September 22nd, 2011


[links] Link salad chews its way into Thursday

Possible life in the Martian trenches? — Oooh.

Dr. Smith, Warlord of Mars

Software Testing Startup’s Autistic Workforce Seeks to Change Business Culture

Early longevity gene findings disputedA trans-Atlantic dispute has erupted between two camps of researchers pursuing a gene that could lead to drugs that enhance longevity.

Windows 8 and the Reign of the Finger

The cold, cold case of Jack the RipperA retired homicide detective is trying to force Scotland Yard to release uncensored versions of files that might offer fresh leads on the identity of Britain’s most notorious serial killer.

The Apple effect: How Steve Jobs & Co. won over the world

Two graphs illustrating the relationship between bigotry and stupiditySlacktivist Fred Clark skewers anti-Islamicism.

‘Nobody in this country got rich on his own’ — Elizabeth Warren speaks straight to all the Galtians and Libertarians out there. I want this rhetoric in the White House.

Sonny Bono’s Brother, CuiThis is what it means to be a conservative: you think it’s obvious that 98% of climate scientists are falsifying data and/or supporting transparently bogus theories because they want to get their greedy little hands on some of that sweet, sweet grant money, while at the same time recognizing no financial incentive whatsoever on the part of oil company-funded “skeptics”—much less the oil companies themselves.

Ron Paul Says Aide Who Died With $400k Medical Bill Didn’t Need Government Help — Pretty much says it all about the conservative mindset, right there. I don’t know how you guys sleep at night, frankly.

The Jimmy Buffet RuleIf you ask the bottom 98 percent to sacrifice, that’s a prudent fiscal policy. If you ask the top 2 percent to sacrifice, that’s class warfare.

?otD: Got teeth?

Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (too many medical appointments
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 7.25 hours (solid!)
Weight: 220.2
Currently reading: Matter by Iain M. Banks

Originally published at You can comment here or there.


[cancer] The gentle subtlety of a sledgehammer to the skull

Mostly these days I just trundle along. The mortal terror and high anxiety I’ve been through during past phases of my cancer journey isn’t a daily feature of my life lately. I don’t need to pull over the car for a crying jag, I don’t have panic attacks. As I’ve mentioned before, the human mind’s capacity to routinize anything is truly astonishing.

Still, sometimes events or the comments of other people pull me back into a difficult headspace.

This isn’t my news to share in any detail, but a friend who has a very similar cancer situation to mine was just given a diagnosis that is probably terminal. Specifically, a new round of metastases in an inoperable location. This, of course, could happen to me at any time. Precisely so. It’s what killed another friend of mine last spring, also with a very similar cancer situation to mine. I’ve been lucky that my metastases so far have been discrete, single tumors in easily accessible locations (lower lobe of left lung and right lobe of liver). All I need is a tumor in the liver stem and I’ll be doing short term end-of-life planning.

And there’s absolutely nothing I can do to control or prevent this.

Yesterday, Mother of the Child and I met with [info]the_child‘s new therapist that she’ll start seeing next week. She’s having typical teen transition issues, plus working through her identity as a transracial adoptee, plus dealing with my cancer. She needs this. MotC and I spent an hour going through [info]the_child‘s life history, our marital history, our current living arrangements, my health issues, our assessment of our daughter’s life issues and so forth. The therapist, charmingly blunt, finally said, “It really sounds like you’ve done everything right. You’ve got good parenting, good living arrangements, she’s in the best school she can possibly be in for her needs.” Then she looked at me with my 30% five-year survival rate and said, “But if you die in the next few years, all that good work goes swirling down the drain.”

That’s telling it like it is. And there’s absolutely nothing I can do to control or prevent this. That five-year timeline for survival? That’s how long it will take her to make it through high school.

At this point, other than the cancer, I border on disgustingly healthy. For a chemo patient, I am disgustingly healthy. I can do a lot to take care of myself to improve my tolerance of and response to surgeries, chemo and (if needed at some point) radiotherapy. I can do a lot to take care of myself to be available to my daughter, to have the energy to write my books, to be connected to family and friends, and to live in the world.

But my ability to control what actually happens next in my cancer?

Spitting in the wind.

As I said to my therapist yesterday, “Hey, I could take up smoking! It doesn’t matter now.”

We are all mortal. Everyone dies. But my chess match with death is in a very different state that most of my peers and age cohort. Most days I just shrug and move on. Yesterday, the fact that I can see the end game a few moves away, and the absolute lack of control I have over when that end game takes place, was hammered home with all the gentle subtlety of a sledgehammer to the skull of a slaughterhouse pig.

Sorry, no quiet wisdom or life lessons in this one. Just me thinking aloud about the fundamental brutality of living with cancer.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.


[process] Ideas and their discontents

In case you haven’t read it, go read John Scalzi’s post from yesterday on ideas. It’s okay, I’ll still be here when you get back.

Ideas. I swear to God, they are the easiest part of this business. They are for me, anyway, and for most working writers I’ve ever talked to about it. Why people think otherwise is beyond me. (Well, not really. After all, I am a highly trained professional imagination user, so by the Law of the Tool, ideas would of course seem easy to me.)

Except, like everything else, the devil is in the details.

What constitutes an idea?

Is it the general statement? “These two kids fall in love, but their families hate each other.”

Is it the high concept statement? “Gang wars. Forbidden love. Two kids whose dads are the biggest crime bosses in the city pursue their infatuation to a disastrous end.”

Is the it synopsis? [ Romeo and Juliet at Wikipedia ]

Or the themes? Or the outline? Or… Or… Or…

I for one am quite capable of writing a short story in service of a single image that pops into my head. I don’t need more than that to drive me. My novella “Our Lady of American Sorrows” derived completely from a dream about some priests riding in the back of a military truck through a small, Latin American town.

But for other writers, such an image doesn’t count as an idea unless they can see more. Perhaps the through line, the resolution, or the character arc. That very much depends on the writer. So while I could probably writer an entire novel from nothing more than the idea of a werewolf with achondroplastic dwarfism, another writer would need a great deal more/different to qualify that idea.

For me, notions, concept and ideas are all essentially the same thing — creative stew. For others, more flesh or structure is required.

What’s an idea to you? How much do you need on the page or in the brain before you can turn it into a story or a novel?

Originally published at You can comment here or there.