though prediction is not causation, I do feel rather terrible, but mostly in sympathy for the good doctor’s plight.”

    Come on, Hardman. Just admit you gave Watts necrotizing faciitis with the power of your mind. The jig is up. Something improbable happened at some point in the future after you speculated about it. According to better than half of my fellow countrymen, that’s scientific evidence of Divine Intelligence. You know you can’t tempt Cthulu when it comes to our favorite karmically-impaired scribe.

    That’s basically the only reason that’s keeping me from photoshopping up a picture of Peter’s face as a Walking Dead extra. Well, maybe that and lingering traces of empathy or good taste that the conservative media in my country hasn’t yet managed to power-sand out of my psychological makeup. But mostly that first thing. Because you know with Watts, it could actually happen, and I don’t want to be responsible for starting the Zombie Apocalypse.

  16. Deckard

    Thanks for the updates – I hope the increased frequency of the updates is indicative of your increased health. If you’re making jokes about things – you’re OK – and acting in the finest tradition of all tough motherfuckers. So, go ahead and cry like a little girl (perfect description IMHO) – beats the hell out of a chemical dependency – even if they are prescribed.

  17. Neal Asher

    This subject seemed a perfectly in-keeping one for a blog called The Skinner. My take on this was, ‘Look Peter Watts seems to have a vindictive gremlin following him around … now go and buy his books’.


    All the best to you Peter. Look after yourself.

  18. ken

    I’m not sure if this is appropriate, but you should ask your Doctor(s) about the viability of “skin-gun” treatments:


    It seems like it’s being used mainly for burn victims, but would it help you with your wound?

    Get Well Peter!

  19. JFE

    “Underlying causes range from drug allergy to cancer. ”
    So if the cause was cancer, would the flesh eating bacteria have taken care of all those cancerigenous cells and left you with pristine clean ones?

  20. Karen Bridson

    Most helpful. Don’t know why I am so curious to know all these details, but I am! Oh, one question you didn’t answer is when the hell they plan to sew you the fuck up again! Do tell.

  21. Hljóðlegur

    All those
    pictures of people
    stripping gunk off my muscle
    or jamming
    sporks into the hole
    – two Tylenols.

    *ROTF* Okay, not really on the floor, but I did laugh aloud at my desk. I’m lousy at being a fan, I know, so I should stop coming back to this blog, but every time I think to myself I’ve really got to stop coming back to this blog, Peter posts one of these cool repeating-sounds haiku-esque doojobbies. I love these so very much.

    Check it:

    Pictures of people
    stripping gunk off my muscle
    or jamming
    sporks into the hole
    two Tylenols.

    !!! The implication of the nurses dining off his wound, oh jesus. As a reader, your stomach clenches as you feel someone jabbing a blunt white plastic spork up under your skin from the inside. An autophageous picnic, a cannibal’s communion. This is my fascia, broken for you. It’s great stuff.

    @Daniel :If Nick N. is right and the cats are writing the blog, can we expect them to also finish the book?

    When we get to the part in the book where the Kzin suddenly appear outta nowhere and take over – right about then we’ll know……

  22. Peter Watts

    Blue: I know what you mean. The use of “girl” gave me a bit of a pause as I was typing it, but I decided to go with it because the very existence of the stereotype somehow made the phrase more resonant. (Similarly, my once and (hopefully) future running buddy and I have taken to calling each other “girly-man” when one of us jams on the morning run without a really good reason — an expression that mocks Schwarzenegger, not girls.) Now that you mention it, though, “baby” would have worked just as well.

    Scott and JFE: Sadly, carving out the surrounding flesh cannot be assumed to have gotten rid of any potential malignancy, since three separate lesion had appeared at different spots on my shins at different times. Whatever it is, it’s cruising through my bloodstream.

    Thomas: I am trying to avoid plaguing my readers with ads, Googlesensical or otherwise. I may change my attitude in case of financial hardship, but for the time being I’d like to be able to keep this a commercial-free zone.

    Peter D.: If you look back to https://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=1764, you’ll see that was one of the very first possibilities I considered.

    jjronimo: They were saying six weeks until skin grafts. I don’t know how long it will between the grafts and my first trip back on the running trails.

    Nick N.: Now you must be killed.

    Neal: One good thing about this is I may finally get a chance to catch up on some reading for pleasure for a change. I am ashamed to admit that I still haven’t read the books you sent me during our trade a couple years back. Hopefully that changes soon, and I get to thank these obstreperous littler buggers if so.

