Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A bit of research - Allergic to the sun

In "Racing the Dark", the world is ruled by vampires. While my vampires don't follow every rule the myths lay out for us, they do follow the "burn in the sun" bullet point.

Part-way through the story, Darin comments that, "It is derived from a human genetic disorder." That disorder would be Xeroderma Pigmentosum, and the short explanation of it is that the person's body can't repair the damage caused by UV light.

The MedicinePlus Medical Encyclopaedia defines it as "a rare condition passed down through families in which the skin and tissue covering the eye are extremely sensitive to ultraviolet light."

Ultraviolet light is one of the rays present in sunlight. It damages the genetic material (DNA) in skin cells. Normally, our bodies would repair this damage, but in  people with this condition, the body's repair mechanism is deficient.

It's a nasty condition, with a high chance of developing skin cancer. Recommendations are to avoid sunlight altogether and only go out at night. Can you imagine what this must mean to a child? Yes, your friends are out playing in sunlight, but, no, you can't go out there. It occurs at a worldwide frequency of roughly  1:250,000.

There are some support groups for families at:

Naturally, this condition was only the spark to my imagination, so I don't adhere to the reality of it. However, for this trilogy, I wanted reasons for everything my vampires could or couldn't do, and I did specific research to find something I could twist to my purpose. I'm pleased to be able to draw attention to it at the same time.

How about you? If you're a reader, do you ever see fictional disorders in books that sound like a real-life disorder you've experienced? If you're a writer, are you ever inspired by something in the real world to fictionalise it?

Image: graur codrin /


The Golden Eagle said...

That reminds me of Scott Westerfeld's Peeps, one of my favorite books by him. The main character is affected by a parasite that changes his body; throughout the book there are non-fictional explanations of parasitism and the effects they have on animals. It's a little stomach-turning at times, but it does relate fictional disorders to real ones.

C D Meetens said...

I haven't heard of that, so will go check out the author and the book. I think I might have to skip the stomach-turning parts though.

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