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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Rampant Loon Press Status Update • by Bruce Bethke

Hang on. This gets very personal.

Funny thing, how you can spend most of your life with someone and still wind up with very few photos of the two of you together. We have lots of photos of one of us in someplace interesting, doing something with one or more of the kids or grandkids. But photos of me and Karen together, in the same place, at the same time?

They’re pretty rare. 

I kind of like that one over there to the right → . It was shot last year by our friend Dan Christy, on some barren volcanic landscape somewhere in Iceland. It wasn’t quite the photo I was hoping to use today: that photo would have been the one shot as we were standing in front of Something-or-other-Foss—in Icelandic, “foss” means waterfall, which is why so many Icelandic place-names end in foss; the island is just loaded with waterfalls—and it was taken on a beautiful bright and sunny day, with a wonderful sort of rainbow bridge effect shimmering in the air behind us, because of the sunlight shining through the mist. Unfortunately the nice young lady who volunteered to snap the photo of us wasn’t completely solid on the operation of my phone’s camera, so that photo exists only in our memories of the moment, and to some small extent in the reflection in the left lens of her sunglasses...

Longtime friends of Stupefying Stories know that Rampant Loon Press has always really been the Bruce & Karen Bethke show. A lot of good friends and terrific volunteers have come and gone over the years—and we are profoundly grateful for all their generous contributions of time, energy, labor, and imagination—but while the public face of the operation has always been me, Bruce Bethke, award-winning and intermittently world-famous author, literary genius, etc., etc., everyone here knows that Karen Bethke has always been the backbone, moral core, at times master chef (see “Feeding the Muse”), and not insignificantly, CFO of the operation.

Longtime friends also know that the fortunes of Stupefying Stories have ebbed and flowed in direct relation to Karen’s ongoing battle with metastatic breast cancer. Last Fall we were flying high, having received the news that the Big C was beaten back and she was officially in remission. We immediately planned and got to work on an ambitious Fall, Winter, and Spring publishing schedule, eager to make up for lost time.

By December, though, things had gone wobbly again. My big project in Paying Work World was growing out of control, eventually taking on both the size and personality of an ill-tempered kaiju. Karen, in the meantime—well, something wasn’t right, although the diagnostic tests said she was imagining it.

In time I got the work project under control and delivered, although it took far more time and effort than originally planned. In a completely unexpected turn of events, my work on that project got me forwarded to—well, let’s call it “Project Voldemort,” because I’m never supposed to say it’s name out loud. This is a project in which even the code names have code names. All I can say about it at this time is that it’s huge, and it’s a paradigm-changer, and depending on how it goes it will be either the capstone or the headstone on my forty-year computer industry career.

Which turns out to be damned lucky, because now we get to the part of the story that only our close family and closest friends have known until now. (And I thank Eric Dontigney for his discretion thus far.) It turned out that Karen was right, and the diagnostic tests were not. Her cancer is back. She’s just completed a course of daily radiation treatments and has been switched to a newer and even more exotic medication regimen. Before insurance, one drug alone costs $18,853.25 for a one month’s supply.

(It’s the $0.25 that gets me. When you’re talking about nearly nineteen grand for a one month’s supply, why quibble over small change? Just round it to the nearest hundred, okay?)

As you might expect, this turn of events triggered quite a bit of discussion around here.

In the end, though, we decided that this development was not a dream-killer, just the latest in a series of irritating setbacks. We still believe in Stupefying Stories and Rampant Loon Press. Granted, RLP is not going to become that cheerful little retirement hobby business we’d both always hoped it would become—there is no way I can afford to give up my corporate medical benefits now—but as Karen has been reading through nine years of back issues, short-listing stories for our Best of Stupefying Stories reprint anthology, she continues to surprise me by unearthing gems by writers who we were the first—or one of the first—to publish, who have since gone on to become award-winning authors or have major careers. Clearly, we have been doing something right all along.

Which means it’s now time to pick up where we left off, apologize for the delay, thank you for your patience, and carry on.

Per aspera ad astra!

Thanks for your support,
Bruce & Karen Bethke

P.S. And if you really want to support a worthy cause, Karen asks that you check out the Angel Foundation.



Mark Keigley said...

Here's hoping some things get more settled for both of you in the best ways possible!

GuyStewart said...

Know that Liz and I continue to hold you up in our prayers and we have friends who are praying for both of you ONLY as "the friend of Guy's whose wife is being treated for MSBC -- and for his strength as well".

We care and we are here for whatever you might need.


Jason Wittman said...

When I did my taxes and determined that the Minnesota Dept. of Revenue owed me $0.74, they had the decency to round it up to a dollar.

Better luck to you and your wife, Bruce.


Liz said...

Karen - you helped me so much, it would have been way worse for me without you. I will pray for your strength and courage to fight. I am here for you.