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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Death By Tree Sex

That's what's going to go on the coroner report.

The fact that my swollen eyes are decidedly unsexy makes the fact that all this pollen comes from the tree's need to reproduce is not helping my sanity. The pollen count over here is somewhere between "can't see through this yellow fog" and "can't breath! Help! Dying!"

All this led me to question why something so universal as allergies is never talked about in books. The only time I've seen allergies mentioned is when it was life threatening or when it was used to single out a sci-fi character who wasn't adapted/didn't have the right meds/whatever. Like it or not, characters tend to have perfect health unless it furthers the plot.


I've no idea, but I have a couple of guesses.

1) Authors don't want to clutter the plot with inconsequential things like favorite food, allergies, or facts that aren't relevant for fear of bogging the story down. They purposefully leave these details out so as not to distract the reader, kind of like how most novels don't mention meals or bathroom usage - in other words - the characters do sneeze in the spring time but the author didn't feel it was worth mentioning.


2) Authors don't give the characters these minor flaws because they didn't think about.


3) The characters are actually immune and have flawless health because that's part of the plot.

Vote in the comments and tell me why there isn't a fictional character drowning in pine pollen.


  1. You know, that's a really excellent point. I remember one time writing a character's frustration with insects, but that was only specifically because it furthered the depth of another character. These little details, without other justification, make the characters more human. Good thoughts!

    And, I hope you breathe more easily soon!

  2. Here too, my car was yellow with pollen when I went out to it yesterday. Thankfully it is currently raining outside, so much of it will be washed away today evening the playing field a bit for the allergy sufferers in the area.

  3. I think there are two main reasons why authors don't include allergies - 1) they don't have them so don't understand all the little ways they can affect a person and 2) our society has a "perfect person" mentality for fictional characters, especially main characters.

    So, unless the allergy has a major bearing on a plot (for instance a food allergy that keeps the hero from eating something that's been poisoned), allergies are considered too commonplace for character flaws.

    Besides, it's more dramatic to say a character has a phobia instead of an allergy.

  4. Within the SciFi/Fantasy realm this is certainly a good observation. To my knowledge, I've read about a protagonist laid-up in bed for 3 days with an allergy attack.

    Perhaps genetic tinkering has eliminated allergies. Or, perhaps not eliminated them but reduced them down to mundane sniffles. But, you are correct, one does not read "oh, frak, where's a box of Kleenex when you need one," she cried, as mucus ran a viscous stream down to her lips, etching a shiny path around the corner of her mouth, and dribbling down from her chin.

    One can only imagine what would happen if Aragorn had suffered an uncontrollable bout of sneezing while fighting goblins in the Mines of Moria; or, if Gandalf had been overcome with itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, and hives while battling Saruman. "Excuse me for a moment while I cast my inhaler spell," wheezed Gandalf.

    In crime fiction, sometimes allergies do arise. Especially food allergies, people who use a person's allergy to peanuts, shellfish, or their allergy medication in combination with alcohol to induce unconsciousness, coma, or death.