  23. Sheila

    I just wanted to pop in and leave a complaint that there are not enough maggots in this post. I am curious about whether maggots would be able to keep up with the 5cm/hr.

  24. Val

    hmm, ok, so what warning, if any, did you have that the NF had happened? I mean, how much time was there between the biopsy and your visit to the ER? I admit I’m sort of fuzzy on the timeline.

    I admit my interest is more than academic: I’m taking notes so I am more likely to survive if something similar happens to me. Also, my father’s had three knee replacements, and I’m vaguely afraid of going down the same road if I’m not suitably careful with mine, and those kind of things are a magnet for HAIs/iatrogenic infections as far as I understand . . .

  25. redindiangirl

    A high pain threshold is a bad thing, so my doctors told me. It prevents them from figuring out what’s wrong with you. It’s the one time when being less than a warrior is a good thing. If I had been wimpier and screaming like a baby, they would have diagnosed my kidney problems faster and then I wouldn’t have to have had the dilaudid (which is a superior pain med, should anyone care to know). So here’s to screaming and crying like a baby. You get seen faster. Although you just don’t get to brag as much, and the screaming part is a bit unseemly. Death to the bugs!!

  26. Anna Haynes

    Apropos from Washington Monthly, First Do No Harm – Last year there wasn’t a single fatal airline accident in the developed world. So why is the U.S. health care system still accidently killing hundreds of thousands? …

  27. blue

    Mr. Watts, thank you for hearing me out, and I appreciate your thoughtful response.

    You mentioned skin grafts, and I immediately thought of something that I saw National Geographic cover. It’s called a skin gun: “a simple idea backed by stem cell research allows victims of severe burns to heal in merely days.” (from the Youtube description). 1 1/2 hours after the collection of the patient’s cells, they receive a new coating of their own skin cells and may heal to the point where the burns are undetectable. It sounds like science fiction, but it exists.

    I have no idea if it would be applicable to your situation, but I highly, highly recommend giving the video a look. It’s still experimental, but it’s apparently in the ‘human testing/using on actual patients’ phase right now. It might be something that could be far more effective than skin grafts for second degree burns. I don’t know if it would be useful for someone whose wounds are as deep as yours, but I still recommend taking a look.

    Graphic pictures of burns in video, for anyone who might like to be warned about such things.

  28. Hljóðlegur

    @redindiangirl</b Said:
    A high pain threshold is a bad thing, so my doctors told me.

    Isn’t it a mixed blessing in the ER? Jesus H. I remember sitting in one crowded waiting room for hours trying to convince the admitting nurse that the guy I brought – the one with his arm clenched across his abdomen, rocking back and forth a little and turning gray – needed to be moved up the list. (He had a kidney stone, it turned out.)

    I thought in retrospect that if he’d had peritonitis, say, he’d have just fallen dead right in there because I couldn’t get the admitting nurse to see the supreme pain he was in.

    I’d have been screaming. So they’d have probably taken my candy ass right back just to shut me up. Maybe I should have tried that. Too late now, right?

    dilaudid (which is a superior pain med, should anyone care to know).

    I’ve never had it, but I hear good things. 🙂

  29. Ken Kennedy

    @Thomas Hardman ” Photos, please. On a page loaded up with Google Adsense.” HAHAHAHA! That was definitely worth reading…I needed a laugh today. That being said, I totally agree Peter; load your wound porn pages up with Adsense! (as to what will show up in those slots…I shudder to think).

  30. ScottC

    Peter, if you need to use ads on your site to offset the costs, by all means please do it. It won’t affect me one way or the other. You’re not really protecting me from anything, although I appreciate the sentiment. With modern browsers, people only see ads if they want to.

    Unless someone is using Internet Explorer, of course…but those people should be punished. It’s the only way they’ll learn.

  31. Mirik Smit

    Informative, sir! Thanks.

    (I still think Richard Morgan infected you in some clever way, to get rid of some competition, shhhh! Or it’s the Germans at Crytek, angry at you calling them functional autistics when it comes to storylines) 😉

  32. Winter67uk

    You watch those damn cats, man. I mean, they ain’t stupid. Those fuckers’ll just keep comin’ at ya, over and over. They know that damn bottle’ll run dry, then their little kitty dreams come true. Just watch ’em, is all.
    And if you little rat-eared, no-toothed muthas reading this, lickin’ the last piece of Watts off your greezy little chops and drafting your next ‘crawl update – watch your backs. Them nurses be back soon, and sure as shit they know how fill a spray bottle.

