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I've moved my LiveJournal to dreamwidth and will probably closing this one down eventually. Or not.

Avastin, mateys!

Just a quick note to let people know that last Friday I had my first infusion of Avastin. I'll be getting these every two weeks going forward. Avastin is an artificial antibody that attacks the blood vessels that supply cancer tumors with sustenance, and thus prevents them from growing and spreading. The tech who started the infusion for me said that the drug is designed to seek out chemical markers for cancer, so it doesn't attack healthy tissue. They said the main side effect is usually elevated blood pressure, although they warn you that all kinda of bleeding problems, including strokes, happen in rare cases. So far, I'm experiencing no problems.

The goal, as briefly discussed with my neuoro-oncologist after I had the MRI done on Tuesday, is to make sure the tiny tumors don't grow while I'm traveling in the next month (first to Corflu outside LA at the end of April, and then to Micronesia for three weeks in May). When I get back from that it sounds like they'll be putting me on another form of chemo too, simultaneous with the Avastin. And of course I've still got the Optune glued to my head. It sounds like I could also try some clinical trials if I wanted to, but I can't say I'm too thrilled by the idea of being a guinea pig right now.

Ah well, friends have been stepping up to divert me from my woes, and next week I'm going out to my sacred place (the Olympic National Forest) with my cancer buddy Kristal for at least a couple of days. It's discouraging that the cancer has already returned, but life's not over yet, I'm actually still in pretty damned good shape, and I can always dream that other treatments will be more effective. Go, Avastin!

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And I was not magnificent

As some of you have no doubt heard through the grapevine (and others no doubt have not), I got my first post-chemo MRI yesterday, and the results were not good. They found tiny dots of cancer in the area where the tumor used to be, and, much scarier, they also found tiny dots of cancer on the other side of the well of spinal fluid in the center of the brain. That's a new location. My neuro-oncologist isn't sure whether it was still in the area hit by radiation, or on the edge of that, or outside the radiation treatment area entirely. Determining that is one of the first things she wants to do, because it will help her decide whether to advise me to get further radiation treatment or not.

Further treatment of various kinds is definitely going to happen. They are pushing to get me onto an IV drug called Avastin, which is the standard treatment for when GBM returns after the first-stage treatments. I don't fully understand how Avastin works, but I believe Dr Taylor said it attacks the blood vessels in the cancer. It's injected every two weeks, and if they can get it approved by my insurance company I'll take the first dose on Friday. Supposedly the most common side effect is elevated blood pressure, but there's a whole list of horrific side effects that are less common. The blood seeping out of my left nostril this morning is likely because my platelet count has crashed, according to the nurse I just talked to.

None of this was what I was expecting to be facing when I went in for the MRI and consultation yesterday. I thought I was going to be told that I was done with treatment (other than the Optune) for the foreseeable future. Instead I was essentially told that the past fifteen months of treatment didn't work, or was only a temporary restraint, and now we get to try some different treatments. The immediate goal is to prevent the tiny dots of cancer from growing and spreading. If that happens, there's danger that I will start to lose my cognitive abilities and physical coordination and/or start having seizures again. The hope is that we can stave the cancer off long enough for me to make my long-anticipated trip to Yap in May.

Probably needless to say I'm feeling deeply discouraged. All the talk of surviving onto the long tail now seems like a complete fantasy. Now I need to ask my friends to let me know if they observe me acting in an erratic way, and life begins to seem like a race against the cancer eating into my ability to think and communicate. If I can make the trip to Yap, I'll likely be trying another form of chemo when I get back. As for radiation, not only do I really, really NOT want to do more radiation, I question whether there's any point, considering that I've got cancer in the area they treated previously.

Ah well, no reason to worry myself to death right now. There's time to figure out what the next steps are, but I am, as the Little Feat song has it, sore displeased. Sorry to bear these bad tidings.

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The Two of Them by Joanna Russ

Russ The_Two_of_Them.jpg
She thought that it wasn't David, it wasn't even sex; it was some kind of deeper trouble, not only painful but unbearably, exasperatingly boring, something that would've been a lot better if it had been tragic and easier if it'd been sad.

Something unbearably disillusioning.

And old. Very, very old.


