The Sun Runners Cover Reveal

The Sun Runners CoverHere's a good thing that I can announce!

The Sun Runners, my YA science fiction novel that I've been writing these past few years, now has a home, an ISBN, a publication date (November 12), and a cover, thanks to Edward Willett, editor at Shadowpaw Press in Saskatchewan, and Bibliofic Designs (who, incidentally, have also designed the cover of Robert J. Sawyer's upcoming novel, The Downloaded). It also has a page on Amazon, though I highly recommend you reach out to your local independent bookstore and order it there.

I really love this cover, and I'm very pleased that Bibliofic Designs will be doing the cover for the accompanying anthology, Tales from the Silence. Work is coming together well on this anthology, with most of the guest stories submitted, and most of my stories ready (there's just a couple more that have to be finished up). I'll be launching a Kickstarter campaign in early-to-mid April to help production along, and give people a chance to pre-order copies, and I expect there will be plenty of work getting both books ready, and preparing for the publicity.

It's exciting to think about publicizing a new book once again. I'm proud of The Sun Runners. I think this book has really come together during the years I wrote and rewrote things. It's always scary sending your story out into the world to be judged by your readers, but I like this book. I found the darker tone to be a good challenge for me, and I like the characters. I hope you'll like the universe I set up of Future Earth. This series started with the opening line of, "For as long as she could remember, Her Highness the Crown Princess Frieda Koning had wanted to be an engineer", and it just didn't stop, until I encompassed Venus and Mars, and got a number of my friends and colleagues together to fill in the gaps. It's been a fun sandbox to play in, and I hope you'll enjoy these sandcastles of mine and my friends when these books are released on November 12.

Roller Coaster

You may not be surprised to learn that it's been kind of crazy here, such that I've not been able to write on this blog, or post in social media all that much. Frankly, it has been a crazy roller coaster here. There have been a lot of developments, some of them really good, some of them really bad, and not many that are middling. Even though the trajectory of our lives here has been mostly good, the intensity of these past few weeks has been such that it's drained a lot of energy out of all of us. I'm frankly grateful for the amount of writing I have been able to do.

At the end of January, my father was hit with a stroke. Very fortunately, we caught it early enough that the hospital was able to administer clot-busting drugs and he was able to regain a good 95% of his mobility the next morning. In the weeks that followed, there was an operation to ensure that the stroke didn't happen again, and then there was rehab. My father came back home on March 11, but still has to deal with some cognitive issues that mean no driving, and a fair amount of support at home. This is the new normal that takes a lot of energy to manage (including doing his laundry and getting him to his medical appointments), but I am very, very grateful that things are as they are, because they could have been much, much worse.

There are highs to go with these lows, but some of these I can't report on yet, or I can't report on them here, but let me say again that it has been an intense couple of months, and I feel we've been running it flat out. I'm taking Monday off to head into Toronto and just use transit. I need to take a walk I need a chance to breathe. And then I can come back to this new grind.

Thoughts and Prayers and Action

To put it mildly, it has been far too interesting a year, medically speaking, than one would hope for. Erin's dealing with the after-effects of Long Covid, which has included POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). I myself had emergency surgery to deal with a detached retina back in July, and only just finished the procedures to help ensure the same thing doesn't happen to the other eye. And then there's my father's stroke.

For the most part, we've come out the other side, but not at 100%. Erin's Long Covid is especially aggravating, and I can't help but blame the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers for it. The stress of the political ramifications, along with the stress of raising two teenage kids with autism. Well... it's a lot of stress.

Still, there are things I'm thankful for: clotbuster drugs, for one. The fact that we were so lucky to catch my father's stroke early enough that those clotbusters managed to restore 99% of his functions by the morning after his stroke is a big thing to be thankful for. The fact that surgery fixed most of my eyesight and I wasn't left blind in my best eye is another. The fact that we've all gone through the Canadian medical system and taken on some hefty procedures and were charged less than $500 for it in total (and most of that $500 was for hospital parking until I found that you could by a discounted pass), is possibly the biggest thing to be thankful of, of all.