  33. Neal Asher

    I’d suggest The Skinner, Peter, but maybe that would be cruel…

  34. Tim

    re: screaming like a girl.

    I don’t think this is an inherently sexist cliche. Everyone knows women have a higher threshold of pain than men (you give birth, for chrissake). It’s really a question of decibels and frequency, an aural pun. Men, whose voices drop at puberty, screaming like girls, is funny because of the juxtaposition, not because women are weak. When you cry like a baby, again, it’s not because babies are weak. It’s because they cry a lot. So, let’s keep the politically correct thinking to a minimum, here. Please!

  35. blue


    Oh, I wish, wish, wish it were used culturally because of decibel/frequency. I really wish so.

    Alas, it usually is not in my experience. I also think the idea that women have a higher pain threshold is neither common knowledge nor widely accepted, at least in American culture.

    For closer parables to how ‘cry like a girl’ is used, it’s also used in the US in conjunction with phrases like ‘hit like a girl’, ‘play [sports] like a girl’. It’s usually a phrase thrown at boys, when the boy is not playing well, not hitting strongly, or otherwise perceived as failing at a physical activity. It’s ‘being a girl equals the failure mode for sports.’

    Heck, I was in my computer science class and I heard this one:

    Male Student 1: John’s been complaining a lot about his workload for his classes.

    Male Student 2: What, is he on his period or something?

    Male Student 1 and 2: (Laughs)

    It was just all kinds of ‘wonderful’ to hear that conversation go down. =/

    So, I hear your point Tim, but I think your premises is faulty. If it were commonly used as a decibel/frequency reference, I’d likely not take issue. Unfortunately, I feel that at least in American culture, the context for the phrase is far more ‘women are weak/physically incapable/overly emotional.’ 🙁

    There’s actually a pretty good tumblr that I think captures the effect of those kind of off-hand phrases: http://microaggressions.tumblr.com/

    It’s a lot of anecdotes submitted by people, and I think it manages to show how what is a kind of ‘one off joke’ for someone can be yet another daily ‘death by papercuts’ moment for someone else.

    I guess my example is that I don’t go to my computer science class to hear jokes about ‘weak men are women’. I go to learn how to program. Unfortunately, it seems that the two go hand in hand. =/

  36. Neal Asher

    It goes both ways, and oddly you don’t hear the politically correct whining about use of the description ‘man-flu’. What a ridiculous tangent to take these comments on.

  37. Neal Asher

    Nor of course the extremely anti-male expletive ‘motherfucker’…

  38. Hljóðlegur

    blue‘s right on one count: “like a girl” is shorthand for “fail.” Not a comment on how Peter uses it here, btw. In the vernacular, though, that’s how it translates.

  39. Branko Collin

    Neal, perhaps you are a retard, so I won’t insult you by suggesting that you’ve spent the last 2000 years living in a cave.

  40. Peter Watts

    Dudes. Let us step back.

    I don’t know what it is about PC arguments that get people so pissed so quickly. I stumbled into the whole racefail hornet’s nest myself a couple of years ago when I took an ironic swipe at the no-whites “safe room” at Worldcon. If there’s one thing I learned from that, it’s that kneejerks rule in certain subjects, so I’ve come to especially appreciate the folks who use their higher brain functions in such cases.

    I don’t have a problem with what blue said. I don’t put as much weight on the political implications of casual speech as she (I’m assuming she’s female) does, but I also recognize that I’m one of the “one-offers” she mentions; that “thousand paper cuts” is not a bad analogy, and it’s no great effort on my part to fire a few more synapses before speaking. I don’t think anyone here would deny that “like a girl” does mean fail, and we should probably stop using it that way.

    But I also gotta line up with Neal (on this front at least — although who knows, maybe he’s come around on the ACC front as well). Most of the time people use slang as shorthand, and don’t think about ideological backstory. It pisses me off to see such folks accused of taking deliberate ideological swipes. Back when I was an ignorant 9-year-old, trying my best to fit in with the local cohort of Calgarian rednecks, I used the word “Jew” as a verb (as in, “he jewed me out of my lunch money”). My mother quite rightly reprimanded me for that, but when I asked what word I should use instead, she suggested “gyped”. I did not for a second believe that this implied a hatred of gypsies (although you can be damn sure I made her squirm by gleefully pointing out that connection); she just never made the connection. It was a common word.