I've been working my way through a couple of different lists of Best/Favorite science fiction by women in Gwyneth Jones' Imagination/Space, mostly recently Tiptree's Up the Walls of the World and McIntyre's Dreamsnake. For Joanna Russ, Jones quite rightly recommends The Female Man, but because the Tiptree and McIntyre were both published in 1978, I chose to re-read The Two of Them, which was also published in 1978 and has long been one of my favorite Russ novels. I've always found it a difficult novel, and it's hard to imagine that I could provide a better reading of it than Jones' "Postscript to A Fairy Tale," which finds in the novel a Cinderella story and a parable of the failure of what's now called second wave feminism to achieve gender equality.

The Two of Them begins with two agents of the Trans-Temporal Agency, Ernst and Irene, arriving on a hollowed out asteroid that houses a neo-Islamic culture where women are treated like ornamental birds in a cage, supposedly for their own protection but really to keep them under control. What Ernst and Irene's mission is, and what the nature of the Trans-Temporal Agency is, is left unclear, but when Ernst and Irene discover the twelve-year-old daughter of the emmisary who greets them and discover that she wants to be a poet but will never be allowed to in this culture (where her aunt Dunya was declared insane for wanting the same thing), we flash back to Irene's adolescence as a bright, awkward, misfit in the USA of 1953. This is pretty clearly an autobiographic element in the story, and I feel that Russ used a similar situation in her Alyx story, "The Second Inquisition." Like the girl Zubeydeh, Irene is unhappy with her options in a culture that is repressive of women like her housewife mother. When a mysterious friend of her mother's named Ernst shows up at the house, Irene is fascinated and soon finds out that he is an agent of a mysterious agency that exists somewhere in an alternative reality. (It seems to me that the agency is not Trans-Temporal so much as Trans-Reality, where Reality conforms to the Many Worlds Hypothesis).

Back in the neo-Islamic asteroid, we find out that Ernst recruited Irene into the agency, rescuing her from the limited future she was facing in her home reality, and that they have been lovers and colleagues in the agency for many years since then. They have a very close, loving relationship, and when Irene decides that she wants to rescue Zubeydeh by recruiting her as Ernst recruited Irene, Ernst is willing. But as Irene mulls the situation, she realizes that rescuing Zubeydeh doesn't accomplish much. What about Zubeydeh's pill-popping housewife mother, who seems to prefer her cage to freedom, or her mad aunt, or Irene's own mother left behind in the home timeline, or her disabled best friend Chloe, who is so socially isolated that she lives vicariously through operas that Irene dismisses as heartless stories about women trapped and killed by social rules while men (especially the morally-ambivalent baritones) are free to have fun while they suffer.

The Two of Them is difficult partly because it's so conflicted. Irene is consumed by guilt for her failures and limitations. She wants women to be as free as men, but she can see that women are often their own worst enemies and complicit in their own oppression. The novel is also self-aware of its own contradictions. This self-awareness starts out as awareness that all stories are artificial, as Irene dissects the cliches of operas and the neo-Islamic poetic fables on TV on the asteroid. Trashy romances that Zubeydeh consumes with a passion and wants to eventually write herself. The fact that Irene and Ernst are moving between probabilities also emphasizes that in some ways they are choosing which story they want to inhabit, which in turn underlines the fact that the one we're reading about is just as arbitrary and full of plot holes as any of the others. Russ takes glee in mocking her own story, in fact, and examining the ways in which it doesn't make sense. Eventually a shocking death occurs, and the novel seems to start unraveling before our eyes, as Irene tries to fix it by imagining that it is a comedy instead of a tragedy.

Yet the nightmare of history won't allow Irene wake up in a comedy. Irene has to face the reality that the oppression of women is deeply engrained in the world and is always working against her, constraining her choices. Ironically, once she cuts herself loose from the agency, which she comes to see as a conspiracy against women, granting freedom to a select few such as herself while abandoning the rest throughout the multiverse, she loses all power of self-determination.

I've always found the end of the novel hair-raising, as Irene dreams of a dream of the mad aunt Dunya, about a valley of dry bones: "Innumerable skeletons are spread from wall to wall, and piled up immeasurably into the half-grey, half-lost rocky ceiling so far from any open love or light, are skeletons lying as they fell long ago in aeons-old attitudes of terror or flight, bones intermingled with bones, heaps of bones choking the dry watercourse and stretching back between the valley walls, a dry, silent carpeting as far as the eye can see." These are pretty clearly the bones of all the women who have died in servitude to men, and nothing in that valley has changed for a very long time. This is an expression of hopelessness and fear that true gender equality can never be achieved in the face of the long history of inequality.

