A new radio drama by Val McDermid highlights the worrying prospect of antibiotic resistance becoming a global epidemic.
Imagine a world in which even the slightest scratch could be lethal. Cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, and organ transplants are no longer possible. Even simple surgery is too risky to contemplate, while epidemics triggered by deadly bacteria have left our health services helpless.
It is science fiction, of course – but only just. According to many doctors and scientists, the rise of antibiotic resistance across the planet could soon make this grim scenario a reality. And if it does, humans will have to face up to challenges that would once have seemed unthinkable. The question is: when – and how – might this horrific medical ordeal unfold for the human race?
We face returning to a time when every form of surgery was life-threatening
It is a question that crime writer Val McDermid will attempt to answer next month in an unusual way – in a three-part radio drama, Resistance, which is to be aired on Radio 4. In it she will put dramatic flesh on scientific warnings of the hazards we now face because of our past misuse of antibiotics.
“We are looking down a barrel, into a world that was like the one we had when there were no antibiotics,” says McDermid. “We face returning to a time when every form of surgery was life-threatening, because every form of surgery carries with it the danger of infections. Even going to the dentist to have a tooth out will have risks involved.”
Val McDermid, chair of this year’s judges, hails a selection that crosses divide between arts and sciences.
Crime writer Val McDermid, who is chairing the judges for this year’s Wellcome book prize, has criticised the divide between arts and sciences in the UK’s education system, speaking out as the longlist for the £30,000 award was announced.
In an interview with the Guardian about the longlist, which identifies the best science writing across fiction and nonfiction, The Wire in the Blood author said: “Science is clearly something that we need to be focusing our energy on, because that is where the economic future of the country lies and we really should be driving our education towards it – but that does not mean we should turn our back on the arts.”
Citing her own education in Scotland, McDermid said she feared the modern curriculum left little opportunity for students to be creative and investigate things that engage their interest “for the joy of it”.
“I have concerns about what is happening in education,” added the author, who has a son at school. “Everything is so curriculum-led now that there is very little opportunity for teachers to encourage students to go off and discover things for themselves.”
Developments in education, she added, meant that the Wellcome prize – one of the richest in the UK – was more important than ever because it focuses on making science accessible through both fiction and nonfiction.
The 12 books chosen for the 2017 longlist are split between seven factual and five fiction titles, ranging from Victorian gothic in Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent to Jo Marchant’s Cure, which investigates how the mind can cure the body. French novelist Maylis de Kerangal’s blow-by-blow account of a heart transplant in Mend the Living is also longlisted, and is the first foreign-language book to be considered for the award.
More than 200 authors, writers and celebrities, including Ian Rankin, the Makar Jackie Kay, Val McDermid and many more, will be attending Glasgow’s annual book festival, Aye Write!, this year.
Rankin will be marking 30 years of his most famous creation, John Rebus, while the new Makar, or national poet, will be at an event with former Makar Liz Lochhead and Glasgow’s Makar, Jim Carruth.
Aye Write! begins on March 9 and runs until March 19, while the Wee Write festival for children and young people, will have two family days as well as events for schools – and for the first time will have three venues.
Aye Write will be staged at the Mitchell Library as well as the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and, for the first time, at the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) in Sauchiehall Street.
Tickets go on sale at 10am on Friday, January 27.
The former Doctor Who and All Creatures Great and Small actor Peter Davison is also appearing, as are writer and artist John Byrne, Elaine C. Smith, Sanjeev Kohli and Sally Magnusson, and politicians Vince Cable, Alan Johnson, Catherine Mayer, Chris Mullen and Roy Hattersley, while David Hayman will perform plays by Chris Dolan.
Also appearing are Jenni Murray, The Reverend Richard Coles, Matthew Parris, Joanna Trollope, Miranda Sawyer, MC Beaton, Ms MacDermid, AL Kennedy, Denise Mina and the BBC’s Frank Gardner.