I've greatly appreciated the thoughts and prayers that have come my family's way as we deal with these medical issues. It's fantastic to know that we have love and support from so many different quarters. But I also appreciate that, for its faults and underfunding, our medical system still works enough that we can receive critical medical care, and not be bankrupted by that. It's full of people who believe strongly in patient care, they just need more resources. And here is something where I hope that thoughts and prayers turn into something more.

There are politicians out there who want to take this system away, privatize the care and place the burden of its costs on individuals rather than the wider tax base. The solution to our under-resourced hospitals and our overworked doctors, nurses and other health care workers is to provide those resources. If that means raising taxes, so be it. Raise the fucking taxes.

Yes, I swore. This is how strongly I feel about this.

Every provincial and federal government that I've lived under for the past forty years (with the exception of Bob Rae, who gave us decent government, given the times) has lowered our taxes. Yes, especially Liberals. And we're far from the only country this has happened to (see also the United States and the United Kingdom). This explains why a lot of our government services are so much shakier than they were in the 1970s. Why are our public transit systems dirty, infrequent and falling apart? Why are our teachers harried and overworked? Why are we cutting corners on inspections? Because successive governments have starved our services of resources and many of them use that reality to paint government services as ineffective wastes that should be done away with.

Turning this around means that acknowledging that this mentality is a big cause of the problems, and voting accordingly. And, if you feel that governments haven't cut taxes, it's likely because the government hasn't cut your taxes. The overwhelming majority of the tax cuts brought in by Liberals and Conservatives have favoured those far richer than we are, who need that relief far less.

It's wrong to hope to save a few bucks of year at tax time, and then have someone bankrupted through no fault of their own because they happened to have a stroke and needed over a month of hospital care. And it's self destructive, because that someone could easily be you or someone you love. Even if it isn't, it's somebody who doesn't deserve that fate, and we have an obligation as a society to prevent that fate as much as possible.

As difficult as politicians make things out to be, the solution is simple: our taxes are too low. Our hospitals, our public transit systems, our schools, our infrastructure are underpaid, undernourished and underresourced, and that's a harsh burden for everybody to bear. Give them what they need now. Raise the taxes to cover it.


Image source.

Wow. (The Green Party takes Kitchener Centre by-election with 48% of the vote)

Wow. It looks like the Green Party took Kitchener Centre in the provincial by-election, defeating the NDP candidate who was a popular city councillor, and who was representing the party who'd held the seat last. The Greens appear to have 48% of the vote.

I credit this almost entirely to the Green Party ground game, which got out early and worked extremely hard. It probably helped to have Mike Morrice's support (the federal MP, also Green), but there's ground game, and then there's this result:

Aislinn Clancy (Green) - 10,490 (48%)
Debbie Chapman (NDP) - 5,732 (26.2%)
Rob Elliot (CPC) - 2,959 (13.5%)
Kelly Steiss (Lib) - 1,692 (7.7%)
Paul Simoes (New Blue) - 517 (2.4%)
Plus 13 also-rans, including the affable kook John Turmel, who got 11 votes and another notch in his belt. (Note that, as I write this, 90% of the vote has been tallied)

When you consider this result, and you consider Mike Morrice's rise in 2019 and victory in 2021, I'm beginning to think that the Greens are a force to be reckoned with in Kitchener. It used to be said that a dead dog would win this riding if it had "Liberal" stitched to its collar, but that's no longer the case. The riding is clearly progressive, and the Greens have built a local infrastructure of excited and dedicated volunteers and workers who will clearly get the vote out.

Congratulations to Ms. Clancy. I voted for you, even though I was initially going to vote for Ms. Chapman. Because I loved the campaign you ran. And my eldest, voting in their first election ever, also voted for you. And was the one who asked for your sign for our lawn.