But then, magically, a voice begins to whisper, "Shall these bones live!" and creates a breeze that begins to rustle through the bones, promising new life. I never really understood this ending until a couple of years ago when I discovered that it's a reference to a passage from Ezekiel, where Ezekiel has a vision of a valley of dry bones and then hears the voice of God, '“Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel."'

I'm still not sure what Russ intends with this reference. I don't think she believes gender equality will be wrought miraculously by a supernatural being. It seems more likely that the miracle will be caused by books like The Two of Them, in which women are given a voice, even if only a bare whisper. Of course, while Russ kept writing for a short while after this book was published, she all too soon fell silent herself. But of course Russ was a Jew and would have been well aware that throughout history the people of Israel have never long been free of oppression, enslavement and exile. There's a deep sense of pessimism in this book, for all the agile acrobatics and humor of the narrative. One thing I noticed this time through is that Irene is furious the whole time, but she is also aware that her anger causes her to make strategic and tactical mistakes. Looming over all of this is the question of whether sympathetic men -- such as Ernst -- can be allies in the project of equality, or whether we are doomed by our culture to keep replicating the same power relationships that our culture has stabilized for thousands of years. It's a powerful meditation, if ultimately a gloomy one.

Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre

Dreamsnake.jpegI don't find this novel in my book log, which I started in March 1979, which is kind of remarkable. It implies that I had already read it by that time, which is logistically possible because the hardcover was published in March 1978. But I couldn't afford hardcovers back then, so I either got it through the SF Book Club (May 1978) or borrowed it from a friend. The paperback didn't come out until June 1979. I read McIntyre's first novel, The Exile Waiting, in July 1979, and I'm pretty sure I read those two novels out of order. I don't remember for sure, but I probably met Vonda when I came to Seattle for Norwescon in March 1979, so it's interesting to consider that I had probably already read something by her by then.

In any event, my memory is that I had problems with Dreamsnake, although now having read it a second time it's hard to reconstruct what my objections would have been. I think I probably didn't understand some of the subtler things McIntyre was up to, and I probably found it lacking in the kinds of swashbuckling adventure I still looked for in those days. Not that there's no action in Dreamsnake, and in fact the kind of action there is is one of the subtle things McIntyre is up to.

This is above all a novel about snakes and horses. Earth is a post-nuclear holocaust wasteland, and other than one domed city that has contact with offworld aliens or colonists, which is what The Exile Waiting is about, people live an agrarian or nomadic life at very low tech levels, at least on the surface of things. For example, when they travel long distances they travel by horse, so horses are important characters in the story. I was thinking of it as a kind of post-apocalyptic Arcadia, because the nuclear catastrophe provides a kind of civilizational reset that allows McIntyre to explore some utopian or countercultural ideas about how things might bet organized more equitably. The setting is a little reminiscent of Suzy McKee Charnas' Holdfast series, or even Leigh Brackett's The Long Tomorrow.

As we follow the Healer, Snake, through this wasteland, we begin to learn that there's other tech at work, however. The Healers use genetically-engineered snakes to treat disease, specifically by modifying the venom glands to produce healing enzymes that are then injected into the patient via snake bite (ow!). The dreamsnake of the title is an alien life form that produces a venom that seems to be like an opiate in killing pain and causing people to enter a dreamlike state of consciousness. Amongst other things, it's used as palliative care for people who are dying a painful death. The crisis of the novel is that Snake loses her dreamsnake. Come to think of it, the primary use is probably to numb patients before they're bitten by the big snakes with the medicinal venom. Dreamsnakes are extremely difficult to come by, so her career as a Healer is in jeopardy. Snake sets off on a journey to try to solve the problem, and through her journey we learn more about this world.

Along with the genetic engineering, the post-apocalyptic people have also learned to control their own fertility through a mechanism that I'm not sure is fully explained. For men it's a matter of controlling the temperature of their testicles so that the sperm is killed. For women, one supposes they are either able to dissolve the ovum or block it from being released or something along those lines. One of the smart things McIntyre does is explore the ways that useful tools like this somatic self-control and the gentically-engineered snakes can be used badly or mistakenly. For example, people can become addicted to the dreamsnakes. This aspect of the novel reminded me of Sonczewski's A Door Into Ocean, which was published later.

