Dec 032018

At least there's a nice view

Hi everyone.

This is… not easy and really shit.

Some of you know I’ve been tired and out of sorts for a few months, and that I had to cut a work trip to Viet Nam short. I’m currently in hospital (St Thomas’ in London) getting another battery of tests done. I came back jaundiced and saw my GP who did some blood tests and tried to reassure me that it was most likely Hepatitis A. When Hep A is the good result, obviously, the range of options aren’t great. After dropping what feels like a litre of blood into various teensy vials, three trips to A&E, two ultrasounds, a CT scan, and a panel of experts looking at me I got admitted to hospital (yes I used an Oxford comma there I can’t be arsed to work out if it’s clearer without so I’m leaving it)

They’ve (very painfully) stuck a tube in my liver and are draining the bile externally and internally (sexy!). I also had a biopsy done.

Long story short (ish, I know I blew through 200 extraneous words my editor would trim up there), I’ve got cancer, specifically, metastatic leiomysarcoma. It’s coming from my duodenum and it’s gone into my liver. Which means it’s inoperable, but not untreatable.

HOWEVER I also have problems with my liver bile ducts aren’t draining properly, so I’m still jaundiced, and the cancer’s pressing on my duodenum (the first bit of the small bowel where food exits the stomach). I’m down about 13kg and if they tried to give me chemo at my bilirubin level I’d die.

So, priorities.

The upside: Guy’s and St Thomas’ (GST) is absolutely THE place to go in the whole UK, if not all of Europe, for my gastrointestinal pre-cancer treatment. The NHS has just finished a 10 year overhaul of how it approaches cancer treatment and has improved on all indicators. There are loads of treatments that weren’t available 2 years ago and more coming online. And a friend who is a cancer researcher has looked at my team and said they are world class. Further, I’m being fastracked to the Royal Marsden which is the absolute top in Europe for sarcoma.

As an aside I would really love it if Parliament could get off its collective arse and stop this Brexit nonsense as it’s actually likely to be the biggest single policy danger to my life. Pick a mechanism, but the current malarchy mentions science cooperation only in passing.

It’s not just the clever consultants and senior doctors. Every member of NHS staff, from my GP to A&E team at AM2 in St. Thomas’ to the nurses on the wards to the assistants and cleaners work here because they care about people and it shows. I’m getting such attentive, solid, evidence based care that I have a wee breakdown most days. I would put them up for OBEs and above in a heartbeat. It’s also in stark contrast to the treatment I had at A&E(ER) in America in August. They did an ultrasound but, rather than using a trained radiologist they had the trainee doctor do it, so whilst they looked at my liver, pancreas, and gall bladder, they didn’t notice the unexplained mass between the three of them.

Identity and next steps

I’m not going to put together a facebook (or *shudder* linkedin group). I’ll probably work out some sort of email list or something but to be honest I haven’t got there yet. There are a lot of people from a lot of places.

Please from this point forward feel free to talk to people I might have missed out. Please ask them not to be offended, or don’t be offended if you didn’t get a call. I absolutely ran out of emotional steam and tears on those.

About my identity: for me, cancer is something I’m experiencing, not part of my identity. Please don’t be in touch using language like “warrior”, “survivor”, etc, especially not “cancer warrior”. It’s not for me. I’m ill, getting care, and going to (try) to get better. (Which is a remarkably subjective idea, as it turns out.)  This isn’t to disparage anyone else who that kind of language helps.

I would love to see you but I have to see how things go. I’ve phoned some people, emailed others, and some of you are going to find out by social media. I’ll keep updating through these channels. It’s going to be crap, but I’m finding surprisingly resilient – albeit with a renewed sense of gallows humour. Visitors welcomed, as are texts and whatnot, but please don’t be upset if I don’t reply. This is all very overwhelming.

Please, please, no-one set up a gofundme or anything. I’m getting excellent world-class care on the NHS, completely free, and it’s the best care I’ve ever received. I’m on the fast track due to my age and whatnot. Going private won’t change anything at all. If things get to that point I’ll pick a charity and let you know where to put your collective ironmans and marathons.

Big news. Thanks for reading all the way through.



 Posted by at 12:05
Jul 312018

The One Who Wrote Destiny is about siblinghood. Family. Immigration. Generations. Identity. Love. Death. Choice.

Bricks in the night, 1966: Mukesh is a normal teenager in Bradford just trying to celebrate Diwali and meet a pretty girl whlist not getting beaten up by a fit arsehole.

The wrong laughter: Raks wants people to laugh at him, but not like that. He’s funnier than he seems, but mostly confused.

DNA is code: Neha is successful in her own way until she has to face dying.

Shukla weaves their stories together into a gorgeous flow of images and colour and it’s unputdownable.

