Living Dangerously on the High Frontier

It’s recently struck me that people in the science-fiction setting I write in and worldbuild live dangerously, or, more to the point, just don’t have the kind of risk aversion and (as I like to put it) “safety cultism” that plagues our modern cultures in real life. Why did it strike me recently? Because the worldbuilding for my latest story is almost a tour de force of this particular difference.

Case in point: two sisters travel on a spaceship powered by setting nuclear bombs off under it, get fed DNP, amphetamines, and Accutane, get multiple cosmetic surgeries and procedures, have sex with prostitutes, and prance about with pet tigers on board another spaceship powered by setting nuclear bombs off under it.

“Whataya mean, nuclear Bombs are risky? What are You, some kind of Fraidy-Cat?”

Woo. The nuclear-bomb thing arouses most people these days to red alert, but as any longtime reader of this blog (or probably any astute hard science-fiction fan) knows it’s actually the best current or near-future spacecraft propulsion method: nuclear pulse propulsion, Project Orion being the most famous study of it. In my alternate timeline, the radiophobia that plagues our age isn’t a thing, so a panoply of nuclear technologies have been developed and proliferated into common usage. The Oil Age has been superseded by the Atomic Age.

Worth noting: nuclear technology, even nuclear pulse drive, is shockingly safe; even the linear no-threshold model, cautious beyond all reason (linear threshold, where exposure is deemed harmless below the dose known to be significantly harmful, is the reasonable model, and was the one used in the 1950s!), predicts one excess death worldwide from higher background radiation per nuclear pulse launch. Which sounds bad, but the radioactive sludge coal plants produce is surely far worse, not to mention the chemical pollution that kills untold thousands (millions?) of people every year…

Who needs Domesticates?

But the point is that people in my world don’t care as much about such things. Which neatly explains the decidedly (in safety terms) less defensible yet apparently accepted practice of keeping tigers and other exotic animals as pets. The motivation for this part of my upcoming story is that I wanted the two girls, once they’re all glowed up, to prance around with an impressive pet. At first I thought of a big dog like an Irish wolfhound; but no domesticated creature feels to me majestic enough to give that “wow” factor I’m after. So then I thought back to when Vladimir Putin got a Siberian tiger for his birthday, and after researching all the big cats I settled upon the Siberian tiger as the one I wanted.

Already this idea of “let’s have girls walk Siberian tigers around a spaceship that spits out nuclear bombs!” sounds pretty out-there. That’s nothing next to how this glow-up of theirs is to take place.

Girls who need a Miracle

The backstory is that the sisters are both fat (like seriously ugly fat, not just a but chubby) and aren’t satisfied with their bodies, but whenever they try to do dieting or exercise it really makes them miserable and they never really seem to get anywhere with their weight. This is due to a very sluggish and unresponsive metabolism or some such.

Worse yet, the poor girls start to experience severe acne, which puts them over the edge, inspires them to reverse their previous rejection of drugs and surgeries, and make them determined to do whatever it takes to look and feel better. Virtually all drugs are available over-the-counter in my timeline, but they go to doctors anyway so they can get good advice.

DNP: Playing with Power

Amphetamines would work, but would be sluggish, which leads their doctors to suggest the nuclear option: DNP, “2,4-Dinitrophenol”, by far the most effective known fat-burner. DNP is a mitochondrial uncoupler, so the body’s energy that would normally go into producing ATP is instead released as heat. Through this process a pound or more of fat can be lost per day without any diet or exercise. It was widely used as a weight-loss drug in the mid 1930s.

The downside is it’s kinda toxic, at least at the doses typically used for weight loss: in addition to skin lesions and mild neurotoxic effects, it causes cataracts (yikes!) in a significant proportion of users, and overdoses cause fatal hyperthermia, i.e. cooking to death from the inside out. Which is why it’s been banned as a dangerous drug since 1938.

But not in my world, where it’s found a place in mainstream medicine, as opposed to just dark-web drug dealers. Indeed, it might be one of the more commonly used drugs; low doses can keep some of the weight off (without pepping you up like amphetamines do) and have few side effects. Indeed, there’s some evidence very low doses might actually be beneficial, helping cognition and the nervous system (staving off Alzheimer’s disease, among other maladies), and even extending lifespan. Considering it’s neurotoxic at high doses that’s probably caused by hormesis (low-dose radiation might have similar effects).

Better still, their version of DNP is probably less toxic than ours; less risk aversion leading to more human experimentation (with informed consent!) and more funding for medical research in general means discoveries of mitochondrial-uncoupling proteins, which today are being researched by biotech firms right now (for more on this see this fascinating blog post from Scott Alexander), are old hat in my timeline, as are possibly DNP derivatives.

Cryogenic Medical Spas?

