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Back Home For a Bit

Amy has gotten through the second round of chemo, which meant the hospital was finally able to discharge her to an acute rehab facility. (She’s been in a hospital bed for more than a month, so she needs some therapy to rebuild muscle and such.) Unlike the hospital, which was an hour+ from home, the rehab facility is only 20 minutes away, which means I’ve been able to split time between there and home.

There’s not really much else to report. From what they can tell, the chemo is doing its job so far. Amy’s in much better shape than she was a month ago. But we have a long way to go before we’re through. The current plan is for 3-4 more rounds of chemo, followed by a bone marrow transplant. We’ll be back staying at the hospital for the next round in a couple of weeks. Not sure if subsequent ones will be able to be done closer to home or not.

Thank you again for all of your support for my wife and our family. It means a lot to know we’re not alone.

Family Health and Ongoing Hiatus

I’m back home for the first time in a while, and I’ve been given permission to talk more about what’s going on. Last month, my wife Amy was diagnosed with cancer — an aggressive form of lymphoma, to be specific.

Aggressive, but treatable. We’ve done the first round of chemo, and the last scans showed some tumor shrinkage, which is a good sign.

This all started with a flare-up of lower back pain. Unfortunately, Amy has chronic back pain, and we’ve had flare-ups before. So the initial doctor visits just led to more painkillers and rest. It wasn’t until I took her to the Emergency Room last month that they discovered what was going on. By then we were dealing with a blast crisis (proliferation of immature white blood cells), dehydration, some organ failures…

I can safely say that was the worst week of my life.

I’m happy to say they were able to treat the immediate health crisis. The messed-up white blood cells have been cleared out, organ function is back to normal, dehydration and malnutrition have been addressed. We’re onto focusing on the long-term treatment plan now.

There’s no prognosis or percentages here. You can find survival rates for her particular type of cancer, but she’s significantly younger than the average patient. And five-year rates are based on patients who were diagnosed at least five years ago — we have five more years of research and advances now.

She’ll still be in the hospital for a while. She’s awfully weak after everything she’s been through. She’s not quite up for visitors yet, but she’s getting closer. I’ll be heading back tonight or tomorrow. I’ll still be mostly offline, and I haven’t written a word of fiction in more than a month, which is likely to continue.

To any of our friends or family who are hearing this for the first time, I’m so sorry. We’ve tried to update people, but Amy has so many people who love her, and my brain has not been at its best. Please feel free to text or email me.

My family has been holding up okay. Everyone has come together to offer support and help out, and I’m so grateful. The kids have been amazing, each in their own way. It’s hard, and that’s going to continue for a while, but we’re all doing our best to take care of each other as well as taking care of Amy.

She’s had really good care. We’re making sure that continues. So far, the insurance side of things has gone pretty smoothly. I’m not holding my breath for that to always be the case, but I’ll deal with that when and if it goes sideways. I’ve also taken care of things like her FMLA leave from work, and applying for short-term disability. The main priority right now is helping her keep getting better.

Oh, and I know the photos might be a bit odd — what can I say. Taking pictures is one of the ways I cope with the stress. Even with a relatively old iPhone camera.

I’m not up for answering a lot of questions online/publicly, since it’s not about me. And we’re not currently looking for advice. But your love and support and encouragement are always appreciated. Thank you.

Various Health Updates

Apologies to anyone waiting on email from me. We’ve been dealing with family health issues for the past 2+ weeks. Nothing life-threatening, but rather incapacitating until we can get things treated. Hopefully one of these days the various doctors will stop sending and losing referrals and handing us off to someone else without actually doing anything, and maybe one of them will actually help…

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In personal health news, I’ve learned I’m officially a mutant. The BRCA1 gene helps suppress tumors and fight cancer. Turns out mine is broken.

In women, this mutation drastically increases the chances of breast and ovarian cancer. (We started testing family members when my cousin, who has breast cancer, tested positive for the mutation.)

