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THE BROKEN EYEBrent Weeks

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UNFETTERED should not exist.

Not in a perfect world. In a perfect world, cancer does not exist. And even if it does exist, in a semi-perfect world, there is adequate healthcare insurance covering fantastic healthcare.

Unfortunately, I found out how imperfect the world is in 2011 when I was diagnosed with Stage 3B Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

I was prepared for the cancer. I had been diagnosed ten years earlier with a far graver form of the disease.  I knew what to expect – the surgeries, the chemotherapy, the fatigue and sickness. In 2001, I beat the cancer, but I had to be a mentally tough bastard to do it.

I knew it would be no different in 2011. The cancer didn’t frighten me. But it was paying for treatment that became the real problem.

I live in the United States where, in my opinion, the healthcare system is broken. Due to my pre-existing cancer diagnosis, I did not qualify for health insurance. I would not be denied healthcare but that healthcare would have to be paid out of pocket. My treatment would cost about $200,000. I would undoubtedly have to declare medical bankruptcy, ruining my financial future for the next decade.

The bastard came to the fore. I knew there had to be a way out. While I went through treatment, I began asking my writer friends if they could donate short stories for an anthology I would sell to offset those medical costs.

UNFETTERED is the result.

The initial reason for UNFETTERED’s creation is merely the prologue though. It is an anthology featuring short stories by some of the best names in the fantasy genre. As the book’s title suggests, the writers were free to contribute tales of their own design. There was no theme; they were unfettered. Some wrote stories set in established worlds. Others used the freedom to try something new.

For instance, Patrick Rothfuss submitted an experimental poem, set in Kvothe’s Kingkiller Chronicle world. With the permission of the Robert Jordan estate, Brandon Sanderson donated a Wheel of Time piece originally written for A MEMORY OF LIGHT but one that did not fit the tone of the final book. Jacqueline Carey offered the unpublished short story that led to her bestselling Kushiel series. And Naomi Novik wrote an alternate history Temeraire story set – wait for it – on a different planet!

Mark Lawrence returned to his Broken Empire series with his anti-hero, Jorg Ancrath. Turning in possibly one of the most powerful – and longest – pieces in the anthology, Peter Orullian submitted a story about grief and music from the world of his debut novel, THE UNREMEMBERED. Artist Todd Lockwood exchanged paintbrush for keyboard, writing a short story set in the world of his forthcoming debut dragon novel.

And there are many more tales that are just as wonderful and unique as the anthology itself.

I have even contributed a second short story for this Orbit Books release.

As an extra thank you, if you will.

I am honoured to be the editor for UNFETTERED. But it goes beyond that. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by writers of such moral character that they would donate their words –their time – to help a friend in need. These are the writers you are reading and supporting with your book purchases; these are the people that make the world a better place.

With the success of the anthology, I’ve been given a platform, no matter how small, to help others.  I have a lot to pay forward. The line-up for the sequel to UNFETTERED is almost complete.  The second anthology will publish at Worldcon 2015 and all proceeds will go to help other writers and artists who need medical debt assistance.

With the Orbit Books release of UNFETTERED, I hope you find new favourite writers to read, to follow, and share.

If I had to do it again, UNFETTERED would still exist.

I hope you enjoy it.

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Shawn Speakman

All Orbit books by Shawn Speakman

  1. Michael J Sullivan

    February 28, 2014
    at 3:22 am

    Shawn,
    It was an honor and a pleasure to contribute to the first Unfettered and I’m so glad to help you and other authors who have more than enough on their plates battling the diseases they face. I’m thrilled with my submission for Unfettered the sequel and hope that it can do some more good work for an extremely important cause.

  2. Matthew Corton

    March 4, 2014
    at 9:00 am

    I hadn’t heard about this book until today but what a wonderful idea. I was diagnosed with tongue cancer four and a half years ago and am very thankful I live in the UK, where I’ve been treated for free. Thirteen years ago my best friend was diagnosed with lung cancer and I began writing my first novel, a fantasy novel called Withheld, as chapters to send her while she was recuperating. Thankfully she recovered – and ten years later I finished that novel during my own recuperation. Withheld is very much tied up with cancer from beginning to end – I felt it important to make something lasting from the illness other than my recovery. What you are doing is brilliant – my copy will be on order later tonight – I’m not in a position to offer much help as an indie author but if there’s anything I can do let me know.

  3. Shawn Speakman

    March 7, 2014
    at 9:56 pm

    Thank you for the kind words, Matthew. Your own story is inspirational as well! Glad you got to finish that novel. It’s almost like closing an entire chapter of your own life.

    And Michael, you are awesome to contribute to UNFETTERED 2 as well! Excited to work with you again. It makes me very proud to know you and the others who are contributing — who think beyond themselves and give selflessly.

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