Monday, June 16, 2014

When no other word will do

“…because fuck cancer.”

This was the end of a recent comment Shawn Speakman made on Facebook. Not exactly the end, he did address his use of the F-bomb by saying cancer doesn’t care. (I didn’t include the whole comment because Shawn said some things about me that were embarrassingly nice, and I have no business repeating those.)

I too considered editing the F-word from this post, but I couldn’t, because Shawn is right on both counts.

In case you don’t know who Shawn is, Mr. Speakman is an author, as well as the editor of the successful Unfettered anthology. More importantly, Shawn is the only person I know who has kicked cancer’s ass. He’s a vet in that war, which makes him a hero to me. He’s the boy who lived.

When I was nine, I lost my father—who was 51—to cancer.

When I was fifteen I lost my sister. She was twenty-nine. I spent a summer keeping my mother company as we watched her, very slowly, die. Some people consider you an adult at thirteen, some at eighteen, others at twenty-one, and car rental companies believe it’s actually more like twenty-five. For me it was fifteen—the year I spent every day sitting in a hospital room watching a beautiful woman turn into a skin wrapped skeleton, and each night in a motel room trying to help my mother understand why. My sister was a fighter. She wouldn’t give up, even when no one else held any hope, she still fought. Cancer killed her anyway.

For years I saw cancer as this evil creature that stalked my family. A dark, mysterious and undefeatable force: Sauron, Voldemort, and the Nothing all wrapped up in one. My father survived being trapped by the Nazis in Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. He helped defeat Hitler, but he couldn’t defeat cancer.  My family was forced to sell our home in the city after he died. We left everything behind, and led by my sister Noreen, we moved away like some marked family. That’s how I saw it when cancer found Noreen and killed her in retaliation for saving us—that she dared to live.

Then for nearly four decades, cancer couldn’t seem to find me—still it found plenty of others, many of them authors: Diana Wynne JonesA.C.CrispinKage BakerSara DouglassIain M. Banks, and most recently Jay Lake. Cancer was after my new family, and now cancer has come back after Sarah Chorn.

Sarah is one of the best book reviewers in the world. Not only is she a highly respected and talented judge of literature, her willingness to read my books, and give a fair review—even when I was still self-published—helped make my career. To read Sarah's amazing personal and heart-wrenching post on Jay's death and her own relapse go here.

So cancer—my old nemesis—is after her. She’s beat it off twice before, but it’s back again, because like any cliché evil-for-evil-sake-villain, that’s what it does. And just like any cliché child who watched his family murdered by such a villain, who managed to grow up, I’m drawing my sword, and I’m gonna help kill it.

In the names of all those I’ve just mentioned, I'm joining the Ride to Fuck Conquer Cancer®.

What this means is that on September 13-14th, along with (hopefully many) others I’m going to ride my bicycle a hundred and fifty miles. I’ll be just a few days shy of fifty-three when I do this, and the longest I’ve ever ridden before is forty miles. Quite frankly the odds of me succeeding are slim. I’ll be training all summer. This last Saturday I rode forty miles, and then the next day rode another 35. That’s exactly half of what I need to do. This isn’t going to be easy, but then that’s the point. Maybe you don’t know what you’re capable of until you try.

If, like me and Shawn Speakman, you also think cancer should die a vicious and permanent death—the sort where we cut off its head, stuff it’s mouth with garlic and toss it in lava—I hope you’ll consider helping me.

If your willing to kill yourself on a bicycle, and can be in Washington DC September 13th and 14th I'd love to have you join "Team Riyria." It would be great to pool our fund raising dollars to show just how much the fantasy and science fiction community cares about eliminating this terrible disease. You can ride on your own, or join me to talk about anything you want—in between letting the old man breathe, of course.  Plus we'll have plenty of time to chat Saturday night as all riders will be staying at a campground where we'll share dinner, some entertainment, and probably a few beers.  If suicide by bike isn’t your thing, you can still help by making a contribution. So far I haven’t raised much, which honestly is the reason for this post, or I wouldn’t ask here, where you come to read about books and other nice things, happy things. And I’m only resorting to this level of begging now because—well, as Shawn so aptly and eloquently put it…because fuck cancer.

With your help we can tell cancer exactly what we think of it.

Learn more and donate here.  Contributions of any size are greatly appreciated.


  1. I will most definitely make a donation Michael. Thank you for posting this.
    -Chris Garrett

  2. Ah, you made me cry in work, not cool. But thank you for your post, I am glad to see the fighting spirit out there. It means a lot.
    You are amazing for doing it and I would love to join you in the cycle but am on the other side of the globe so instead I will donate. Good luck with it.

  3. Thanks Chris! I appreciate the support.

  4. Thanks Elizabeth. I'm glad you found the post moving. And thank you so much for donating. It is greatly appreciated.

  5. Thanks for sharing.I found a lot of interesting information here. A really good post, very thankful and hopeful that you will write many more posts like this one.