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Pay attention

It’s been six months since I finished chemo, and a year since I got out of the hospital post-surgery. I’m doing very well physically: walking, doing yoga, no longer exhausted all the time. I had two fairly demanding vacations back-to-back, Viable Paradise and World Fantasy, and enjoyed them both, and worked and played hard. I have long-term and possibly permanent consequences from some of the treatments, but overall, not too bad.

As my endurance and abilities recover, though, the mental side effects become ever more frustrating. I should be better, dammit! I was looking at my to-read pile, and bemoaning the little writing I’m getting done, and the trouble I’m having doing science… and all the time I’ve spent in the last year doing online jigsaw puzzles rather than anything more fulfilling.

And then I figured it out: whether from stress or chemo brain, or most likely a combination of the two, I’ve spent my time doing things that don’t require a through-line. The number of long novels I’ve put down rather than keep track of complex plots. The time at work spent processing GIS data, which is useful but not mentally demanding. The not-writing. The jigsaw puzzles, which don’t require keeping track of things. I’m not doing things that need sustained attention or complex memory.

I’m using notebooks and online calendars to manage most of the daily business of life and work, and that’s been largely effective. I forget what I got up for, or fumble for words, or can’t spell them when I know what they are, but those are slowly improving. But the sustained attention/through-line capability hasn’t been improving as quickly as the physical capability has, and it’s much harder to compensate for.

That capability is incredibly important to my understanding of who I am. I’m the person who reads a lot of books, does insightful science, engages with the world in complex and extended ways. That’s not what I’m doing right now, and it is deeply frustrating. It terrifies me that those abilities may not entirely come back, though I imagine I will develop further coping skills.

I have a really hard time distinguishing between being patient with myself and being lazy, or not pushing myself hard enough. That line has never been clear to me, and even less so now. Productivity is also an essential component of my self-image, and I’ve become someone who starts a million things but doesn’t finish any of them. My idea-generating ability came back pretty quickly (and losing that was incredibly traumatic, especially the first time; less so the second time I started chemo because I knew it would come back), but my ability to follow through on those ideas is just not there.

I want to write this novel, and read a bunch of complex, delightful books, and get a bunch of science done, and make beautiful things. Instead I’m spending a lot of time on twitter and doing those bloody jigsaw puzzles. I don’t know what the solution is, and fear there may not be one. Better and more thorough note-taking, to make up for the things my brain can’t do? Breaking things into ever-smaller chunks? Cutting back, and thinning my schedule so I can use what focus I do have on the most important things? Or is my focus rejuvenated by switching to a different project? I need to try a bunch more things and see.

And then there’s the fear of everyone who’s been treated for cancer: am I even going to live long enough for any of this to matter? Or am I just going to leave a bunch of unfinished projects? I’m healthy right now, and want to make the most of that, but the fear is always there.

WFC schedule

WFC has come up with a vaguely acceptable Code of Conduct. Thanks, folks. This is important.

They’ve also updated the program. I’m on two panels! With really cool people!

City Center 2B
Healing in Fantasy

Sometimes you just need a doctor, but in Fantasyland a healer has to do. Magical healing is a surprisingly common and yet complex issue. The panel will discuss the ramifications of magical healing and which texts they feel illustrate some of the more nuanced approaches to getting your heroes and heroines back on their feet.
James Alan Gardner (mod.), Anatoly Belilovsky, J.K. Cheney, Julie Czerneda, Sarah Goslee, Susan MacDonald

Food Fantasy

Beyond the seemingly ubiquitous quest stew, food plays a major role in fantasy. Our panel discusses food in fantasy, and fantasies that revolve around food. Foodies, in fact epicures of all kinds, are welcome.
Kelly Robson (mod.), Esther Friesner, Sarah Goslee, Paul Park, Fran Wilde

I hope to see you there. I’ll also be at the Tor party on Wednesday at Northshire Books, and of course in the bar. Because where else?

Please say hi if you see me.

The bus may be backing up

Waiting on a more official outlet, but this statement on the World Fantasy Convention 2015 Facebook group looks promising.


(Screenshot taken just now.)

Under the Fantasy Bus

So remember just a couple weeks ago when I was all excited about getting on the World Fantasy Convention programming for the first time?

And then the refund deadline passed, but that was okay because of course I was going this year?

And then the WFC convention committee released their “harassment policy”? (Screenshot courtesy of Natalie Luhrs).


