September 13th, 2006

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Death looms

I just finished David Gemmell's Hero in the Shadows around 10 minutes ago and was contemplating some of the events in the novel. I've never run into a fantasy author who is as compact in his writing as Gemmell nor as action packed. He seems to be able to fit an entire trilogy of plot into one single book by cutting out a lot of the fluff and flotsam that pervades the words of others. (I'm looking at you Tolkien)

I finally picked up the last 4 books in the Drenai series a while back and had been looking forward to finishing up the series. I still have 2 to go but instead of launching right into the next one, I decided to check online and see if there were any FAQs or forums that would answer my questions about Hero in the Shadows. That was when I stumbled over this:

Fantasy writer Gemmell dies at 57

Fantasy novelist David Gemmell, best known for stories such as Legend and Waylander, has died at the age of 57.

Gemmell had heart bypass surgery two weeks ago and appeared to be making a good recovery, according to his publisher Transworld.

His career began in 1984 with Legend, a tale of a fortress under siege. He wrote 30 novels in total.

Transworld managing director Larry Finlay said Gemmell was "writing at the peak of his powers".

"He was a true pleasure to work with," he said.

"We will surely miss him, as will his thousands of devoted fans around the world. Our thoughts are with his wife Stella and his two children."

A statement from the publisher said he died on Friday morning.

Damn. The sad thing one gives a rat's ass about fantasy authors. It's likely that I wouldn't have found out that he died for years on end unless I had done a web search. Some tv actor croaks and the media is all over it like flies on shit but this sort of thing would just get a pass. It also reminds me of something else I ran across a couple months ago and I'm not sure if I ever got aroudn to making an entry about it.

Important note from Robert Jordan: March 25, 2006

I have been diagnosed with amyloidosis. That is a rare blood disease which affects only 8 people out of a million each year, and those 8 per million are divided among 22 distinct forms of amyloidosis. They are distinct enough that while some have no treatment at all, for the others, the treatment that works on one will have no effect whatsoever on any of the rest. An amyloid is a misshapen or misfolded protein that can be produced by various parts of the body and which may deposit in other parts of the body (nerves or organs) with varying effects. (As a small oddity, amyloids are associated with a wide list of diseases ranging from carpal tunnel syndrome to Alzheimer's. There's no current evidence of cause and effect, and none of these is considered any form of amyloidosis, but the amyloids are always there. So it is entirely possible that research on amyloids may one day lead to cures for Alzheimer's and the Lord knows what else. I've offered to be a literary poster boy for the Mayo Amyloidosis Program, and the May PR Department, at least, seems very interested. Plus, I've discovered a number of fans in various positions at the clinic, so maybe they'll help out.)

Now in my case, what I have is primary amyloidosis with cardiomyapathy. That means that some (only about 5% at present) of my bone marrow is producing amyloids which are depositing in the wall of my heart, causing it to thicken and stiffen. Untreated, it would eventually make my heart unable to function any longer and I would have a median life expectancy of one year from diagnosis. Fortunately, I am set up for treatment, which expands my median life expectancy to four years. This does NOT mean I have four years to live. For those who've forgotten their freshman or pre-freshman (high school or junior high) math, a median means half the numbers fall above that value and half fall below. It is NOT an average.

In any case, I intend to live considerably longer than that. Everybody knows or has heard of someone who was told they had five years to live, only that was twenty years ago and here they guy is, still around and kicking. I mean to beat him. I sat down and figured out how long it would take me to write all of the books I currently have in mind, without adding anything new and without trying rush anything. The figure I came up with was thirty years. Now, I'm fifty-seven, so anyone my age hoping for another thirty years is asking for a fair bit, but I don't care. That is my minimum goal. I am going to finish those books, all of them, and that is that.