In men, the risk is much smaller, but it’s still there — increased chances for breast, pancreatic, and prostate cancer, and melanoma. But that increased risk is still in the single digits for all but the prostate cancer, and that last is maybe 1 in 4. So I’ll be starting screening earlier than I otherwise would have, but I’m not losing sleep over this stuff yet.

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Hope you’re having a better December than we are!

When Harassment Appears Harmless

ETA: After I posted this, Reddit removed JDA’s comments. Per the r/fantasy rules, “Acting in bad faith in this community can and likely will have consequences.

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A friend of mine was doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) over at Reddit. Among the comments and questions, someone posted the following:

“You’ve been integral in helping me grow my career to where I’ve made six figures on writing in less than 2 years in the biz. So thank you for the support! Look forward to joining you in SFWA. :)”

Seems innocuous, right? Even friendly and flattering, if a bit boastful and self-aggrandizing.

Here’s the thing. The author doing the AMA was SFWA president Cat Rambo. The individual leaving the comment was Jon Del Arroz. You may remember Del Arroz’s name from an earlier blog post documenting his history of trolling and harassing. One section of that post covered his attacks against Cat Rambo, including:

  • Accusing Rambo of defending pedophilia
  • Accusing Rambo, without evidence, of trying to “destroy” him
  • Generally trolling SFWA and Cat Rambo

Rambo repeatedly told Del Arroz to stop contacting her. It reached the point where she had to tell him any additional emails would be forwarded to her attorney.

Now take another look at that comment Del Arroz left on Rambo’s AMA.

There’s nothing friendly about repeatedly, deliberately violating someone’s boundaries. When someone has again and again told you to leave them the hell alone, and you keep following them around, popping up to leave comments or whatever? The words might be friendly, but the behavior is creepy/stalker/harassing.

It’s an attempted power move on the part of the creeper. “Ha ha, I don’t have to respect your boundaries, and there’s nothing you can do about it!” And if the victim complains, the harasser immediately blames them. “I was just trying to be friendly. Why does she have to be so hateful?”

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How many times do we see this kind of stalking, harassing behavior get downplayed because, from the outside, it seems harmless? “Oh, he was just coming up to your booth to say hi, that’s all. Why do you have to get all upset about it?”

Maybe because, again and again, there’s more to the story. There’s a history of harassing, threatening, and/or controlling behavior. But it’s easier to accuse the victim of overreacting than it is to recognize that a lot of this nastiness is deliberately intended to appear harmless. Not only does it let the harasser flaunt their power to violate the victim’s boundaries at will, it also sets the victim up to look crazy if they try to respond. (See also: gaslighting.)

How many times have we heard about a conflict and thought to ourselves, “I don’t get why the person is so upset. It doesn’t sound like this was a big deal.”

Just like a friendly comment on an AMA — in isolation — doesn’t seem like a big deal.

I’m not saying nobody ever overreacts to a slight. But people are awfully damn quick to downplay and dismiss complaints by refusing to consider larger patterns of behavior. And that dismissal is one of the reasons creeps and stalkers continue to get away with this kind of harassment.

20 Years of Diabetes

While I was in France, I hit my 20-year anniversary with type 1 diabetes.

In October 1998, I was a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University. I’d been really thirsty for a while, was having to pee all the time, and had turned into a Very Grumpy Jim. I also lost about 20 pounds, dropping to around 130ish.

My father is also type 1, so I was somewhat familiar with the disease, and had an idea what was happening to me. I went home and borrowed dad’s glucose meter, which said my blood sugar was too high to read. And that day — Halloween of 1998 — off to the hospital we went.

I’ve blogged about this from time to time over the years. I started out taking multiple shots a day and using a glucose meter that took 30 seconds to process my blood sample. A little while later, I switched over to an insulin pump. The meters got faster, smaller, and started using smaller blood samples.