    So I tend to bristle when people act as though every bit of unexamined slang is a deliberate attack (and I really appreciate the fact that blue didn’t do this); but I can see how hearing a dismissive “I didn’t mean anything by it” can get awfully fucking tiresome after the thousandth time.

    And I really think that words like “retard” should be reserved for creationists and uncritical devotees of Fox News.

  41. Hljóðlegur

    Works for me.

  42. blue

    I think Mr. Watts well-put what I was hoping for in bringing up this kind of slang usage; simply, ‘the firing of a few more synapses before speaking’.

    I myself hadn’t made the connection between ‘gyped’ and the pejorative term ‘gypsies’ until my grandmother pointed it out. I simply thought that ‘gyped’ was a word and was ignorantly using it unaware of its backstory. At the same time, I was also totally in the wrong every time I used it, regardless of my intentions. So, now that I know, I do the whole ‘firing of a few more synapses before speaking,’ rather than relying on sloppy (and racist) shorthand.

    I guess I could sum it up this way. I don’t think most ‘thousand papercuts’-type comments are made with deliberate maliciousness, but rather out of ignorance. However, when one is no longer ignorant of the context behind such comments, I think that it’s more than worth the effort to fire a few more synapses before one speaks.

    For anyone who’s interested in sociological/cultural analysis and other such geekiness, I recommend the Sociological Images blog! It’s run by two sociology professors and takes great delight in unpacking (predominantly American) public visual discourse, whether they be ads, charts, videos, movies or other such things. 🙂


  43. ScottC

    Oh shit! It’s the Fun Police! I leave the Crawl for 5 minutes, and there’s a raid.

    I wouldn’t have thought you could ruin the inherent fun in morbidly gawking at someone else’s misery and disfigurement, but there you go. And for what it’s worth, I believe Tim’s assessment to be accurate, although when he cried “Politically Correct” at the end, it was probably all over, as it never goes anywhere good after that. . It’s the juxtaposition of characteristics that creates the humor, like when a man gets beaned in the package and then speaks with a feminine voice, or when a really big man gets out of tiny car.

    But even if one was correct about there being something demeaning in the intent, my god, pick your battles. I’m surrounded by cackling harpies all day, making their snide little, “just like a man” comments, or if I’m lucky, veering off into a little, “here’s what I don’t understand about men…” diatribe. It never occurs to me to be offended at being constantly equated with some lumbering proto-human whose problem solving repertoire is exhausted if bludgeoning or fucking the issue at hand proves fruitless. Mostly because they’re generally right. But also because who would waste the energy? So I let them have it.

    I mean, they’re women. They have so little else.

    (Admiral, are you sure it isn’t time for a “cutesy fucking icon”?)

    I hope we can now get back to the business at hand of being entertained by Peter’s life threatening illness and grotesque physical condition.

  44. Tim

    ooops! I wrote that early this morning, then had to go to work. Now I find I’ve
    made a mess. My real intention was to present an alternative point of view. I should have left the politics out of it. So I do apologize for that. It’s just that sometimes I bristle, my mouth opens, and . . . . It’s a wonder we can comprehend each other at all.

  45. et

    It would be a rotten shame that anyone who goes thru this with a sense of humor intact and writes so well about would succumb to vicious little bacteria.

    Get well soon!

  46. Thomas Hardman

    @ Peter Watts (&@Ken Kennedy): Peter, I know you’ve been striving to keep ads off of the blog, I mean it says so right in the page title header. Yet the Adsense algorithm for selections for display (the “sense” part of Adsense) frequently loads up a page with obscure humor. I’m tempted to cut-and-paste the FEQ onto one of my wikis just to see what ads show up. Probably something to the effect of “find necrotizing fascitis specialists near Rockville, MD”, which ought to be a fairly long list if clicked, as Bethesda’s NIH is about 5 miles down the road. Then again, it might very well cough up an ad about “Little Friskies is the canned cat food with the most muscle meat”. Or both. Maybe “Purebred Scottish Fold Cats” and “Lubricating Gel”. Who knows.