On Doctor Who's 2023 Children in Need Special, and Soft Reboots

So, I was privileged to watch the recent Children in Need special mini-episode of Doctor Who, just in time for the show's sixtieth anniversary, and I realize now that it's been years since I've reviewed Who on this blog. So, why don't we do that? Normally, I'd warn about spoilers, but the episode is available on YouTube and only takes a few minutes of your time to watch, so watch it below:

There is not much to say, here, actually. The mini-episodes of the Children in Need episodes are typically light and somewhat comedic, serving as an appetizer for the feast to come (Doctor Who returns on November 25! Yay!), and this mini-episode serves up just what is needed. Everybody is in top form, and this madcap and somewhat silly presentation works for me. It certainly worked for my kids.

Then there's Davros, played here by Julian Bleach, who has played this role with aplomb throughout the show's revival, except wearing a lot less make-up, and without the Dalek chair. He is critical to this mini-episode, because his performance makes this episode. Even without the make-up and the chair, he is clearly Davros in his soul, and he is able to deliver some comedy without undercutting his menace. Because of his performance, we have a sense of history here. Most fans automatically assumed that we're seeing Davros before the accident that scarred him and put him in the Dalek chair.

However, producer Russel T. Davies notes that this isn't just a one-time thing. In an interview with Radio Times, he stated that it was his intention to redesign Davros, get him out of his wheelchair, and move away from the trope of disabled people being evil. And, fair enough. (Although, as an aside, Russell has also suggested that the Daleks need some resting, which suggests that this may be the only time we see Davros for a while, if at all. As a further aside, though: if Ncuti Gatwa doesn't face the Daleks at some point during his stint as the Doctor, it will be an unfortunate asterix to his career, so Russell had better make sure the Daleks return before Gatwa's Doctor regenerates).

But all this is why I think this mini-episode may be hinting at something deeper in the coming mini-series. We already have the mystery of why Jodie Whitaker's Doctor regenerated into a third David Tennant (and why the clothes changed with the regeneration, which never happened before). The trailers all suggest some mysterious influence is coming to wreck things, and Donna is somehow a part of that (is it the Celestial Toymaker's influence, or something more? We'll see).

Then, at around two minutes and forty seconds, the Doctor utters this line: "Stop it! Look! I was never ever here! Never! The timelines and the canon are rupturing. I'm just going to go."

It's a throw-away line, except, I don't think that it is.

At this point, Doctor Who is moving into a new production era, masked by the fact that it's being helmed by a returning Russell T. Davies. Disney is now the official co-producer and distibutor of the program outside of the United Kingdom, and it looks like they want to start fresh. The first series after the 60th anniversary specials will not be referred to as "Series 14", but "Season 1". These and other signals suggest that the new producers want to make Doctor Who more accessible for new viewers at this point, which means not over-burdening them with continuity. With timelines and canon rupturing, we may be looking at a series reboot.

Years ago, I'd have been horrified at this thought, but the series underwent a soft reboot in 2005, and we all know how well that turned out. And, if we're honest with ourselves, the show has been doing a soft reboot almost constantly. It's just that the show's writers and producers have been very good at capturing the core essence of what Doctor Who is, using what continuity can enhance each tale, but not being beholden to it. How many times have the Time Lords been wiped out, only to return? How many histories have been rewritten? And, this is Russell T. Davies at the helm. He's done this before, and there's no reason to think he can't do it again.

The good stuff of the past sixty years isn't going to be abandoned; Russell T. Davies has already stated that the Timeless Children and Flux plots will be acknowledged rather than just written away. But there's no way that Russell is going to treat the last sixty years of continuity as a set of shackles. Instead, he'll use it as a starting point, pick a direction from there, and go.

Seeing what I'm seeing here, he's excited about doing just that, and I'm excited to watch.

Silver Anniversary

james-and-erin-wedding-photo-3.jpegTwenty-five years ago from this moment, I was probably being ferried about, having photographs taken, and doing a whole bunch of other activities getting ready to walk down the aisle to get married to Erin. It is hard to believe that a quarter century has passed. As with most momentous events on one's life, looking back on it seems like yesterday, and forever ago simultanously.

