How the Genre Community Restored My Faith in Humanity

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On January 10th, Catherine Schaffer and Mary Robinette Kowal organized a fundraiser to raise money for a genome sequencing procedure for fellow writer, Jay Lake.  Lake, as you might know, has been battling cancer for years, and recently received some terrible news about his future.  Having this procedure done could very well suggest new treatments that could extend his life.  The fundraiser offered a lot of amusing perks for different goal levels — Paul Cornell, for example, offered to sing “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush (goal reached!):

You can find many of the other amusing examples, from ancient trunk stories to Mary Robinette Kowal’s amazing rendition of “Mother Goose” in her “phone sex” voice.

Needless to say, the cause is a good one.  When I had the fortune to have Jay Lake on my podcast last year, he shared a great deal about his personal life, which had the effect of convincing me that I should write about my own travels with cancer (which I started here).  While it’s not fair to offer up one of those “if anyone deserves it” statements (almost everyone deserves the right to a long, healthy life, as far as I’m concerned), I have to admit that I’m extraordinarily happy that so many wonderful people stood up to raise money for Jay.

And that fundraiser has, at the time of writing this post, raised over $36,000 in under 48 hours, with numerous bits of joy added on as previously unexpected financial heights were reached (the fundraiser has now become a way to help Jay pay for his medical bills).  I imagine Jay is overwhelmed for very good reasons.  After all, the community came out en mass to help him get a potentially life-saving procedure he otherwise couldn’t have afforded.  I can imagine he’s ecstatic and emotional over this.  I would be too if I were in his position.

But I’ve found myself overwhelmed too, for different reasons.  Folks who know me have been, shall we say, gifted to my perpetual cynicism about our culture.  Barely 12 hours before this fundraiser went live, I recall telling my friend, Adam Callaway, that our culture is a painfully selfish one, and that we are capable of so much good if we could only get over our desperate need to hoard wealth and back-stab one another.  I still believe that, but the enormous success of this fundraiser (one that still has a month left) has made me realize that there is a strong pocket of what I’d call “true humanity” right here in the genre community.

That so many people who don’t even know Jay would pour out their support for him, and at such a rapid pace, has taught me that maybe I shouldn’t be so cynical about everything.  After all, fundraisers happen all the time, for very good causes, and some raise massive amounts of money too.  The genre community is relatively small, though.  The people offering to embarrass themselves in public or donating their money have done something extraordinary, as they have done many times before.  This time, it was too obvious to ignore.  Too big.  Too amazing.

That’s more or less how the genre community restored my faith in humanity.  You’ve shattered my view of the world in all the right ways.  And I thank you for that.

For those who haven’t helped yet, please head on over to the fundraiser for Jay and give a little money.  The stretch goals have since been, well, stretched to the $100,000 mark, in which someone will produce a Jay Lake musical (after Howard Taylor draws a picture of Jay beating the crap out of cancer).  I’d love to see that musical, and I’d love to see Jay ride out the rest of his life with a little less stress.  Go donate!

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

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