    Considering both the variable contents of your blog posts, and the equally variable comments section, it could become a bit of a crapshoot as to what ads would show up and whether they’d be more for scientific equipment and cut-rate reagents in bulk, or for law firms dealing with immigration law and sexual discrimination cases. 😉 The only way it could get much weirder would be to actually take out an ad to send people to the blog, though that would probably attract so many sp4mm3rs that you’d spend most of your time moderating the blog.

    @ScottC: You wrote Something improbable happened at some point in the future after you speculated about it. According to better than half of my fellow countrymen, that’s scientific evidence of Divine Intelligence. Don’t I know it. The more I leave unsaid about that, probably the better off I am. I’m less worried, though, about most of them, than I am about the smaller yet more virulent percentage those who might think that it was scientific evidence of witchcraft (oxymoron police, I’ll come quietly).

  47. Chris

    Comparing the Koch brothers to flesh eating bacteria is a little bit harsh.

    On the flesh eating bacteria, that is.

    Glad you’re on the mend, excepting the holes in limbs.

  48. Anna Haynes

    Someone I know got lesions from oven cleaner spatter.

  49. Außenseiter

    Racefail was just that: a massive fail by those who percieve themselves as non-white. I’ve never had the misfortune of reading a more indignant heap of whiny bullshit. It was like Battlestar Galactica. I had to keep getting more of it just to see how awful it’ll get.

    It’s alll very fine to look down on people who don’t like gypsies if you’ve never met any.

    Few people who live near them don’t dislike them*. Yeah, we’re all a bunch of racists, but the problem is commies turned them into welfare abusers and social basket-cases and that they’re not smart enough to be useful in modern societies. Only so many ditches to dig. Most of them don’t have enough culture to be able to learn to cook.

    In Slovakia, we have exactly one gypsy with a PhD. Out of ~400,000. (no tuition fees for anyone either. ).


    So, there you have it. What people who live around gypsies think of them.
    The top table right hand column shows mean of sympathies of people asked to ethnic groups. Czechs rate 1.5 on average with 1 being best and 7 worst. Roms are just below Albanians, whose drug and sex-slave mafias operate in EU.

  50. ScottC

    Ah, the inevitable side effect of whenever Peter starts to draw attention to himself. It really brings out the Crazy on the ‘Crawl.

  51. Hljóðlegur

    Results of yesterday’s trolling:

    Außenseiter: 7.2: race. A little obvious, but extra points for a link completely in Czech so no one here can read it! Welcome back to a long-time troll contender.

    ScottC: 3.4: male/female. tl;dr. Points for a moving portrayal of his oppression at the hands of colleagues.

  52. ScottC

    The accusation of trolling doesn’t hurt nearly so much as being lumped in with Außenseiter. Also, I feel my score is low, as I think I should pick up points for zombie references, Star Trek references, and digs at Intelligent Design.

  53. Hljóðlegur

    ScottC –

    The committee recognizes the heretofore unlauded depths of clever reference in your comment, and will up your score in the official record accordingly.

    Außenseiter still gets style points for the Crazy, and could raise his score incrementally by a rambling dialog relating the Gypsies to the Pope, Queen, mercury dental filings, and an international conspiracy to smuggle drugs via reclaimed UFOs.

  54. rm3154

    There is nothing like some old school European bigotry to get the old phlegm circulating. However, I don’t blame Außenseiter; it’s the fault of that
    nigger faggot jew-face of a liberal Watts

    The whole NF deal is such an obvious PR stunt to follow up on his baiting of the lawful authorities from last year. Oh the lengths that man will go! Positively sociopathic! Or is it socialist? Doesn’t matter, it’s much the same thing.

    Sprinkle with a dash of “girly-girl” genderific elixir and the next thing you know: riot at the primate pavilion.

    It’s nothing if not brilliant. I salute you Doktor Vatts, you diabolical Canadian, you. My inner troll has been sitting under his rock for much too long. It’s good to see the sunshine once in a while. Now back into the crevices for me.

  55. Außenseiter

    @Hjo.. never mind
    There’s always google translate…..

    Anyway, if you want to read what reddit users think of gypsies:

    Few positive experiences. .

  56. Hljóðlegur

    rm3154 – I was gonna write a clever response, but I was too busy laughing myself off my chair. 😀 Thank you so much, my friend, for the posting. It was magically trollicious and absurd.
    riot at the primate pavilion ftw!

    @Auße …I know I’m being an ugly American by assuming that one might want to avoid attributing bad things to individual people based on some group to which they belong.

