I have so many essays half-finished (or, really, rather less than half), but this is too important to wait for me to find my motivation.
As of yesterday, my CEA was 1.8.
That is, NORMAL.
No blood marker for cancer here!!!!
Snow fell in rainbows, braided swirls of red and orange, indigo and violet, tiny colored crystals glinting in the wind. Where each flake hit the street, it drilled a smoking pinprick hole through the pavement. The trees were tattered, branches ragged and splintering. Miniature geysers marked the path of an unshielded water main. Anika had spotted a squirrel outside as the blizzard began, scampering toward safety. She’d watched it dissolve from behind a double thickness of glass; she wasn’t going outside any time soon. She’d never realized squirrels could scream like that.
Anika wrapped her hands around a mug of cocoa, its heat doing little to relieve her chill. A memory of catching snowflakes on her tongue rose in her mind, a relic of times when snow was white and fluffy, and melted only into water. Sledding, forts, snowmen.
Anika clutched her mug and watched the rainbow snow endlessly falling.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written any word-count flash. This one is exactly 150 words according to Scrivener. Maybe it will make you all feel better about the snow you are getting, if you are.
I started this for twitter, but it turned out to be too long. I kept the format, though.
Two years ago this week I was in the midst of all sorts of invasive and terrifying tests, resulting in a diagnosis of Stage IV colon cancer.
I was 43. I didn’t think I would have two years.
After chemo, radiation, surgery, and more chemo, I appear to be healthy.
Last spring, my mother died of cancer after a 15-year respite. The last time I saw her was when she helped me post-surgery.
She died while I was hooked to the chemo pump. Her memorial was a week and a half later, when I was recovered enough to manage it.
I drove home on Sunday, and started the next chemo session on Monday.
I already knew this week was going to be complicated. I’m thrilled I got two years, and probably more.
I’m sad my mother can’t celebrate with me, and I with her. “Sad” seems such a short and inadequate word.
I’m angry that I had to endure this at all.
I started the day by checking twitter at 4am and discovering David Bowie had died. He knew he was dying, he’d known for 18 months.
David Bowie chose to spend that time making his last album. He knew what he was doing, and he did it the way he wanted to.
I’ve had six more months than he did.
I don’t know whether to go back to bed, or to work my ass off.
I am delighted to announce that my totally true fantasy story, “The Kingfisher Manifesto,” has been sold to Fireside Magazine.
The editor commented on Twitter that, “…we’ve accepted 15 stories from our October submissions, out of 1,133. They’ll fill about 6 months at our current funding.”
This implies that sometime in the next six months you will all get to read it.
Edit: I completely forgot to link to Fireside so you could all go and subscribe.
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 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!
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6
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
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”