I changed my diet in some respects — the biggest change was probably switching away from sugared pop — but I don’t have a rigid diet or meal schedule. Instead, I check my blood more often and fine-tune with my insulin as needed.

Earlier this year, I upgraded to a continuous glucose monitor, which gives me rough real-time data about my blood sugar. I still need to manually test my blood a few times a day to calibrate and double-check the CGM. My current meter is the size of a large USB thumb drive, and automatically sends my blood glucose reading to the pump. It also buzzes and beeps at me if my sugar starts to drop too low, which is both reassuring and obnoxious.

I’ve been pretty fortunate so far. We haven’t seen any direct complications from the diabetes. I’ve had a few other conditions come up that tend to be more common in diabetics — a minor thyroid malfunction, Dupuytren’s disease (which will require hand surgery in the coming years), and a bout of Peyronie’s disease (which is more common among people with Dupuytren’s, but may not be directly linked to the diabetes…) Annoying as these have been, they were all manageable/treatable, one way or another.

I’m also lucky to have very good medical insurance, which has covered most of the cost of my supplies and medications. A lot of people aren’t so fortunate, having to pay hundreds of dollars for each vial of insulin. Some end up rationing their insulin, which can lead to hospitalization and/or death. The American Diabetes Association has more information on their Make Insulin Affordable website.

I’ve learned two big lessons about the disease over the past two decades. (So I’m averaging learning one lesson every ten years. I never claimed to be a quick learner.)

1. The worst thing you can do is ignore or neglect the disease. A lot of the side effects happen over the long term. If I blow off checking my blood sugar for a few days, or let my sugar get out of control for a bit, it’s not likely to kill me right away. I might not even notice any immediate problems…for a while. Unfortunately, by the time you do notice, you’re likely to be facing major medical complications.

A family friend got into trouble with out of control type 2 diabetes. She needed a kidney transplant, among other things. My father used to play racketball with a man who lost a foot to uncontrolled diabetes.

It’s a pain in the ass having to manage this thing every single day, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the alternative.

2. There’s no such thing as perfect control. Yesterday I had a sandwich, granola bar, and yogurt for lunch. My blood sugar jumped into the 200s and insisted on staying there for much of the early afternoon. Today I had the exact same lunch. I took the exact same amount of insulin. My blood sugar is currently 112.

Why the difference? Heck if I know. Maybe my activity level was different? Maybe I was more stressed? Maybe the diabetes fairy rolled a natural 20 and got a critical hit on my blood sugar yesterday.

There’s a lot I can and should do to fine-tune my control, but there are too many variables to control them all, and sometimes stuff happens that just makes no damn sense. So you do the best you can. Talk to the doctor for ideas on how to improve control. But also recognize you’re not going to achieve perfection.

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Having inherited this thing from my father, I’m worried about passing it along. Dad and I both became diabetic at age 24. Both of us were in grad school, too. Ergo, I’ll make sure my kids don’t go to grad school until they’re at least 25. Problem solved!

Or not. But given how far the technology has come just in the past 20 years, let alone the 44 since Dad was diagnosed, I’m hopeful that when and if one of my kids comes down with it, we’ll have gotten the disease mostly under control, if not cured outright.

And on the day we do cure this thing — assuming I’m still around — I plan to celebrate with the biggest hot fudge sundae.

World Fantasy Con Guest of Honor Policies

A little while back, author and editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia contacted the World Fantasy Convention about the lack of diversity in their Guest of Honor line-up. Their response said, in part:

“Convention committees select Special Guests and especially Guests of Honor in order to recognize and pay tribute to their body of work within the genre over a significant period of time, usually consisting of decades in the field. Currently we find ourselves in the position of having a limited number of non-white/male authors, artists, agents, and editors to call on to balance the slates. However much we all wish it were different, and however glad we are to see things changing, the fact remains that only recently have a significant number of diverse writers, artists, agents, and editors entered the field.” (Emphasis added)

There’s a lot to unpack in the full letter, but I wanted to focus on this particular idea, that guests of honor had to have decades of experience in the field. So I went through the list of WFC guests of honor and pulled together the year of the con and the year of the guest’s first published book. It’s not a perfect way to measure years in the field, but I think it works pretty well.

