Monday, 13 July 2015

Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities - call for papers: "Will you accept a narrative style of prose?"

I got an Email this morning, as usual on a Monday, the weekly digest of the Centre for Medical Humanities, had a quick skim through and this item caught my interest: Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities (CfP, Journal Issue – BMJ Medical Humanities, 1 March 2016):

"We invite papers of broad interest to an international readership of medical humanities scholars and practising clinicians on the topic ‘Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities’."

I thought yes this is something I would enjoy writing about.

"If you would like to discuss any aspect of your submission, including possible topics, or the possibility of presenting your work under the auspices of the Wellcome Trust funded project ‘Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities’, please contact the Guest Editor in the first instance: Dr Gavin Miller ("


So I Emailed Dr Miller in the first instance, copying in Deborah Kirklin, editor of the BMJ journal Medical Humanities:

"Dear Gavin

I am writing to ask about the call for papers on the theme of 'Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities' which has just come through my Email box, with your name as the contact.

The topic caught my interest, as I'm a mental health critical writer and daughter of a science fiction writer.  My father Willie Patterson was the author of 'Jeff Hawke', a sci-fi comic strip in the Daily Express from around 1956 to 1969.  His work has been re-published twice by Titan Books although he died in October 1986, in London:

Here is a blog post I wrote remembering my dad which includes a eulogy from illustrator Sydney Jordan in the 1987 Titan Books publication 'Counsel for the Defence':

I would like to submit something with a narrative theme, telling a story as to why I've never believed in "mental illness" and have survived psychoses and psychiatric treatment on 3 separate occasions in life, because of scepticism since childhood.  There is much research and talk about "family history of" and genetic reasoning in mental health matters yet the fact my father was a successful sci-fi storyteller is undoubtedly the reason for my writing abilities and my unbelief in the mantra of mental illness.  The irony of inherited talent and thinking outside the box giving a person the strength to be a resistance fighter in mental health matters.  You couldn't make it up.

My father had mental health issues latterly or so it was claimed, the reason as to why his contract with the Daily Express was terminated in 1969.  He stayed down in London from then until his death.  My mother told a different story and we stayed in our home town of Perth, Scotland.  My mother had experienced periodic nervous breakdowns in the 1950's and 1960's resulting in a schizophrenia label.  Psychoses is normal in my family and we have all experienced altered mind states at different times, in reaction to different stimulii, ending in forced psychiatric treatment.  Eight of us over 3 generations.  From my parents to my 2 younger sisters, to my 3 sons and me.  In solidarity. 

I have spent nearly 50yrs supporting family members in and out of psychiatric settings but it's only since 2008 that I got involved in mental health activism, having been a grassroots community development worker since 1980.  I now call myself a psychiatric survivor and plan to stand as an independent candidate at the next Scottish parliamentary elections in 2016, in NE Fife where I live and regionally in Mid-Scotland and Fife.  I am doing it so as to have a voice inside parliament rather than just being a spectator.

The question I want to ask you: is it worthwhile my submitting a paper in response to this Call?  Will you accept a narrative style of prose which also will challenge norms and critique biological psychiatry?  I do this in my blog writing and campaigning anyway.  But I would appreciate the challenge of submitting something to a journal which may add to the discourse and at the same time be useful in making sense of madness and science fiction.  The unproven aspect of psychiatry.  It's all in the mind sort of a thing.

I look forward to hearing your response and will likely put this Email in a blog post for others to see.  As a record of my correspondence and for the sake of transparency.

Yours sincerely,

Chrys Muirhead (Mrs)

cc Deborah Kirklin"


1 May 2015 blog post: 'remembering my father Willie Patterson: author of sci-fi strip Jeff Hawke; one in a million; 1986 dedication Titan Books'

June 1986 Titan Books (my copy)
April 1987 Titan Books (my copy)

I uploaded my dad's photo to the Wikipedia Jeff Hawke page

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