So much has happened since that time. Two kids. Two houses. Several books. Grandparents who passed away. There have been triumphs and hardships and frustrations about how the world is.

But the fact that Erin is here gives me hope and comfort. She has been the bedrock of my soul, and I cannot imagine life without her. Whatever happens, as long as we're together, we'll be okay (fingers crossed).

I love you, honey! Here's to the next twenty-five years.

Today, we're celebrating by attending Much Ado About Nothing at the Stratford Festival, and going out to a dinner for two in downtown Stratford. It's not that fancy; we got these Stratford Tickets for $15, thanks to this being the cast recording session of the play (they need to make sure the seats are full, and attendees have to agree to be on camera). We've not managed to make an extravagant life, but we've made a good one, with plenty of things to enjoy together, and that's something I'm quite proud of.

Announcing Tales from the Silence, My First Anthology

tales-from-the-silence-pulp-o-mizer.jpgThe image on the left is not the official cover of the publication (though it might be nice if it were in that style). Instead, it was produced courtesy of the Pulo-o-Mizer!

It has been close to twenty years since I've collaborated with others to put together a science fiction publication (The Trenchcoat Farewell Project in 2004 and, before that, Myth Makers 11 in 2001). My work on fanzines through the 1990s was formative in my early adulthood. So, it gives me great pleasure to announce I will be publishing a companion book to The Sun Runners when it comes out, and I'll be bringing a bunch of friends with me.

Tales from the Silence is a shared universe anthology of stories set in the world of The Sun Runners and The Cloud Riders, making it part of the Silent Earth Sequence. As I've mentioned before, the premise of this univerrse is that the Earth fails to fully address climate change, pushing it back instead. This allows the Earth time enough to establish colonies throughout the inner solar system, before environmental disaster catches up, collapsing human society, effectively ending space travel between the colonies, and leaving them on their own in various states of self-sufficiency (or, not, as the case may be).

How do these societies handle this sudden disruption, the sudden loss of resources, or just the grief over people lost, and a whole planet suddenly not being there anymore. How do they feed themselves, or keep order? How do they carry on? And what do they do, fifty years later, when the Earth comes clawing its way back.

The stores of Tales from the Silence cover the period of the Earth's silence. We hope to have stories set on Mercury, Venus, Mars, the Asteroid Belt, and the Moon, and we have stories set on Earth, as the planet falls apart, and then pulls itself back together. Over the summer, I asked a couple dozen YA, SF and fantasy authors to consider submitting a story, and over a dozen have responded. Right now, I pleased to announce that the line-up will include YA SF/F novelist Kate Blair, Australian novelist Kate Orman, science and science fiction fan Mark Richard Francis, and longtime Canadian SF author and editor Ira Nayman. I will have more names to announce publicly soon.

I'm editing this anthology, and contributing four stories to it, and it's shaping up to be an interesting volume building on themes of survival, hope within desperate circumstanes, trauma and determination, of how we keep repeating history's mistakes, and the evils of keeping one's head down. I've been having a great time, meeting with the authors, discussing story ideas, seeing takes take form with their unique take on our shared universe.

I am editing this publication, and am looking forward to sorting stories, laying them out on the page, making things the best they can be. However, this won't be some fanzine production (though it will be just as fun). Thanks to Edward Willett, Tales from the Silence will be produced by Endless Sky, the self-publishing arm of Shadowpawa Press, the publishers of The Sun Runners. Not only will this help this anthology be as professionally published as it can be, it gives us access to distribution by the Literary Press Group of Canada, making it available at better bookstores everywhere.

As for the publication date, I'm hopeful that it will be published simultaneously with The Sun Runners, either in late 2024 or early 2025.

I've forgotten how gratifying it is to work with other authors on a shared experience like an anthology. I'm looking forward to our work on this, helping to create something really special.

Look for more announcements on these projects in the coming months, and our release in late 2024/early 2025.

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