There's also a connection between the two novels in the shared interest in nonviolent solutions to conflict. This is perhaps where my younger self would have been most out of step with Dreamsnake. The thing that McIntyre is inventing here is how to tell a dramatic story about a female protagonist in which the climax isn't the protagonist pounding the shit out of the antagonist. Throughout the novel she shows problems being solved through cooperation and consensus. The brilliant thing she does in the final climax is resolve the overriding crisis of the novel through cognitive breakthrough. Cognitive breakthrough is a common trope in science fiction, but it often comes on top of the protagonist pounding the shit out of the antagonist. McIntyre was part of a movement of New Wave and Feminist writers who challenged this paradigm, and she cleverly points out that cognitive breakthrough -- the scientific Eureka moment -- can work dramatically to replace the protagonist pounding the shit out of the antagonist.

Although I should add here that McIntyre does embrace one conventional heroic -- and indeed traditionally female -- trait: endurance. Like every Andre Norton protagonist ever, Snake is pushed to the limit of endurance and beyond. Her toughness and ability to take the pain is a token of her heroism, alongside her ability to solve the scientific problem.

Without getting into spoilers, the cognitive breakthrough in Dreamsnake also connects the novel to Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis trilogy, which was also published later. It's a brilliant stroke involving the explanation for how the dreamsnakes reproduce, and again, how human scientists failed to understand it for so long through their own cognitive biases. This is gripping stuff once you're attuned to it.

McIntyre is modifying a very traditional kind of science fiction story here. I can see why it won a Hugo, because it both embraces the conventional and tweaks it for the current moment. For example, group families are at least as old as Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy, and McIntyre rings some variations on it based on the counterculture of her time, from the polyamory of the Healers to the way that they don't marry or bear children but only adopt orphans. When one Healer adopts an orphan, the child becomes the responsibility of all Healers, and it will be raised to be a Healer.

On a final, personal note, I have to say that throughout this review I've had to fight the inclination to refer to the author as Vonda rather than McIntyre, because I do know her and consider her a friend. I have one of her awesome bead creatures sitting right here on my desk. [Stops to fondle bead creature.] I was frequently distracted while reading the book by the fact that some of the characters were clearly based on other people I know, or at least people like them. Maybe that's another reason I liked it better the second time around. It's not that I was in it, but my friends were.

Goodbye, Chemo

I think it's worth noting that I have taken my last dose of chemo, hopefully for the rest of my life. My brain surgery was on December 10, 2016, so it has been over a year of treatment that knocked the crap out of me. Surgery, radiation+chemo, then twelve months of chemo. The chemo was on a 28 day cycle, so more of a lunar month, really. I should look into whether it really is some kind of witchcraft.

Anyway, I'll continue to use the Optune for the time being, but it doesn't make me feel like crap. The pattern of the chemo in the past few months was that I'd take it for five days, and then the nausea would kick in after the last dose, sometimes a couple days after. My neuro-oncologist said that this was a normal development as the body got more saturated with the chemo over time. This round I started feeling nauseated enough after my third dose that I began taking extra anti-nausea medication during the day. (Usually I just took the anti-nausea meds right before I took the chemo and went to bed.) Based on my last two rounds, I have five or so days of nausea ahead of me, and then I hope I can stop taking so many damned pills and start the recovery process. My previous neuro-oncologist said it could take a few months for me to get back to my status quo ante. I'm hoping I have a head start, but we shall see.

In the meantime, hallelujah, and get thee behind me, chemo! You will not be missed.

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After the Heat

Yesterday was a milestone of sorts. I saw an oncologist (not my new neuro-oncologist, but a sweet old medical oncologist who is filling in now and then during a transitional period), and he gave me the okay to start my twelfth and final -- FINAL! -- round of chemo. Yes, friends, fourteen months (nearly fifteen) since the tumor was discovered, the treatment phase is almost over. Amen, and hallelujah, brothers and sisters! I took the first dose of the chemo last night, and I'm not really feeling the effects yet. No doubt I'll soon enough be feeling fatigue and nausea. In the meantime, it's hard not to anticipate the celebration to come.

So I've started thinking about how I want to celebrate. One thing I've been dreaming of for a long time is getting back out to La Push for some nature therapy, and fortunately I have a friend who appears willing to take me out there. I may even be able to drive a little on this trip. (I haven't driven at all since the tumor was found, although I was legal to do so once it had been six months since the last seizure.) Other than that, should I throw a party? If nothing else it would be a good excuse to clean my room, which is another thing I haven't done since the tumor was found. It's pretty gross in here! So that's a good possibility, maybe in early April.