My treatment starts in about 2 weeks at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where they have seen and treated more cases like mine than anywhere else in the US. Basically, it boils down to this. They will harvest a good quantity of my bone marrow stem cells from my blood. These aren't the stem cells that have Bush and Cheney in a swivet; they can only grow into bone marrow, and only into my bone marrow at that. Then will follow two days of intense chemotherapy to kill off all of my bone marrow, since there is no way at present to target just the misbehaving 5%. Once this is done, they will re-implant my bmsc to begin rebuilding my bone marrow and immune system, which will of course go south with the bone marrow. Depending on how long it takes me to recuperate sufficiently, 6 to 8 weeks after checking in, I can come home. I will have a fifty-fifty chance of some good result (25% chance of remission; 25% chance of some reduction in amyloid production), a 35-40% chance of no result, and a 10-15% chance of fatality. Believe me, that's a Hell of a lot better than staring down the barrel of a one-year median. If I get less than full remission, my doctor already, she says, has several therapies in mind, though I suspect we will heading into experimental territory. If that is where this takes me, however, so be it. I have thirty more years worth of books to write even if I can keep from thinking of any more, and I don't intend to let this thing get in my way.

—Robert Jordan

Feh. Now, I stopped reading the wheel of time series because it was never-ending and pissing me off (On a sidenote, I found this on wikipedia and it boggled my mind: 'Eleven books of a projected twelve total comprising the main sequence have been published thus far. Reviewers and fans of the earlier books have noted a slowing of the pace of events in the last few installments. This slowing culminated in the tenth book Crossroads of Twilight which covered only one day in the lives of the characters.' Holy crap. A 800 page book that covers only 1 stinking day?), but I always assumed that one day when it was all complete I could go back to it. The idea that it might never be finished now is almost unbelievable. As much as Jordan wants to be optomistic about it, I can't think of many things more bleak than a 3-month median survival rate. Hell, for all I know, he's dead already and I just haven't searched well enough for the info. God knows that if he's still alive at this point he's past that 3 month point and I'm certain the last thing on his mind is finishing up more books.

I guess I really should find some new authors to read. It's not a surprise that as I get older my favorites will pass away with time.
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Fun with Full Metal Jacket

There is no racial bigotry here. I do not look down on niggers kikes wops or greasers. Here you are all equally worthless

You had best unfuck yourself or I will unscrew your head and shit down your neck

How tall are you, private?
Sir, five-foot-nine, sir!
Five-foot-nine, I didn't know they stacked shit that high. You trying to squeeze an inch on me somewhere, huh?
"Sir, No Sir.
Bullshit! It looks to me like the best part of you ran down the crack of your mama's ass and ended up as a brown stain on the mattress. I think you've been cheated. Where the hell you from anyway private?
Sir, Texas, Sir.
Holy dogshit! Texas! Only steers and queers come from Texas Private Cowboy and you don't look much like a steer so that kinda narrows it down. Do you suck dicks?
Sir, No Sir.
Are you a Peter Puffer?
Sir, No Sir.
I bet you're the kind of guy that would fuck a person in the ass and not even have the god damned common courtesy to give him a reach around. I'll be watching you.

Who said that? Who the fuck said that? Who's the slimy little communist shit, twinkle-toed cocksucker down here who just signed his own death warrant? Nobody, huh? The fairy fucking godmother said it. Out-fucking-standing. I will PT you all until you fucking die. I'll PT you until your assholes are sucking buttermilk.

How can you shoot women and children?
Easy... you don't lead 'em so much.

Private Joker, do you believe in the Virgin Mary?
Sir, no, sir!
Well, well, Private Joker, I don't believe I heard you correctly!
Sir, the private said "no, sir," sir!
Why you little maggot, you make me want to vomit!
You Goddamn communist heathen, you had best sound off that you love the Virgin Mary, or I'm gonna stomp your guts out!
Sir, NEGATIVE, sir!
Private Joker, are you trying to offend me?
Sir, NEGATIVE, sir! Sir, the private belives any answer he gives will be wrong and the Senior Drill Instructor will only beat him harder if he reverses himself, SIR!

This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy, who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will. Before God I swear this creed: my rifle and myself are defenders of my country, we are the masters of my enemy, we are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen.

This is my rifle, this is my gun.
This is for fighting, this is for fun.

Are you quitting on me? Well, are you? Then quit, you slimy fucking walrus-looking piece of shit. Get the fuck off of my obstacle. Get the fuck down off of my obstacle. Now. Move it. I'm going to rip your balls off, so you cannot contaminate the rest of the world. I will motivate you, Private Pyle, if it short-dicks every cannibal on the Congo.