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.

Announcing The Sun Runners, My Sixth Published Novel.


I'm pleased that The Sun Runners, my young adult science fiction novel set on Mercury, has found a home with Shadowpaw Press (the product page can be found here). The first elements of this story came to me in December 2014 and I've been working on this story for nine years since. It's been a long journey. I went down some blind alleys, threw out and revised tens of thousands of words, revised and fine-tuned and, in the end, built not only a single story about a beleaguered colony on the unlikely planet Mercury, but a wider universe that stretches over multiple books. A universe that I'm offering to share. More on this later.

Shadowpaw Press is a boutique publishing company headquartered in Regina, established by award-winning author Edward Willett (and a good friend of Arthur Slade, who gave a glowing reference when I asked him about Ed). Though founded by Ed, he doesn't work alone, as The Sun Runners had to go through Shadowpaw's Editorial Advisory Board. Shadowpaw is also a member of Canada's Literary Press Group and is thus distributed through LitDistCo, giving its books access to many bookstores across Canada.

The Sun Runners is, I hope, the first book in a series that I've tentatively entitled The Silent Earth Sequence. The companion book, The Cloud Riders, set on Venus and Mars, is still being edited and revised. The premise of this series is that the Earth fails to fully address the problem of climate change. Instead, it just pushes the issue back long enough to establish space colonies throughout the inner solar system and the Asteroid Belt. When the Earth's environmental problems catch up and collapse Earth society, those colonies are left in various states of self-sufficiency (or, in many cases, not). How do these people deal with the fact that the Earth is suddenly no longer there, that space travel (and thus, trade) is severely curtailed? How can they survive, mentally and physically? And what do they do when, fifty years later, the Earth claws its way back?

The Sun Runners has a dual storyline. One focuses on Adelheid Koning, a young officer on one of the constantly moving latitude towns of Mercury, when Earth's collapse ends up thrusting her in charge. The other focuses on Adelheid's granddaughter, Freida, who fifty years later finds herself an unwilling queen of her latitude town when the Earth wakes from its silence, forced to navigate between the wishes of her people for a return to normalcy, and her grandmother's deep suspicion of what Earth is truly like, after going dark for so long.

I'm delighted to be working with Edward Willett and Shadowpaw Press in getting The Sun Runners to press within the next 12 to 18 months. Shadowpaw Press feels like the little publishing house that could, and The Sun Runners feels like the not-so-little (115,000 words) novel that could. After all this time, I'm eager to have this novel out into the world, and I believe it has a great champion.

I have a lot of people to thank for bringing The Sun Runners this far -- so many, that I'm sure I'm going to forget plenty. But in this paragraph, let me thank my beta readers, including John Baglow, Kate Blair, Leah Bobet, Mar Fenech, Mark Richard Francis, JM Frey, Ishta Mercurio, and Terry Rudden, as well as everybody at Marsha Skrypuch's online critique group. I'd like to thank the editorial board at ECW Press who, although they didn't publish this novel, did list The Sun Runners as a finalist in their 2022 New Speculative Novel Contest. Thanks, of course, to Edward Willett and everybody at Shadowpaw Press for taking a chance on me and this book, and thanks especially to Erin and my kids for their love and support (including but not limited to editorial suggestions and read-throughs). It really does take a community to get a book into print, and having a family who loves you and your book helps a heck of a lot as well.

Stay tuned for more announcements as they occur.

Is There Anybody Out There?

48659093207_6691e923c5_c.jpgThe image to the right is entitled Is There Anybody Out There, by Christian Kortum. It is used in accordance with his Creative Commons License.

Congratulations to Wab Kinew who, this past Tuesday, made history not only as the first First Nations individual to be elected premier of a province but also the first YA author to receive such an honour. It was a good day, to see a tired Conservative government give way to a more positive NDP one.

But what I thought was particularly interesting was how I found out. I just happened upon a Facebook post by a friend. Up until that point, I didn't realize there was an election going on in Manitoba, much less that the NDP was looking to win it. While it's been a busy time at work, I used to be a political junkie. I used to feed on this sort of stuff. But I wonder, with Twitter now a total dumpster fire and Facebook tantruming against the Federal Government, blocking access to Canadian News, if that has had an effect of making me less connected with the news around me.

There was a fair argument that I was too connected before. I know plenty of things that are happening in my local area, in my province, and in my line of work, thanks to my work. Social media used to be a firehose of media, though -- so much so, that I wonder now if it was healthy. But it's changing. Without the access, it feels far less consequential. Even if the way I got that errant piece of news was through a friend's Facebook post.

Years ago, I felt the shift of the Internet as personal blogs gave way to social media accounts. Before Twitter and Facebook, I used to be part of a wider conversation. We'd write, we'd link to each other's blog posts, we'd comment, have debates. Then all of a sudden the comments dried up. The conversations moved to social media. And it became a bit of a chore to write here, where there was a sense that nobody was paying attention anymore. But most of us, myself included, accepted it, and moved to where the conversations were happening. Now, however, I wonder if the field is changing again. Twitter is being run into the ground and Facebook is... acting strange. I'm missing conversations; I'm seeing friends' posts days after they post them, and some of my posts, which link to posts I've written here, don't seem to be getting any traction. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if this is something from Facebook's algorithm, trying to keep people from leaving their site.

Either way, Twitter has no credibility, and Facebook is not as fun anymore. And I'm wondering if this might be a good time to get back into more regular use of this blog. While it may not currently have the community element that blogs used to, it remains a good place to make announcements or put down my thoughts. Given the clear issues of putting too much of our communications infrastructure into the hands of a few billionaires, returning to the part of the Internet that I own, hosting words that I control, has a certain appeal, if a retro one.