And suddenly I went from being excited to feeling like I’d been thrown under the bus.

The placeholder policy on the website (screenshot from this morning) was vague and useless, but not actively destructive the way this one is. I’d expected so much better. WFC overall has been working to improve their handling of incidents, and last year’s policy was pretty good. I expected this year to be the same. NOPE.

Here’s more from Natalie Luhrs, from John Scalzi, and from Jim Hines. I’m not going to repeat the insightful things they’ve already said, except to agree that this is bullshit.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do.

My only sunk costs are the (pricy) registration fees; I was planning to drive, and can cancel my hotel reservation. Or I can request to be removed from programming, and just hang out in the bar with my friends. Or I can go anyway, since it’s next week and kind of late to change my plans, but I’m unhappy with that because this “policy” is worse than no policy, and I signed on to the pledge to only attend conventions that have good harassment policies.

Or WFC could fix their own mess, but I’m not holding my breath.

Food, books, and extraterrestrial activity

Dyson Sphere! Or, well, probably not.

Apprentice to Elves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear is out today! If you read that excerpt you might be able to figure out why I’m pushing it on all my friends. I mean besides the bit where it’s an excellent book, that is.

The World Fantasy Convention program is out. I’ll be on a food panel with Ellen Kushner and Kelly Robson. Should be fun; as you may have noticed, I have Opinions.

I discovered the Amazon list of 100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read in a Lifetime from Hot Chick Janiece. I’ve read 78 of the 100, and 7 more are on my to-read stack already. There were a couple I’d never heard of even though I was familiar with the author, and two I was completely unfamiliar with.

The list is 33% by women, and has a few non-white authors. It was more diverse than I expected, but my expectations are rather low. Ursula Le Guin appears three times; Clarke, Bradbury and Heinlein each twice.

Have read:
Frankenstein; Mary Shelley
The Time Machine; HG Wells
Sabriel; Garth Nix
Outlander: A Novel; Diana Gabaldon
The Color of Magic; Terry Pratchett
2001: A Space Odyssey; Arthur C. Clarke
Ringworld; Larry Niven
The Curse of Chalion; Lois McMaster Bujold
Good Omens; Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
The Princess Bride; William Goldman
The Hunger Games; Suzanne Collins
A Game of Thrones; George RR Martin
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; CS Lewis
The Dark Is Rising; Susan Cooper
A Wrinkle in Time; Madeline L’Engle
Howl’s Moving Castle; Diana Wynne Jones
Pawn of Prophecy; David Eddings
Childhood’s End; Arthur C. Clarke
The Stars My Destination; Alfred Bester
Slaughterhouse-Five: A Novel; Kurt Vonnegut
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; Douglas Adams
I, Robot; Isaac Asimov
Interview with the Vampire; Anne Rice
Hyperion; Dan Simmons
Stories of Your Life: and Others; Ted Chiang
Daughter of the Blood; Anne Bishop
Guilty Pleasures; Laurell K. Hamilton
The Doomsday Book; Connie Willis
Dragonflight; Anne McCaffrey
Neuromancer; William Gibson
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell; Susanna Clarke
The Sword of Shannara; Terry Brooks
Ender’s Game; Orson Scott Card
Lord Foul’s Bane; Stephen R. Donaldson
Assassin’s Apprentice; Robin Hobb
Old Man’s War; John Scalzi
The Golden Compass; Philip Pullman
Red Mars; Kim Stanley Robinson
A Canticle for Leibowitz; Walter M. Miller Jr
The Gunslinger; Stephen King
1984; George Orwell
Stranger in a Strange Land; Robert Heinlein
The Last Unicorn; Peter S. Beagle
A Wizard of Earthsea; Ursula K. Le Guin
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone; J.K. Rowling
The Name of the Wind; Patrick Rothfuss
Kushiel’s Dart; Jacqueline Carey
The Martian: A Novel; Andy Weir
The Way of Kings; Brandon Sanderson
The Golem and the Jinni; Helene Wecker
Starship Troopers; Robert Heinlein
Snow Crash; Neal Stephenson
World War Z; Max Brooks
Ancillary Justice; Ann Leckie
Among Others; Jo Walton
Ready Player One; Ernest Cline
Dune; Frank Herbert
American Gods; Neil Gaiman
The Left Hand of Darkness; Ursula K. Le Guin
The Martian Chronicles; Ray Bradbury
The Handmaid’s Tale; Margaret Atwood
The Windup Girl; Paolo Bacigalupi
The Hobbit; J.R.R. Tolkien
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe; Charles Yu
Brave New World; Aldous Huxley
Altered Carbon; Richard Morgan
Grass; Sherri Tepper
Fahrenheit 451: A Novel; Ray Bradbury
The Speed of Dark; Elizabeth Moon
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; Philip K. Dick
Uprooted; Naomi Novik
Perdido Street Station; China Mieville
The Magicians; Lev Grossman
The Mists of Avalon; Marion Zimmer Bradley
Riddle-Master (Trilogy); Patricia A. McKillip
The Lord of the Rings; J.R.R. Tolkein
Tales; H. P. Lovecraft;
Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea; Jules Verne