In late April I'll be going to Corflu in the LA area (arriving Thursday, departing Monday), which will be my first convention since Sasquan in August 2015. A week after getting back from that I'll be flying with my brother and his family out to a couple of islands in Micronesia. We're going to stop in Pohnpei to visit the mysterious stone city of Nan Madol -- the site, amongst other things -- of entry into the subterranean world in A. Merritt's The Moon Pool. Then onward to Yap for a couple of weeks. These are bucket list things to do. A last trip to Yap was the first thing I thought of when I started thinking about a bucket list.

Budget permitting, I hope to visit friends on the East Coast later in the year, and I hope to travel to Belgium and the UK in 2018. When I'm not traveling, I hope to be writing. The first writing project is to finish rewriting my TAFF report and to finally get it published. Another thing I'll probably work on at some point is to pull out all my LJ and Facebook posts about post-tumor life and see whether/how they read as a story. I had been thinking about putting together another collection of my fanwriting, but that seems less pressing at the moment.

Some of you may be wondering whether my treatment will really be over once the chemo is over. It's true that I will be given the option of continuing to wear the Optune. I've been told that it will be my choice, but I'll need more information and guidance before I make a decision about it. It's definitely a ball and chain to deal with, and so far there isn't enough data to draw any clear conclusions about how much additional time it would give me, especially as the way it's being used has been evolving. Anyway, I'll be getting an MRI in the middle of March to establish a post-chemo baseline, and I'll talk to my neuro-oncologist then about the Optune and quality of life.

There is still a fairly long list of practical/legal matters I've been putting off until after treatmen: a will; a living will; designating someone with power of attorney for me and someone to make medical decisions once I'm incapacitated. For now, however, I'm just going to think about celebrating the end of a long ordeal. Yippee-ki-yay!

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Sarah Gulde for TAFF!

I'm one of Sarah Gulde's TAFF nominators, and because the voting deadline is coming right up, we are taking the unusual step of posting the PDF of the new issue of Chunga (#25) before we've mailed out the paper copies. If you haven't made up your mind about who to vote for yet, please download the PDF of the new issue, read Sarah's delightful article about the Nerd Camps she's organizing in Portland and then read my endorsement in Tanglewood. Then download the ballot using the link on this page and vote! Instructions for how to vote online can be found on the ballot. Pay close attention to the eligibility requirements, because not everybody can vote for TAFF. Good luck, Sarah!

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In Gratitude by Jenny Diski

Diski In Gratitude.jpgThis book was recommended to me by ron_drummond. It's a cancer narrative of sorts, but it's also a memoir. Diski had a highly unpleasant childhood, with two dysfunctional and abusive parents, and an adolescence spent in and out of psychiatric institutions. Eventually, because she had gone to school with her son, Diski was invited to live with Doris Lessing, which she did for four years before Lessing decided she was a lost cause and kicked her out. Diski was the basis for Lessing's novel, The Sweetest Dream.

Diski eventually realized her childhood dream of becoming a writer and published a number of books, both fiction and non-fiction. In 2014 she was diagnosed with cancer and given two to three years to live. This book was the result of the diagnosis, and it was published in 2016 right before she died at age 68. I really struggled with it. I found her a very sour personality -- understandably so considering her difficult early life -- and I found her inability to reconcile herself to death strangely alien. (We'll see how that goes once my cancer really starts to eat me.) Her writing style is allusive in an almost stream of consciousness way, and I found the allusions hard to follow at times. I almost bounced off the book in the very first chapter, as she wrestles with how to write about cancer in a non-cliche way, going through all the conventional approaches that she desperately want to avoid. The self-consciousness was deeply unappealing.

Then, however, she moved on to her life with Doris Lessing, which I found more interesting, even if neither she nor Lessing comes off as a person I'd want to spend time with. But ultimately I was impressed with her honesty and willingness to delve into difficult, unresolvable feelings. As Ron said, she explores the way that gratitude and ingratitude define each other, and she's never sentimentalizes the way in which her own feelings about Lessing and life shuttle back and forth between the two poles. I'm prone to irrational optimism and sentimental romanticism myself, which is one reason I really struggled with the book, but I think her relentless investigation of fear, depression, and mental illness was a reality check I needed to receive. Not everybody has the privilege of a sheltered upbringing or of a loving family and circle of friends. In this section Diski also writes about the famous people Lessing hobnobbed with. Suffice it to say that Idries Shah comes off as a creep and an asshole in her accounting, but R.D. Laing comes off better.

