If there's anything worse than meeting a dangerous alien in space, it's having sex with an alien and getting a dangerous disease. As Mercury de Sade once said, the main point of meeting aliens is to find their holes so you can fuck them. That may be true, but galactic VD isn't the only disease danger out there in the world beyond our world. There are all kinds of nasty scifi bugs you can pick up in space, the future, and other dimensions. And they don't just come from sex. Want to prep your inoculation kit? Check out our guide to exo-pathology.
Diseases from space
Of course the classic space disease hits earth in The Andromeda Strain, an early-1970s novel written by a then-unknown medical doctor called Michael Crichton. He was so obsessed with making his deadly disease from a meteor into the stuff of hard science fiction that he actually included footnotes to medical journals and other sources to prove that this scenario could happen. A miniseries based on the book is about to hit the airwaves soon, and it's pretty fun and gross so keep your eyes peeled for it. One of the coolest diseases from space was created by award-winning author Octavia Butler in the novel Clay's Ark, about a guy named Clay who returns from space infected with a strange virus. As the virus spreads, a percentage of the population begins to return to a semi-animalistic state, growing a four-legged morphology and being led by instinct to form patriarchal packs of human-hunting creatures. It's a really fascinating look at what would happen if people could not fight their "animalistic" urges to kill and fuck, and had to give into those urges even as they knew they weren't in their best interests. On a lighter note, there is the excellent space disease that comes in a meterorite in one of the short stories in 1980s classic movie Creepshow. Stephen King in a rare movie acting role plays a dim-witted guy in Maine who touches the meterorite and slowly turns into a giant plant creature. Cannot be missed. And then there's the disease that hits the space station in the movie version of Doom, which turns people into creatures who can shoot their tongues. You really don't need to know much more than that, honestly.
One of the most bizarre episodes on Star Trek: Enterprise was "Stigma," the "psychic AIDS" episode where vulcan hottie T'Pol revealed that she'd been mind-raped by some seriously unsafe dude and it had given her a kind of brain-HIV that was explained with the usual "tech tech tech" panache you know so well from Trek. Not surprisingly, another great scifi sex disease comes from David Cronenberg, whose movie Rabid tells a rather incoherent story about how plastic surgery leads to this sex disease that involves things that live in armpits and poke you. No, really. Although The Hunger is a vampire movie (where Susan Sarandon has sex with Catherine Deneuve, to the collective happiness of people the world over), the flick treats vampirism scientifically — it turns out that this condition (which is transmitted during sex, though maybe it doesn't have to be, but who cares because of the aforementioned hot lesbian sex) involves sciencey things like blood cells and ancient Egyptians. But one of the truly coolest and most disturbing sex diseases is "the bug" in the comic book series Black Hole, by Charles Burns. In the book, hundreds of teenagers who've caught the bug have become mutant stoners living in the woods to escape stigma (ooh, there's that word again) from the non-mutant populace. Excitingly, Black Hole is about to become a movie directed by David "Fight Club" Fincher, with some writing credits going to Neil Gaiman. And if you like MILFs, you've got to see Flesh-Eating Mothers, all about suburban moms who get a bizarre venereal disease that turns them into child-eating freaks.
Diseases of the Superpowered:
You've probably forgotten Anne McCaffrey's novel Crystal Singer, but we haven't. People with perfect pitch go to a planet where crystals for ship engines are mined using special tones that can only be produced by singing (in perfect pitch). Singers who land on the planet hoping to become miners are all stricken with a disease that kills some, but leaves the rest with super-senses and groovy sex lives. Similarly, a disease grants mega-powers in the Powers comic book, and in the novel The Changeling Plague. Then there are the diseases that only affect super-powered people, like the legacy virus in X-Men, which kills only mutants. Then there's the cylon disease in Battlestar Galactica, which spreads via the resurrection process and kills the cylons in a grisly way — it's a nice cross between computer virus and bio-virus. And on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, there was a disease that affected only the mega-powered changelings, making them more and more gooey each time they changed shape until they turned into nothing but yucky liquid.
Diseases that make you a zombie
The most popular scifi disease these days has to be anything that turns people into zombies. There's the disease "Rage" in 28 Days Later, which converts people into fast-moving, drooling, human-eating freaks. And it would seem that pretty much the same disease is attacking people in the remake of I Am Legend that came out a few months ago, though that disease kills a lot of people and leaves only a small percentage of the population as zombies. A government-created disease is what causes Jenna Jameson to become the world's first zombie stripper in Zombie Strippers, and the amazing novel World War Z (soon to be a movie) is a pseudo-documentary tale of what happens to the world when a zombie virus divides the population into killers and killed.
Diseases that reduce the population
If you're sick of VD from space, and zombies seem somehow unrealistic to you, there are always the more realistic scifi diseases that just reduce the population by killing people instead of turning them into mutants or monsters. In Stephen King's classic The Stand, the world has been reduced by a government-created virus. Survivors have to pick sides between a nice old lady who is fighting a mean young man as they try to recreate human civilization (I think there's something about god and the devil in there too, but let's please ignore that). Ursula Le Guin's novel Lathe of Heaven is about what happens when a liberal doctor discovers that his patient can change reality with his dreams. In an effort to create world peace and reduce overpopulation, the doctor tries to direct his patient's dreams, only to find that they come true in a way he didn't expect. Populations are reduced via a virulent plague, and peace breaks out when aliens attack the moon and the tiny group of remaining humans come together against a common enemy. In Connie Willis' awesome time-travel tale The Doomsday Book, a pandemic is reducing the population of London while a young woman travels back to the Middle Ages and lives through a wave of the black death that is ravaging the tiny town she's taken shelter in. Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood's apocalyptic biotech novel, is about a mad scientist who destroys humanity with a plague in his attempt to create a more perfect species that will be free of war and other human problems.