In any case the girls find the side effects to be worth it, and they jump in, going to a cryogenic medical spa nestled in Saturn’s atmosphere, a spectacular destination. Why cryogenic? Because no matter what, mitochondrial uncoupling generates heat. The limiting factor for DNP doses is in fact the heat, not the toxicity. But heat can be whisked away; dangle a patient over a vat of liquid nitrogen and the same dose of DNP that causes fatal hyperthermia at room temperature will instead keep them comfortable. Hence the cryogenic medical spa concept.

And yes, it’ll take something as drastic as that to cool them down; even at normal weight-loss doses, much less than what my characters will be taking, Red Army soldiers were kept warm during WWII, and one man in our time reports being kept comfortable in a (presumably zero-degrees or so) refrigerated environment!

The Girls’ Journey

Once they arrive they’re checked in and monitored by medical staff and are given luxurious accommodations; along with the heat comes profuse sweating, but they sleep in hammocks (in real life DNP users love their hammocks…) and are followed around by attendants with sweat towels.

At the same time they’re started on a full treatment of isotretinoin, i.e. Accutane, for their acne, and they go through the process with that over the next few months. Another one of the therapies that should be much more commonly used. Their acne is cured over that time. As near as I can tell there’s no interaction between isotretinoin and DNP, so in this world’s medical system it should be alright to do both at once, but needless to say don’t try that at home!

Cosmetic Surgery for the Girls: Full-Body Makeover!

Such rapid weight loss produces a substantial amount of loose skin, but that’s no big deal, as the girls wanted to get cosmetic surgery anyway, which comprises the second half of their stay at the spa. Needless to say all the loose skin is removed and what remains is tightened, leaving e.g. their tummies full and plump but also very tight and shapely, like the best plus-size models of our time.

Their figures are completed by plumping their breasts and buttocks up with fat cultured from their own bodies and injected in just the right places to give naturalistic, firm, and perky volume to them. Ironic that they’d lose fat only to get it put back in again, but it’s a matter of placement! Full-body laser hair removal (sparing the aesthetic places to have hair, for obvious reasons) and possibly skin-whitening treatment complete their body treatment, along with things like massaging in moisturizer, treating the nails, and the like.

They’ll get significant changes done to their faces; both will get the little ski-slope noses they’ve always wanted, plus lip plumper to make them luscious, and some degree of facial recontouring; maybe something to open up their eyes a bit too. They’ll wear much heavier and sexier makeup, get eyelash extensions, get their hair dyed platinum blonde and extended at least down to the waist, and will habitually wear big blue circle lenses on their eyes.

Tiger-walking Sluts of Space

By the end of the treatment they’re the picture of a pair of luscious fair maidens. This really perks them up, and they retain a relatively high dose of amphetamines (they were on it with the DNP to combat the lethargy that comes from that drug!) to keep their metabolism up, they are put on a modest (attainable for them!) diet and exercise program, which after their makeovers, not to mention all the pep pills, they’re really motivated to keep up with.

But they still lack self-confidence and experience, so they hire some gentlemen of the night to get some, losing their virginities in the process. These paid partnerships and dates help them become a lot more outgoing, social, and sexual than they dared to be when they hated themselves, so they really make a big impression on their return trip. In particular their slutty (but still classy!) looks showing off their bodies turn heads. They find after the dam bursts they both have very high sex drives, and really enjoy themselves with their hired men and even some serendipitous dates, in between putting some of their artistic talents to use in public performances they were formerly too shy to do.

The culmination of this trend is when they tour the wild animal sanctuaries on board, which are miles-wide forests with whole ecosystems of creatures. Why they’d have such a thing on a passenger ship flitting from Saturn I’m not sure, but whatever. When they discover the Siberian tigers are tame and some are available to take as pets, both of them are seized by the idea of being the kind of girl who owns a pet tiger, and they buy one each, putting diamond collars on them whenever they see fit to walk them around the ship, and turning heads even more.

Conclusion

Guess these two sisters are bigger daredevils than they let on; even in my world pet tigers and high-dose DNP are a bit beyond what a normal woman would ever consider doing. But it’s appropriate for the story I want to tell sometime soon, which honestly might be my spiciest story yet: dangerous drugs, surgeries, prostitution, exotic pets, nuclear weaponry, it’s all there.

But then again, why shouldn’t it be? Personally I find the vision of a world where such risk-taking and thrill-seeking is actually viewed as normal and desirable to be inspiring. You know how that one libertarian mantra goes? “Gay-married couples should be able to defend their marijuana fields with fully automatic machine guns”? That honestly just sounds cringe next to “prostitutes should be able to walk their pet tigers on spaceships that spit out nuclear warheads”.

Why can’t we aspire to a world like that? It’s a hundred times cooler. Oh well, in the meantime I can take solace in thinking and writing about it.

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