When it comes to science fiction – and particularly dystopian science fiction – doctors are either the saviours of humanity with their invaluable medical knowledge, or they are the villains, using a lack of rules to exploit the vulnerable for their own questionable ends.

But why is that? Is it a case of power corrupts? Is it that bad things are often done in the name of science?

Hiron Ennes’s dark and thought-provoking novel Leech features medics front and centre, but with a bit of a twist. Rather than being individuals, these medics are part of a larger hive mind, where medical knowledge is shared. Diagnoses are undertaken by many minds, not just one. Sounds great for science, yes?

Yet Hiron’s novel also explores what it feels like when a larger, more rational hive mind disagrees with an individual’s instinctual actions. When that happens, which is paramount? Is it possible to be an individual and still part of a whole?

Mentioned in this episode:

Hiron Ennes is a writer, musician, and student of medicine based in the Pacific Northwest. Their areas of interest include infectious disease, pathology, and anticapitalist healthcare reform.

When they’re not hunched over a microscope or word document they can be found playing in the snow or playing the harp (though usually not at the same time). They’re queer in every sense of the word, and they really want to pet your dog. Leech is their first novel.