Disclaimers:

I’ve posted the spreadsheet for anyone to review. Feedback and corrections are welcome.

I tried to eliminate all but the author guests of honor. Also, some conventions had both guests of honor and “special guests.” In these cases, I did not include the special guests.

There are a handful where I’m not sure about the first novel. All total, I ended up with 93 author guests, from 1975 to 2018.

Data:

ETA: Data and spreadsheet have been updated with corrections.

With those disclaimers out of the way, let’s take a look at the data.

  • Average Number of Years in the Field: 24
  • Median Number of Years in the Field: 22
  • Least Years in the Field: 4 5
  • Most Years in the Field: 73
  • Number of WFC Guests of Honor with less than 10 years in the field: 7 5
  • Number of WFC Guests of Honor with 10-19 years in the field: 29 30
  • Number of WFC Guests of Honor with 20-29 years in the field: 34 35
  • Number of WFC Guests of Honor with 30+ years in the field: 23

Conclusions:

The WFC Board said, “Convention committees select Special Guests and especially Guests of Honor in order to recognize and pay tribute to their body of work within the genre over a significant period of time, usually consisting of decades in the field.” I’ve seen others, people not necessarily affiliated with the con, argue that WFC author guests of honor should have at least 30 years in the field.

The latter is obviously untrue. Only a quarter of all guests have been active SF/F professionals for three decades or more.

As for the Board’s statement, it’s true that most guests of honor have had between one and two decades of professional SF/F experience. Most, but not all. WFC has repeatedly shown a willingness to have newer authors as guests or honor as well.

So any argument that WFC has to choose guests with a longer history in the SF/F field is demonstrably untrue.

Other Comments:

1. That excuse also falls flat since we’ve had diverse authors in the field for more than just the past 10 years. Authors of color, for example, were not invented in 2008.

2. Even if that weren’t the case, if you have a screening policy that results in the exclusion of minorities? You change the damn policy.

3. Three authors have been WFC author guests of honor twice. While all three of these authors have impressive careers and are very much deserving of honor and respect, this is another sign we need to look a little more broadly for guests.

4. As for the Board’s statement that, “only recently have a significant number of diverse writers, artists, agents, and editors entered the field,” here are just a few authors off the top of my head who — surprise! — have been around for a while now…

  • Samuel R. Delaney (The Jewels of Aptor, 1962)
  • Octavia Butler (Patternmaster, 1976)
  • Haruki Murakami, (Hear the Wind Sing, 1979)
  • Steven Barnes (Dream Park, 1981)
  • Ted Chiang (First Nebula Award in 1991)
  • Michelle Sagara (Into the Dark Lands, 1991)
  • Tananarive Due (The Between, 1995)
  • Stephen Graham Jones (The Fast Red Road: A Plainsong, 2000)
  • David Anthony Durham (Gabriel’s Story, 2001)
  • L. A. Banks, (Minion, 2003)

There are a heck of a lot more — my list is mostly limited to American authors, but shouldn’t the World Fantasy Convention welcome fantasy author guests from, well, the whole world? The idea that diverse authors and other SF/F professionals are somehow a new, recent thing is just utterly absurd and asinine.

Do better, WFC.


Errors/Corrections

  • The WFC History site listed Mary Robinette Kowal as a 2014 Guest of Honor. She was actually the Toastmaster, and as such, should not have been included in the dataset.
  • The WFC History site omitted Tananarive Due, who was a Guest or Honor at the 2017 WFC.
  • Jeff VanderMeer’s first book has been corrected to Dradin, In Love, first published in 1996.

Jim C. Hines