The odds that you are reading this are slim. Very slim. I probably won’t finish writing it, but if I do, I almost surely won’t be brave enough to send it to you. If I am uncharacteristically brave, what then? I send it, and it never reaches you; it slips between the cracks of your magically real life and goes to Neverwhere — or wherever unread emails go to die.
So why am I writing it at all? I’m writing it for me, because I have to. But please be patient with me. It’s hard to type through the tears.
Two days ago, my brave, compassionate, quietly kick-ass sister Gretchen died. One minute she was Alive… and then she was Dead. My beautiful inside-and-out sister was beautiful no longer.
Death is not beautiful.
I think — how can I know? — that she didn’t tell us there was no hope for her surviving the cancer because she didn’t believe in no-hope scenarios. Or maybe she didn’t tell us so she could spare us weeks of pretending we weren’t already writing her eulogy, while she was still sitting there. Maybe she agreed to start the chemo just to gain a few precious weeks to get her affairs in order.
No maybe about it that she didn’t get that chance.
Let me tell you a few things about Gretchen, Neil. She couldn’t stand pity, or being pitiable. (She also couldn’t stand spelling mistakes or grammar gaffes, so if her spirit exists anywhere, in any spacey-wacey way, it’s sitting on my shoulder, clucking its timey-wimey tongue.) Because she couldn’t stand pity, Gretchen kept secrets. Sad, sad secrets. She shared a few with me. I will not be sharing them with you.
But some things she couldn’t keep secret, like the time she leapt out of her car, wielding pepper spray, to confront a man stabbing a pregnant woman on a San Francisco sidewalk.
The man turned to her, dropped the knife… and pulled out a handgun.
“Thank you,” he said to Gretchen, “you saved me.” Then he blew his own brains out, all over her. But mother and child were saved.
Another time, again in her car: A man approached the vehicle stopped ahead of her, shot the driver multiple times and ran off, but not before Gretchen burned his face into her long-term memory. Sadly, the woman at the wheel passed away while Gretchen comforted her, drenched in blood, waiting for help to arrive. But her murderer is in prison now, thanks to Gretchen’s testimony.
Gretchen has been:
- bitten by a rattlesnake (“It was just a baby,” she said!)
- hit by cars (twice. No, wait, three times!)
- “shocked” (toxic shock twice, and then there was that supermarket sample shrimp, eaten just to be polite…)
- nearly done in by countless other, unbelievable things
In fact, over the years, so many things, circumstances, and people have failed to kill Gretchen that I’d started to think of her as an immortal among us. Like she was secretly Captain Jack Harkness, or the (finally!) female Doctor Who. Like we were just her Companions. She couldn’t really be my sister, this tall, brown-eyed beauty in a family of blue-eyed children, could she? Genetics said she could, since our mom had brown-hazel eyes, but I’ve always had my suspicions that she was not of this world.
Since timing is everything, or everything is time (or time doesn’t exist, at least not right now), the first thing I saw on TV after Gretchen died — when I could bear to turn it on — was my favorite episode of Doctor Who. It was my favorite for all sorts of reasons, long before I knew that you’d written it.
Though I didn’t know it, it was just what I needed to watch in this space and time.
Neil, you are starting to understand why I’m writing this letter to you. In case anyone else ever reads it, though, I should probably elaborate:
Gretchen, large in life — “and getting larger all the time”, as she would so wryly have put it — was like your version of the TARDIS brought to life: beautiful, mathematically inclined, and much, much bigger on the inside.
Thank you, thank you for that, Neil. I will now always think of Gretchen as a sort of immortal TARDIS, moving through time and space, saving people and taking them where they need to go more often than where they want to go. I will always think of the magically real time I spent with her as “the time that we talked”.
How right you were, Neil. “Alive” is the saddest word “…when it ends.”
Greetings, troll watchers!
Please scroll down to watch Joss Whedon’s speech about why he supports this worthy cause — and if you watch from the beginning, you’ll get to see Meryl Streep introduce him! (It’s worth it.)
Thank you in advance to all the wonderful writers who are contributing troll stories for the anthology. And troll poems. And — who knew? — even troll haiku!
Our publisher, The Etling Press, is the brand new publishing division of the award-winning San Francisco design firm, Reflectur. They will handle all the nitpicky financial details, and at materials cost! The Etling Press is so new that they don’t even have a separate website or a logo yet. But Reflectur has many, many years of experience with pro-bono work for charity — and they have their own on-site events venue, The Box SF, in downtown San Francisco.
Tis still the season to blog under the influence. So, Ho Ho Ho. There’s a study to explain why we writers should all go out and play more. It’s all about Vitamin D and hobbits and fantasy bad guys. My conclusion? (Remember, I am blogging under the influence. Don’t do this at home):
Fantasy Evildoers are All Gay (says no study whatsoever).
No, really. No study whatsoever has ever found that to be the case. So it MUST be true.
The only thing better about this (following) study would have been if the U.S. government had paid for it, and Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin had had a cow over it. And then Sarah Palin shot the cow. And then she and Michele ate it. And then Peta and Greenpeace got involved, somehow, perhaps meeting at (or on) a holiday ice-breaker, with Pussy Riot as the entertainment. And then Vladimir Putin came riding in, shirtless, on a reindeer…
Cuz, you know, Vitamin D cures gay people. Especially hobbits.
I have reprinted just the abstract of the study. You know, the study that doesn’t say Vitamin D cures gay hobbits. Cuz, you know, lawsuits.
The hobbit — an unexpected deficiency
Joseph A Hopkinson and Nicholas S Hopkinson
Objective: Vitamin D has been proposed to have beneficial effects in a wide range of contexts. We investigate the hypothesis that vitamin D deficiency, caused by both aversion to sunlight and unwholesome diet, could also be a significant contributor to the triumph of good over evil in fantasy literature.
Design: Data on the dietary habits, moral attributes and martial prowess of various inhabitants of Middle Earth were systematically extracted from J R R Tolkien’s novel The hobbit.
Main outcome measures: Goodness and victoriousness of characters were scored with binary scales, and dietary intake and habitual sun exposure were used to calculate a vitamin D score (range, 0–4). Results: The vitamin D score was significantly higher among the good and victorious characters (mean, 3.4; SD, 0.5) than the evil and defeated ones (mean, 0.2; SD, 0.4; P < 0.001).
Conclusion: Further work is needed to see if these pilot results can be extrapolated to other fantastic situations and whether randomised intervention trials need to be imagined.
Read the rest of the post here! It’s fascinating. And there are hobbits!
(Why are you still here? I said read it! It’s not like you have anything else to do today.)