Sequencing a Science Fiction Writer
February 17, 2013 1:40 PM   Subscribe

Campbell-award winning science fiction writer Jay Lake has cancer. His prognosis at this point is not good, but there is a distant hope - cancer genome sequencing. This is an expensive process, so the science fiction community got together and held a fundraiser, volunteering "Acts of Whimsy" as rewards for various monetary goals. The results were whimsical indeed.

The rewards were many and varied. Among the more amusing:

- Embarrassing juvenilia from Tobias Buckell, Jim C. Hines (recently on Metafilter,) and Patrick Rothfuss

- A variety of performance art, embarrassing to greater and lesser degrees: Mary Robinette Kowal reading the first lines of beloved classics in the style of phone sex, Paul Cornell singing, or perhaps "singing," Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights," Mefi's Own John Scalzi performing a lost Bob Dylan song, and Seanan McGuire's Veronica Mars-fanfic Shakespearean play, "The Tragedy of Lillian Kane," performed as a radio play with an all-Squeecast cast. (MP3 download at Dropbox)

- Various less-categorizable whimsical acts: Stephen Gould agreed to run for SFWA president, noted Kilingon expert Lawrence K. Schoen delivers five pickup lines in the original Klingon, steampunk author Cherie Priest attempts to wedge her unenthusiastic pets into alternate-period finery.

The fundraiser hit 50% of its goal in about an hour, and, once PayPal was cajoled into unfreezing Lake's account, ultimately reached 243%. Jay was, and is, most grateful.
posted by restless_nomad (16 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
God PayPal.
posted by JHarris at 1:51 PM on February 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Well, they're consistant.

Bummer to hear about Jay Lake's illness, he seems like a great guy.
posted by Artw at 2:03 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just discovered Jay's writing in the last few months. I hope he gets well soon so he can get back to producing great work.
posted by deathpanels at 2:23 PM on February 17, 2013

I research human genomics and people in my lab work on cancer genome sequencing.

Cancer genome sequencing has a lot of promise, but in 2013 it's not going to help you unless you already have top-flight oncology genomics researchers committed to working on your problem (like the example at WashU). And if you did, you wouldn't need $20,000, because they would be able to cover most of it from their own infrastructure and resources.

Also, his sequence is not going to be useful to science. There is a lot of magical thinking here.

That said, Jay is blessed to have such wonderful friends.
posted by grouse at 2:29 PM on February 17, 2013 [16 favorites]

Why did Paypal suspend his account? It's not clear tome from the links. Obviously they didn't have a good reason but what gives?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:55 PM on February 17, 2013

posted by mephron at 4:02 PM on February 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

An account coming out of nowhere and getting a whole ton of money transferred into it quickly is a red flag for PayPal. Which is not unreasonable, but they have a habit of jumping straight from "red flag" to "okay, freeze it and ban everybody" without an intervening human thought.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:08 PM on February 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Two interesting questions:

1) Are cancers genetically homogenous? I mean, it's doubtful that even healthy humans have identical genomes throughout their entire body (even without chimerism) but I'd imagine cancers are even more diverse.
2) Is there thinking along the lines of gene therapy for cancers? That'd be quite targeted cell death.
posted by effugas at 5:22 PM on February 17, 2013

Are cancers genetically homogenous?


it's doubtful that even healthy humans have identical genomes throughout their entire body

It's certain that they aren't. At the very least, immune cells undergo VDJ recombination.

Is there thinking along the lines of gene therapy for cancers?

Here's a review on the field.
posted by grouse at 5:49 PM on February 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

posted by Mblue at 6:25 PM on February 17, 2013

Bummer to hear about Jay Lake's illness, he seems like a great guy.

He is. I sold a story to him once in an anthology he edited. As an editor, he was great to work with. Generous and patient -- great qualities not only in an editor, but in human beings in general.
posted by New England Cultist at 6:44 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, serious bummer. He and I have been long regulars on the Forteana mailing list and have exchanged a few cordial words. He seems to be a very civilized individual, he's certainly a fine writer, and I'm very sorry this happened to him - though I'm glad people are stepping up to help him!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:55 PM on February 17, 2013

I'm glad people are stepping up, but I wish we had a health care system here that meant this kind of fundraiser wasn't necessary, and that working in a creative field (art, music, writing) didn't mean you needed patronage to get sick.
posted by immlass at 9:03 AM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah. This particular fundraiser is actually a little unusual in that it's for long-shot experimental stuff, not basic medical care, because Lake has a day job and insurance (although it will certainly help with the quite large co-pays.) But it's not really specific to his situation as an artist, although that certainly gives him a more entertaining class of friends.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:46 PM on February 18, 2013

Thanks for your reply, grouse!
posted by effugas at 12:53 AM on February 19, 2013

Jay talks to the computational biologist - discussing a little bit what they're looking at, what the state of the art is, and what it means for treatment. Neat! (Although it doesn't really disprove anything grouse said.)
posted by restless_nomad at 7:29 AM on March 7, 2013

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