Jul 182018

I have thinks (and significant feels) about Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers. Before the review, some scene setting:

A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is a fun adventure story about finding yourself, love, and loss, and it introduces you to the Wayfarer universe, which is diverse and fun and interesting.

A Closed and Common Orbit is about who gets to be people: slaves, weirdoes, machines, or everyone.

100 words on Record of a Spaceborn Few

We come to Record of a Spaceborn Few, which takes place in the same universe on a fleet of generation ships. Humanity has spread to the stars (joining the galactic civilisation along the way) and a few scattered remnants choose life on their ships having reached no destination, orbiting a sun without planets. Chambers twists yet again, telling a small story of a few lives which is, in the grandest traditions of science fiction, completely different and disconnected from earlier Wayfarers books. It’s about what it means to be humanity, to be a community, and to find purpose and belonging.

Sep 262017

If you expected Ancillary++, you’ll be disappointed. Leckie has gone from big to small – the Radch Empire makes only a small appearance. Where the trilogy was big – gender, class, humanity and empire-spanning revenge, Provenance sits on a smaller, more personal scale, digging into what family means.

Ingray is the adopted daughter of an important politician on a minor world. She engages smugglers in one last chance to impress her family – and it goes wrong. She has to forge new alliances to save her small unimportant world. It’s a different style, slower than Radch – with less driving action, but it works.

 Posted by at 09:57
Jul 072017

The end of the world typically doesn’t bother with heroin, politics, and books.

Memoirist and poet Michelle Tea delves into a very personal the end of the world stepping backwards and sideways to an alternate 1999 San Francisco – gentrification still sweeping across the city & cleaning up the drug-addicted lesbian punks.

Protagonist Michelle takes us along on a very personal apocalypse – exiting the life she knows for another, feeling her family fall apart, leaving her beloved San Francisco for LA, which may have brought about the end of the world. It’s gorgeous, and funny, and like nothing you’ve read before.

Jun 132017

Oh my bloody god this book. This series. This writer.

Ninefox Gambit was my one book of 2016. The one I wanted to win all the awards. The one I was doubly-disappointed to be skipping a year with The Kitschies.

Twisty-turny maths-based alteration of reality meets big evil empire and mad geniuses. It gets weirder and, oddly, a bit easier to follow. Probably worth reading Ninefox Gambit again. I did. It’s worth it.

In three pages, Shuos Jedao and/or Kel Cheris turn up and capture a fleet. Then it gets better. Difficult  to talk about without spoilers. But trust me.

Out in June.

Apr 242017

If I had any problem with The Girl with All the Gifts it was the same as I’ve seen elsewhere: It’s very good, but it’s Yet Another Zombie Book.

This, despite being in the same universe, goes way beyond that. The hungries (zombies) aren’t the main feature: here it’s the humans, and what happens to them, and humanity’s discovery of new and different types of hungry, and how we may be wired to screw it all up, always and forever. This book is a real joy – it stands alone, and, if you have a heart, its strings will be tugged.

Apr 192017

Ed note: This was written in 2013 and just turned up in my drafts folder. Oops. Have it now!

Jesus and the Eightfold Path

Somewhere between the manger and gathering fishers of men, Jesus grew up. Lavie Tidhar presents us with a Jesus learning from three wise men: Pig, Monkey, and Sandy, from the Chinese classic Journey to the West. What Tidhar does, in this very fun, silly, and easy-to-read novella is blend of myth, history, and fancy. The thing that I love about this is Tidhar’s ability to be irreverent, researched, and respectful, all at the same time. This slim volume is fun, insightful, and highly entertaining. It could easily have been none of those things – if you get a chance, read it.


You *might* be able to get it here (UK), but the publisher says it’s out of print.

Mar 292017

This book is an astonishing gamble of object desire and fervent hope: that there are people out there who are filled with a combination of a love for language, the theatre, and Shakespeare that they’ll make a market for a book like this.

It’s by no means perfect: it’s riddled with continuity errors, anachronisms, and character inconsistencies – much like Shakespeare – and, much like Shakespeare, it just doesn’t matter.

The characters are full-of-themselves as only final year art conservatory students can be – and Rio captures this weird world with aplomb – especially the ego masking the fear of your own empty soul.

n.b. Released 11th April in the US and June in the UK. Worth preordering.

Mar 022017

I missed these books the first time they came around – and on @kameronhurley’s recommendation, had a watch of the telly series, and thought it might be worth a read. It is.
Take one part big idea space opera, add top worldbuilding and pretty progressive politics, and shake it together with a lot of space explosions and you have Leviathan. It won a rake of awards. It’s gripping and a fast read- but intelligent enough that you don’t feel like you’ve lost a brain cell nor are the authors trying to show off their intelligence. It’s fun and it’s good.