I've promised myself that I would use this blog more often, and I've failed to live up to that promise, so I won't make that promise again. But it's good to know that I will have this to come back to if the conversations fade elsewhere.

And, speaking of controlling your own words, I'm on Mastodon at, and thanks to Kate Orman, I now have a BlueSky account at (though the latter is corporate controlled). They both have the fun atmosphere that Facebook and Twitter had when I joined them, and they could be a helpful partner in drawing people to my blog. So, if you want to join the conversation, comment here, or comment on my new social media feeds. And we'll see what we shall see.

The Future Belongs to Venus

Today, we have a guest column from Mark Richard Francis. Actually, this is a piece that he wrote for me while he was making comments on one of my drafts of The Cloud Riders. We were discussing the details of the interplanetary trade between Venus and Mars in the post-Silence universe when the Earth has collapsed, leaving its inner solar system colonies to fend for themselves.

In The Cloud Riders, Venus has adopted a cooperative society amongst huge Zeppelins flying 50-55 kilometres above Venus's surface, where average temperatures are actually close to Earth normal. You can see some of the descriptions of this concept here, here, and here (the latter from NASA itself). Mars has been colonized by Tech Bros, which have put together a capitalist/mafia-like society with a nominal central government. And yet the two colonies work together and trade more than you'd think.

While Mars has some obvious advantages for colonization (you can build on the surface, for one), Venus has a number of advantages you wouldn't think about, and Mark detailed them for me in an e-mail, that I will excerpt below. Thank you, Mark!

Mark writes:

For now, accept that Venus wants electronics and building materials. It sends back pharmaceuticals, wood and food like jam preserves. "Savour the sensuality of Venusian Strawberry..."

Oh, and honey. Venus has honey.

Bear with me.

Why colonize Mars? 

A second Earth. To plunder. Or to colonize. Except, unlike Venus, it's a bad place to live. The low gravity messes with the body, as you know. The environment is cold, sunlight weak and the air no good for us.

But, there are accessible resources, as you know. There's got to be rare metals there. Hopefully copper. We're running out down here...

Mars is a hub to access the asteroid belt. It's small twin moons would help with that, as would its less dense gravity well.

So, as you know, there are reasons to live there.

Mars would, in time, value-add on its exports by manufacturing what it exports. They'd probably pollute the outside environment with abandon, giving them some competitive edge in manufacturing using whatever plentiful raw materials they have compared to Earth.

They make their own transport vehicles and ships, so they have a good command of metallurgy and electronics. 

They also make weapons, by the looks of things. The families need them. They may export them.

Anyway, basically, it's another Earth. We go to Mars to repeat.

Why colonize Venus?

Talk about not being an obvious choice! (Geoffrey) Landis makes the argument as to how, but not much as to why.

Mars, is where you go to make money. It's the gold rush!

Venus is where you'd want to live.

With energy being cheap and easy with all that sunlight, and gravity 90 percent of Earth's, the only challenge would be building the initial settlements in the clouds. After that, you maintain a self-sufficient closed cycle and expand only when you can afford to.

Venus would focus on preserving humanity and biodiversity. It would be a place of learning and knowledge. Of perpetuating humanity. You don't go there to acquire money or things. You go to preserve humanity. Your reward is the social status you gain, and the slight increase in resource share you get. It's proto-Star Trek Federation.

I picture not just farms, but Earth-like forests with animal life in them. At least, that would have been the ideal to work towards before Earth went silent.

But trees. They have trees.

And good schools. And universal health care. Peace and good government.

Sounds like a good place to live. 

A future Venus would mine the asteroid belt -- it's faster to go from Venus to the belt than it is to go from Mars (Landis).

A future Venus would mine its own surface using telepresence (Landis). 

The Silent Earth Interplanetary Economy

After Earth goes silent, the desperate colonies quickly learn to trade in order to get essentials from each other. And some luxuries.

As mentioned, Venus needs building materials and electronics. No problems. Mars can send those. But what does Venus have that Mars wants?

Venus, with its great health care, and plant and animal biodiversity, has a pharmaceutical industry which Mars largely lacks. Rich Mars was just importing drugs from Earth. Venus made its own.

Sure, Mars grows its own food, though it's an energy-intensive exercise given the need to heat the plants, melt and pipe the water possibly great distances through constant sub-zero temperatures, and to provide them with proper light on a world that gets half the light Earth does.

So, Venus would send food. Likely, as I said above, processed foods like preserves. The rich would love to show off their Venusian fare.

Grains last a long time and ship well.

And trees. Yes, some wood could be harvested and sent. Likely softwood sent in small quantities. The rich families would also use it to show off. "Don't you just love this coffee table made with real Venusian balsa?"

And Mars has meat? Well, in one-third gravity, it would be hard to get much meat on those animals. Perhaps Venus makes a drug that helps? (NOTE: I fixed this in the subsequent draft. Clearly, no, Mars shouldn't have home-grown meat. Protein loafs abound! Maybe jerky imported from Venus -jb)

And Venus, having crops, has pollinators. Venus has bees, which means they have honey.

This would keep both colonies going for a while.

In the future, Venus would use the asteroids and local surface mining to gain all the materials they need to become self-reliant. Living with 90 percent Earth-normal gravity means the race would be preserved mostly as-is and would be able to endure high-gravity acceleration better than Martians.

In a few generations, Venus will investigate Earth. Unlike the Martians, they will be able to stand up. They may bring civilization back to the surviving humans. A more enlightened one.

The future belongs to Venus, not Mars.

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