Own but haven’t read:
The Forever War; Joe Haldeman
Wool; Hugh Howey
Sandman Slim: A Novel; Richard Kadrey
The Eye of the World; Robert Jordan
Annihilation; Jeff VanderMeer
Dhalgren; Samuel R. Delaney
Foreigner; C.J. Cherryh

Haven’t read or not sure:
Solaris; Stanislaw Lem
I Am Legend; Richard Matheson
Kindred; Octavia Butler
Graceling; Kristin Cashore
Blood Music; Greg Bear
The Dispossessed; Ursula K. Le Guin
Uglies; Scott Westerfeld
Red Rising; Pierce Brown
The Rook; Daniel O’Malley
The Dragonbone Chair; Tad Williams
Cloud Atlas; David Mitchell
The Sparrow; Mary Doria Russell
The Road; Cormac McCarthy
Nights at the Circus; Angela Carter
The Time Traveler’s Wife; Audrey Niffenegger

Good riddance!

A year ago today I was in the hospital and two surgeons were removing bits of this and that. A little colon, a little liver. They did a fine job, and between them, the chemo, and the radiation, I have had no evidence of cancer for an entire year.

A year, people. That’s an awfully good start. I’ve made it 22 months after diagnosis, a full year after surgery with no recurrence, and I’ve been done with treatment for over four months.

I’m not completely recovered, and some bits may never heal. I’m low on emotional and physical reserves, and if I sit still too long I stiffen up and feel like I’m 87. Everything is complicated, and slow. Still, yesterday I worked a full day doing science, saw friends, finished a volunteer project, and walked 6.3 miles. My CEA blood test is normal, and this week’s CT scan report was full of words like “unremarkable” and “normal.” I’ve never been so happy to be boring.

For today, let’s just go with “good fucking riddance.”

Science Spam

From my work email this morning:

Dear Dr. Goslee

In view of your important publications in the key areas of Space Technology, including reviews on patents, it is a great pleasure to invite you to contribute a review/research article or guest edit a special issue to Recent Progress in Space Technology (RPST) in a hot field.

Huzzah! I’m an important Space Patent Publicationer!

Bodies: so complicated

I started the day with an unpleasant medical procedure with unpleasant results. Nothing life-threatening, and only life-changing in the long-term sense, part of the fall-out from ensuring the long-term.

The up-side of radiation before surgery is that it decreases the risk of tumor recurrence.

The down-side is that it interferes with healing.

Post-surgery I ended up with a horrid infection and abscess. It’s hard to tell for sure whether the abscess caused the colon join to not heal properly, or the incomplete join caused the abscess, and it doesn’t really matter. The important bits are that there’s a gap in the colon join where the tumor was removed, and the abscess also caused a fistula in my vaginal wall. This isn’t an immediate problem in and of itself, because I have an ileostomy so the colon isn’t being used for anything.

This is “wait and see” kind of stuff. There was a possibility it will heal on its own, even after the radiation, and everything else needs to heal completely before it can be addressed anyway.

But since it’s somehow been almost a year, it was time to take a look. I started the day with a very thorough rectal and vaginal exam (and managed to not ask my surgeon how many people make “and you didn’t even buy me dinner” jokes). The colon join is not closed, and the vaginal fistula is not healed. Instead, they’re connected to each other.