  57. Außenseiter

    Why should I do that? On the other hand, if I say that on average, black people have darker skin than caucasians, I’m just pointing out the obvious. Just like when I say most gypsies in gypsy colonies would be unemployable even if they were willing to work. Because they can’t read.

    Sure, there are exceptions and most of us are always pleasantly surprised when we run into gypsies who don’t smell or appear to be employed.

  58. Peter Watts

    OK, two things:

    1) While I consider myself staunchly anti-racist, I am an unrepentant culteralist. I abhor the Japanese culture’s stance on whaling, for example; American exceptionalism and manifest destiny turns my stomach (I am proud to call many Americans my friends, but it’s pretty much impossible to look at that country’s political and religious cultures without concluding that vast swathes of the USA are batshit crazy); and before anyone asks, I’m pretty revolted by certain aspects of my own culture as well. Judging people by melanin levels or the presence of epicanthal folds is downright idiotic; judging people by their beliefs and actions is something else again. So if there were a culture somewhere which explicitly glorified deception and thievery (and I don’t know that there is), I wouldn’t have any problem wrinkling my nose at it.

    2) This was originally an FEQ. It started veering off into unrelated issues pretty much with the first comment, and while I’m not saying those issues are unimportant, they do seem to have hijacked the thread. So can we please get back to the subject at hand — which is to say, the ickiness of rotten flesh and the techniques used to deal with the presence of cats in sterile fields?

  59. Hljóðlegur

    As a zombie, I am personally insulted at the trolling in re rotten flesh around here, even Peter’s rotten flesh.

    Zombie-Americans are subject to shotgun-head violence every day, and while I’m sure no one here meant to insult Zombie-Americans, each thoughtless reference is like one of a thousand paper-cuts.

    I propose we release the horde of balloon-tethered cats to herd people back OT?

    *tips hat*

  60. Winter67uk

    “…the techniques used to deal with the presence of cats…”
    Gotcha, my little furry bitches. You done fucked up now. You trying to figur’ out how the top comes offa that damn spray bottle, ain’tcha. And you thought, ‘Why not ask ol’ Poppa Pete’s dumbass interweb friends, they won’t know we ate him for breakfast, lunch and dinner all last week!”
    An’ just like that, you done give the game away. You’s stupid, furbags, very stupid.
    Now I gonna tell you damn cats somethin’, and you ain’t gonna like it one little bit.
    There ain’t no way no furry freaks like you ever gonna get that top offa that bottle, ’cause YOU AIN’T GOT NO DAMN THUMBS. So you hun’ ‘n’ peck muthas can sit the fuck back down.
    I ain’t pretending to know how you steering clear o’ them righteous nurses. Fact is, I don’ wanna know. All I do know is, I’m loadin’ up on catnip and double-aught buck and booking myself a ticket to Kittytown. You better hope you grow some eyes where your ears used to be, or ol’ Uncle Winter gonna have hisself some new kitty slippers real soon….

  61. MaryL

    “There ain’t no way no furry freaks like you ever gonna get that top offa that bottle, ’cause YOU AIN’T GOT NO DAMN THUMBS.”

    Oh man, I’ve got baaaaad news …

  62. Hljóðlegur

    I’m loadin’ up on catnip and double-aught buck and booking myself a ticket to Kittytown.

    Uncle Winter has put the fear of God into me, and I’m not even a cat.

  63. Sheila

    Cats, don’t listen to these people. Go ahead and keep Peter on his toes until he is on his toes.

  64. Außenseiter

    Ickiness? I’d say most people are too squeamish. To me, those photos were enthralling. I always like to be reminded what lies beneath my skin. I blame my mother.. When my ma saw those pictures, her words were “hey, that doesn’t look so bad. Looks like the muscle is intact.”

    Then, when I lived at home I used to hear colorful stories about patients. The one with a woman who kept vomiting blood because of a burst ulcer: “She vomited out about four liters of blood but we managed to save her”.


    The reddit thread says it pretty good. People from all over EU and tourists pitch in. Unless, of course you choose to believe it’s all a huge exercise in racist sockpuppetry…

    I don’t know for sure whether they have a culture that views anyone who isn’t a gypsy as a walking wallet, but it does look like that. There are some of them who still do crafts or perform music, and even a tiny professional population, but those are very rare.

    Romania and Bulgaria also have gypsy organized crime. In former Czechoslovakia, that’s pretty rare, gypsies do a lot of petty and low level criminality, but not much organized crime apart from loan-sharking (mostly on their own).