By the end of the book, her free associations had a kind of magical realism to them, tying together completely disparate ideas and alternative, if not contradictory, theories into a unique vision and response to the conundrum of her life. I doubt I'm capable of resisting the cliches as powerfully as she did, but I ended up admiring her for the ability to do so and for creating a vivid depiction of the people she knew and the crazy, messy era of sex and drugs, literary heavyweights and mental hospitals she lived through.
Upwallsworld_cover.jpgI had to look it up in my book log (fortunately it was near the beginning), but it turns out I read this novel before I read any of Tiptree's short stories. It appears that I read it when the paperback came out in 1979. This time I read the first edition hardcover that I picked up used somewhere along the way. (Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons! Boy, that was a different era of publishing, wasn't it?) So it's funny that my memory was that I was disappointed by the novel. Apparently I wasn't disappointed because it wasn't as good as her short fiction but because I didn't think it worked as a novel.

That's the standard criticism of Up the Walls of the World, and it's justified. For example, it doesn't so much end as trail off, with the characters still ferociously imagining multiple alternative futures for themselves. Tiptree tries to finesse this by having the last viewpoint character conclude, "Let's try it all!" It's not a bad hand wave, because what the characters (and the reader) gradually realize over the course of the novel is that the characters are now facing eternity.

Which is to say that what Up the Walls of the World lacks in structure it makes up for in sheer scale. It's as if Tiptree told herself, "I'm writing a bigger story, so I'm going to expand my speculative scope accordingly." It's pretty literally epic in scale. At times it reminded me of the Star Trek original series episode about the planet destroyer and at others the first Star Trek movie about V'ger. The novel opens with a chapter from the point of view of an absolutely enormous but nebulous space-roving entity that thinks of itself as an evil murderer. I vaguely remember that when I first read the novel I didn't like the use of all-caps to represent the voice of this entity, which eventually becomes know as the Destroyer, because what it does as it roams through space is destroy star systems. I still think the use of all-caps is a clumsy, ugly way to represent vastness, but it certainly didn't bug me as much this time.

So we start big, and then we switch to the POV of a manta ray-like alien living in what seems to be something like the great storm of Jupiter located on an alien planet called Tyree. Tyree is in a star system that's undergoing attack from the Destroyer, and the aliens are desperately looking for a way to survive extinction. Part of what Tiptree has accomplished here is what Gwyneth Jones calls "some the most convincing non-humanoid aliens ... I've ever met." My only caveat is that the characters of the aliens still feel very human to me, and I'm not sure how it could be otherwise without staying out of their minds entirely. But the way they communicate with light and color, and the way they navigate through their environment, have sex, raise kids, perceive the world, all feel very different than any other aliens I've seen depicted in any format, rivaling the Jotoki in Donald Kingsbury's "The Survivor".

On top of these two bits of speculation we are then introduced to a group of humans who are part of a military test of psi powers. The central character in this group is a doctor who suffered a horrible loss in his past and has been self-medicating with opioids ever since. He is skeptical of the experiment, and worse he finds himself overly-sensitive to the pain all of the experimental subjects feel. He falls in love with a black computer scientist, but she is very distant and hard to approach, having suffered a traumatic injury in her own past. The band of experimental subjects is quite various and outstandingly characterized, from the paranoid, to the motherly, to the lesbian couple who are a mix of exuberant and victimized. The only thing all the experimental subjects have in common is pain and fear and lives lived as outcasts, because they are freaks of nature.

Jones says the novel is in a different mode than the short stories -- "a joyous and starry-eyed sf." It's true, but it still has a heavy serving of Tiptree's signature anguish, not least in the genocidal annihilation perpetrated by the self-hating Destroyer, but also more intimately in the fears, injuries, and losses suffered by the Tyreens and the humans. It's one of those stories about endurance of extreme suffering in the cause of a greater vision. That vision does end up being "starry-eyed," but not till the very end. Still, the sheer spectacle of the frantic, star-spanning action and the incredible world-building were enough to keep me happy through all the anguish. The awkward interaction between the aliens and the humans is very smartly portrayed, as is the gradual way they incorporate each other into a new community. This is widescreen baroque SF at its finest, despite the structural problems. As Jones notes, it's also a good example of an ethical solution to the problem of power that doesn't involve domination and exploitation. Echoes of Star Trek in that too?

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