RIP, Rachel Caine

Rachel Caine passed away last night. I have twenty-three books by her in the house, with one preordered (what I assume will be the final book in the excellent Stillhouse Lake series) and three more freshly ordered and on the way, as I decided to get off my ass about finishing the Great Library books. That’s without having read anything from what’s probably her best-known work, the fifteen-book Morganville Vampires series. And once those incoming four are all in the house I might have half of her books; the total is approaching sixty, many of them bestsellers.

She is, by any measure, one of my favorite authors– I probably have more books by Stephen King and I might have more books by Seanan McGuire, who is similarly prolific– but that’s it.(*) Rachel had already survived a battle with breast cancer earlier in her life and was diagnosed … last year? Earlier this year? Fairly recently, one way or another, with an aggressive soft-tissue sarcoma that finally took her away from us last night. She’d been open on her various social media feeds about the cancer and the toll it was taking but was writing until very close to the end; recent tweets from her still refer to the forthcoming Stillhouse book as the “newest” in the series and not the “last.” Hell, for all I know she’s written three more of them and they’re just waiting to be published. She was fast enough; it wouldn’t really be a surprise. Various surgeries and chemotherapy didn’t work, and I suspect by the end she was going through something very similarly to what my mom had to endure for the last months of her life, where the wounds from ostensibly lifesaving surgery simply wouldn’t close up and heal. Her assistant more or less officially took over her Twitter feed on Friday, letting us all know that it wouldn’t be long, and the official notice that she was gone came this morning.

I never met Rachel; she was reasonably active on the con circuit so if she hadn’t gotten sick it probably would have happened eventually, but you can’t read eight thousand pages of someone’s work and not feel like you know them on at least some level. I think we would have gotten along pretty well, and one way or another, she will be missed.

Fuck cancer.

(*) It is literally hours later, and because this is exactly the type of nerd I am I eventually found myself unable to not determine this for sure. Total number of Seanan McGuire books: eighteen. First count of Stephen King books: at least 38, but his are spread throughout the house and are in a bunch of different types of editions and there are a few titles that we have more than one copy of because before marrying me my wife occasionally bought books on her own. I would not be surprised to discover that I missed as many as half a dozen, but that would probably be cancelled out by the ones we have duplicates of, so let’s say “around 40,” call it a day, and hope that my brain doesn’t demand further clarification at 4:00 in the morning.

RIP, Chadwick Boseman

I took a moment last night, before I told my wife what had happened, to hold my breath and double-check that the news of Chadwick Boseman’s death wasn’t a cruel fucking hoax. I found out on Twitter, which is where I find out when anyone dies nowadays, and it was amazing how my timeline went from whatever it’s usually about to 100% Chadwick Boseman in a matter of two or three minutes.

I don’t know what I would have said yesterday if you’d asked me how old I thought he was. I’m weird about celebrities; I tend to assume that anyone who isn’t obviously a teenager is older than me even if that doesn’t quite make sense. Chadwick Boseman was 43; a little bit over a year younger than me. And he has been battling colon cancer for basically as long as I’ve known he existed. And no one knew about it.

He had colon cancer while he was filming Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame and three or four other movies that I haven’t seen and no one knew about it. There were some recent pictures circulating where he’d clearly lost an unhealthy amount of weight; I hadn’t seen any of them, and whatever speculation might have been floating around never crossed my radar, so this was a bolt out of the blue.

It hit me harder than I might have guessed it would, and my head was all over the place to the point where I took one of my emergency Bad Brain Day pills before going to bed. Just one more way in which 2020 has been awful. This will be all my students want to talk about on Monday, too, and I feel terrible for my black students in particular, who have just had one of their genuine heroes torn away from them.

… he had cancer the whole fucking time, guys. I can’t wrap my head around that. The whole. fucking. time. And he’s younger than me. And no one even knew he was sick.

I just … I still can’t cope with it. Fuck this. Fuck cancer, and fuck 2020, and fuck cancer again.

Rest in power, sir.

RIP, Richard Ira Siler, 1935-2020

One of the odder changes in my life since the coronavirus became a thing is that I’ve become the type of person who scans the obituaries every couple of days. It’s rather surprising how many people I’ve found that I know at least tangentially; the former owner of OtherJob, an occasional relative of a student, that sort of thing.