The options are:

1. Completely redo the colon join: take out a new small section and reattach everything, hoping it works this time. It won’t be as serious, because there won’t be a liver component, but this is still substantial surgery. After that heals, if it does, my ostomy would be reversed. The original join is fairly low in the colon, though, which means that a new join would take up pretty much all the available space. Because of that, there’s a substantial chance I may not regain proper bowel function, and the certainty that I will have a long period of incontinence and difficulty. My surgeon thinks that because I’m young and healthy it will probably recover, but she also said that she would re-evaluate a year after surgery and put the ostomy back if it didn’t work.

2. Do nothing. I can keep the ostomy forever. There are no long-term health consequences to leaving a gap in a non-functional colon. The down-side is that there is no way to fix just the vagina. Surgeon says that because of the effects of the radiation on those tissues, there’s effectively a 0% chance of any repairs taking.

Right now I have an ileostomy, which is very high up in the digestive system, which limits nutrient and water absorption and requires frequent emptying. If I go with option 2, she could move it lower down, to a colostomy, which is an easier long-term prospect.


Right now I’m active and feel good, and can do all the things. I’m working, traveling, enjoying my time. I’m not enthusiastic about the prospect of another fairly major surgery and concomitant recovery period, and really not enthusiastic about the idea of an extended period of being chained to a bathroom while my bowel recovers. Assuming the second surgery even works, of course.

I and Blorp the Ostomy are getting along well. I even spent a week camping with no major issues. (I will blog about Blorp eventually.) I’m basically put together with plastic bags and sticky tape, and it is inconvenient, but not that bad.

Here’s the part where I talk about sex. If you don’t want to read that, time to get off the elevator.


The elephant in the room here is vaginal function: it would be kind of nice to be able to have penetrative sex, and even oral sex is problematic because that fistula leaks. There are alternatives; there are always alternatives, but still. Pelvic radiation also causes sexual issues in women: the vaginal tissues tend to be much less moist and elastic, so it’s possible that penetrative sex would be painful regardless.

I don’t have to make a decision now. Since one of the options is “do nothing” I can take that option for now and make a considered decision in a few months, or even longer. I’ve always known there were consequences to cancer treatment, and that problems with either or both bowel and sexual function were possibilities, but this is still a frustrating development.


Sasquan was a blast! I spent time with old friends and new friends, including several folks who have been friends for a long time but I’d never met in person, including Best Roomie. Everyone had fun at the reading, though post-apocalyptic cats were clearly trumped by spiders. The Viable Paradise party was great, and Steph and I ended up hosting a snarky and alcohol-laden Hugos party with the leftovers. It still boggles me sometimes that I’ve become the kind of person who can throw a party at WorldCon and have people show up. Lots of people!

I’ve been all over the place, Portland, Pennsic, Spokane, and it’s been great. My physical health is excellent and steadily improving as I get farther away from chemo (four months!) and surgery (almost a year!). My CEA is still normal. I’m walking to work sometimes (Monday was the first day I’ve done so since 2013) and kayaking. I’ve been doing yoga for months, trying to recover some strength and flexibility, and I’m contemplating gym membership or home weight-lifting.

Great, right?

But I am so fucking tired, mentally and emotionally. So tired. I can do all the things physically, but how do I do all the things? How do I do any of them? I haven’t dealt with any of the paperwork from my mother’s death (I have time; this is not urgent), my house is a disaster, I’m just barely not failing my annual review at work. The bills are paid and the cats are fed, but that’s about it. Adulting? Not happening. I haven’t been there for friends either, which makes me sad.

I feel like I should be a cheery TV special. “I beat cancer sunshine daisies joy laughter sparkles unicorns.” But it’s harder than that, deeper and more complicated. Slower, too.

Sasquan and outlining

I will be at Sasquan next week: hooray! While I’m not on programming (and a bit frustrated by that), Steven Gould generously offered to share his timeslot with a few Viable Paradisians, so I will be doing a reading:

4315 Saturday 12:30pm 30min
DBT Spokane Falls Suite A/B
Reading—Steven Gould

What do you think: post-apocalyptic cats, or a faery guide?

Meanwhile, I’m trying to get my head back into writing fiction (back into everything, really). I’m picking the novel I started a year and a half ago back up. I won’t have time to work on it heavily until October, but I’m trying to get the outline firmed up so that in October I can immerse myself in the actual words.

Here’s the high-level outline:
A fabulous book.
Almond cookies.
Court intrigue.
Black magic.
Chaos ensues.
Things burn down.
Librarian victory.

This is going to be SO MUCH FUN.