    Yeah, and the slang term for people who act as ‘straw men’ in various criminal business activity is ‘white horse’, from whites who worked for gypsy scammers.

    The term is nowadays used for people who do the same for the mob. (and usually end up in abandonded mineshafts.. last decade they found a shaft with a dozen bodies)

  65. proudinjun

    I looked at the pictures of my friend’s open wound and said “Hey, that looks just like those throngs of deer I butcher every year!” Looks healthy, red, and scrumptious! Sorry, Peter, but you know how I am. Glad to see it looked healthy. After my initial reaction, I remembered WHO I was looking at, and the cringing began. Get better, my friend. We kinda like having you around.

    As far as the racial issues go, everybody is entitled to an opinion. I’ve never met a gypsy, so I can’t make an educated comment on that. I have met many Native Americans, however, and can assure the general public that they are not all drunk and waiting for that next per cap dividend from the casino. There is ugliness in every culture and racial group. I prefer not to stereotype. Since my family falls victim to that sort of thing on a regular basis, I prefer to abstain from doing so. Just a thought…

  66. Branko Collin

    So can we please get back to the subject at hand

    Yeah, well, it’s easy for you to be all blasé about skin colour, you don’t have skin.

    (Padam! Er, zweee … no, erm … drum roll? Thank you, you’re a wonderful audience.)

  67. ScottC

    I wish I could get back to the subject at hand, but I’m afraid Peter’s horrific leg wound has sort of jumped the shark in light of what’s happening in Japan. I remember those carefree days when I could still be appalled by the ravages of flesh-eating bacteria, misogyny for kicks, and an earnest, garden-variety racist. But after watching an entire nation writhe in agony as thousands upon thousands of the dead wash up on shore, and the nuclear reactors bathe the countryside in slow, lingering death…and screaming silently into my pillow at night knowing there is absolutely nothing I can do but watch…I just feel sort of numb to everything else.

    I don’t know. Maybe if Peter set up some kind of 24 hour “wound-cam”…

  68. Neal Asher

    Now there’s a thought. Can you put together some sort of time-lapse video of the healing process, Peter? It’d be great to watch that gaping wound closing up like a big wet mouth. Could you add sound effects too? A sort of sucking slurp…

    I wince at the pictures now, but the idea of the physiotherapy that will have to ensue makes me feel a little ill. However I hesitate to suggest what sort of sounds you might make during that process, Peter.

  69. Branko Collin

    I want interviews with the wound. How does it feel about the cats, the water gun, the War in Iraq, Schwartz’s smoked meat, life in general? What are its plans, its ambitions?

  70. Winter67uk

    You wastin’ yo lung filler on them kitties, Asher my man. Once them kibble-breathed freaks got the notion Wattsy was made outta sea bass under that baggy ol’ sack o’ skin, it was all over but for the cryin’. And the screamin’ and the beggin’ for mercy and the lipless gibberin’, you unnerstand.
    The only sound you be hearing’ from over yonder here on in be the clickety-clack o’ little kitty claws. You don’ pay no mind to their Lord Haw-Haw bullshit.
    An’ never you mind ’bout ‘ol vampire-on-the-brain, maple-syrup-suckin’ Wattsy neither. You be cheerin’ right up when I send you a Polaroid of my new slippers.

  71. Hljóðlegur

    Branko Collins saith: What are its plans, its ambitions?

    And has it read any of Peter’s work? I can picture homey nights sitting up late, like a kindly uncle, reading to the wound from a copy of Ten Monkeys.

  72. Sheila

    @ScottC, After keeping up with horrible news, I googled for a Maru update. It is good to take a break with a cat. and Maru is doing fine.

  73. Hank Roberts

    > 24-hour wound cam

    Keep it irrigated and please don’t catch on fire … I picked up and reread Blindsight for some amusing and lighthearted comic relief after reading the news the last couple of days. These are bad times for writers of horror stories. So I had to come here for a dose of counter-reality.

  74. Tim

    Peter, can you even walk?

  75. Mike

    I don’t know how you take it; I’d be grabbing needles off of anyone and everyone
    looking for morphine.

    Sorry about everything; Blindsight rocks

  76. Scott

    Heh, at least my Wife has never had some of the worst extra-intestinal effects of Crohn’s Disease, now that you mention it as a possibility. Yikes.