And today I came across Richard Ira Siler’s obituary, and … well, it raised an eye.

Luther Michael Siler, remember, is a pen name. Each of the three names is a family name; Luther is my paternal grandfather’s first name, Michael is my mother’s maiden name, and Siler is my maternal grandmother’s maiden name. As it works out, my great-grandfather’s name was Jesse Siler.

And damned if this gentleman doesn’t have a “J. Clifford Siler” as his father’s name and a “Jesse Jr.” among his brothers. I have seen Jesse Siler’s grave; he is buried next to his second wife (my great-grandmother divorced him, which must have been quite a thing back then) whose name is Minnie Jo Buck, according to her tombstone. Richard Siler’s mother’s name is Miriam Siler, according to the obituary; it doesn’t seem that much of a stretch that Miriam might have been called Minnie. My grandmother was born in 1917 and was the oldest child, so Jesse still having children in 1935 with his second (or possibly even third, as the family seems to have mostly lost track of him after the divorce) wife is entirely possible. Hell, my mom’s oldest sister and youngest brother are 17 years apart.

If I search the Internet for “Jesse C. Siler,” I find an ancestry.com link for “Jesse Clifford Siler,” too, so it seems entirely reasonable to believe that that’s the same guy, and further confirmation that “J” stands for “Jesse,” as if there’s any real chance that it wouldn’t given that there’s a Jesse Jr. in the family. I didn’t look any further, because I’m not signing up for ancestry.com at the moment, but I’m willing to take that as evidence enough, given what else we have in front of us.

So it looks like this guy was my (half?) first cousin once removed, or at least is reasonably likely to have been. I never met him and never knew he existed until about twenty minutes ago, but he seems to have been a lovely fellow. I hope his family is holding up as well as they can be under the circumstances, and may his memory be a blessing.

(The punch line: Great-grandpa Jesse’s first wife, my biological great-grandmother, was named Juanita. Her maiden name? Pence. My uncle assures me that he has dug into it and we are not related to That Pence, but it’s skeevy enough just that there’s a chance.)

(EDIT: The plot thickens. I just spent half an hour digging through a bunch of paperwork my dad gave me after mom passed away, and it looks like “my” Jesse Siler was Jesse Edward, not Jesse Clifford. J.E. Siler’s father was Harry, and it was his wife who was Minnie Jo. I don’t have any additional information about his family– no siblings or anything like that. I continue to think the guy is a cousin of some sort but the 1st-once-removed link now looks a bit less likely.)

(Also, George Washington Pence’s obituary, dated 1903, if I remember right, is a trip. I may try to get a good scan of it and post the whole thing.)

I don’t have it today

Losing John Lewis and C.T. Vivian in the same damn day was rough. I was not prepared to discover how much Lewis’ death, in particular, was going to fuck me up. Losing both of them in the same week where Grant Imahara died out of nowhere and Naya Rivera’s body was found after she drowned saving her child … which, like, I’m not really a Glee fan but that story is going to mess up anyone with children, right? That shit starts to border on unfair, or at least it would if it wasn’t already 2020 and literally everything in the world wasn’t fucked up as is. Oh, and the federal government is kidnapping people off the fucking streets in unmarked cars.

I’m trying to use the word literally less frequently but I feel like its presence in that previous paragraph is justified.

Point is, I’m not really all here today, and all I really have brain cycles for is rage and despair, and I’ve spent most of the day trying to ignore that and channel my nervous energy into fucking video games, which … could I at least channel it into, like, cleaning, or something to make me useful to my family in some way? No, apparently.

Go hug somebody. I don’t even care who; chances are they need it.

Mizu, 1998-2020

Mizu, frequently referred to here as the Great Old One, decided last week that eating wasn’t something she was especially interested in any longer, and I bowed to necessity and had to have her put to sleep yesterday afternoon. I got her right after starting graduate school in 1998; she was a kitten, having been born (in Japan, believe it or not) in March; I probably got her in September or October. She was 22 years old, was the first pet who was really mine, and has been with me for my entire adult life.

Despite how I usually react to these things, I’m finding that I don’t really want to talk about this one. I’m having a very hard time with this. I hope everyone understands.