The Cloud Riders, Chapter One: The Asteroid Scow

We successfully pushed our Kickstarter campaign past the goal line to help fund my upcoming science fiction anthology, Tales from the Silence. It and my new novel, The Sun Runners, will be released through Shadowpaw Press (and its Endless Sky imprint) on November 12, 2024. I'm organizing launch parties around these two books in Ottawa, Toronto, and Waterloo with the help of Bakka-Phoenix and Words Worth Books. Thank you to everyone who made the Kickstarter campaign a success, and look for further announcements about book launch events in the coming weeks.

I'm looking forward to sharing these books with you, especially with the different takes my guest authors had on the Silent Earth universe. Between Tales from the Silence and The Sun Runners, you will get a clear picture of how the worlds of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and the Asteroid Belt fare when the Earth's climate crisis catches up to it and silences human civilization on the home world.

One of the more interesting things about this project is the fact that the writers who were setting their stories on Venus or Mars (or even the Asteroid Belt) were writing short stories that were technically anticipating their source material. The Cloud Riders is the companion novel that I'd like to publish after The Sun Runners, featuring an interplanetary Country Mouse/City Mouse storyline set on Venus and Mars which I hope will see print late in 2025 or early in 2026.

Even though the draft of my novel was written first, the writers were writing continuity that hadn't been formally established by my novels yet. I think they did a great job. But to help you judge that, and to help set up the Venus and Mars stories on Tales from the Silence (as well as to further promote The Sun Runners and ultimately The Cloud Riders), I'm posting the first chapter of The Cloud Riders as it currently stands.

I'd like to thank Ben Berman Ghan for editing my previous draft of The Cloud Riders and making this novel better. I hope you enjoy this introduction to life on Venus, and the characters of The Cloud Riders.

Cloud City at Sunset, by Belsavor
Cloud City at Sunset, by Belsavor, used in accordance with their Creative Commons license.

Tales From the Silence Cover Reveal and Kickstarter

tales-from-the-silence-cover-2024-04-26.jpgPlease click here to support my Kickstarter.

It gives me great pleasure to show off the cover for my upcoming Silent Earth SF Anthology, Tales from the Silence. This cover was produced by Bibliofic Designs, who also drafted the wonderful cover for my novel The Sun Runners and Robert J. Sawyer's upcoming novel, The Downloaded. I highly encourage you to check them out, and if you need a book cover, consider commissioning them. It's important to pay our artists.

Tales from the Silence is an anthology of sixteen short stories by myself and ten other SF, Fantasy and YA authors. The back cover blurb is as follows:

On August 4, 2151, the world will end. It's been a long time coming: climate disasters brewing conflict, conflict breeding chaos. But on that fateful day, someone will set off the nukes. On August 4, 2151, human civilization on Earth will fall silent.

There are survivors, of course―and not just on Earth. There are scientists on the Jovian moons. Miners in the asteroid belt. Thriving colonies on the surface of Mars and above the clouds of Venus. Far more precarious ones on Mercury. When the silence falls across human space, one thing is clear: Earth's space-born children are on their own. No more supplies are coming. No more orders. No more meddling. No more help.

Set in the universe of James Bow's new novel, The Sun RunnersTales from Silence is a gathering of award-winning science fiction, fantasy, and YA authors who explore the worlds the Earth left behind, as well as the Earth itself, as it struggles through its new dark age.

Join James Bow, Phoebe Barton, Kate Blair, Cameron Dixon, Mark Richard Francis, Jo Karaplis, Kari Maaren, Fiona Moore, Ira Nayman, Kate Orman, and Jeff Szpirglas as they tell the stories of what happens after the end of the world.

I an really pleased at how this has come together, especially given that it started as a spur of the moment idea back in July. I've been blessed with great and talented friends and colleagues (who I hope I can now call friends) who explored the worlds of post-Silence Earth, and expanded the universe tremendously. A shared universe is a daunting thing to compose, as you try to herd the diverse artistic visions of your authors. I am especially pleased with how well we worked together, and how new ideas sparked out of this collaboration. I've already had to incorporate some new ideas in The Cloud Riders in order to maintain continuity, and I find that to be a fantastic thing, as they're pretty great ideas.

The Sun Runners and Tales from the Silence officially launch on November 12, 2024 under ShadowPaw Press and its Endless Sky imprint respectively, with great help from ShadowPaw's publisher and editor-in-chief Ed Willett. I am self-publishing Tales from the Silence to help promote The Sun Runners, but also to explore the ins-and-outs of short fiction (the last time I wrote a story that was shorter than 40,000 words was literally decades ago). and also just have fun, exploring the wolrds of the Silent Earth with different people, collaborating on something together -- something which I haven't done since my fan fiction days. At the same time, I made sure to pay all my writers for their work, because exposure isn't worth nearly what some consumers think it is, and as the saying goes, people can die from it.

Which brings me to my Tales from the Silence Kickstarter. To help ease the initial burden, I am running a crowdfunder to cover the initial costs of publication by encouraging people to offer their support, receiving copies of Tales from the Silence and The Sun Runners in return. Kickstarter does not like the use of the phrase "pre-order", but my intention is that Tales from the Silence will be released with or without the funds we raise through Kickstarter, and this is a chance to secure a first printing of this book, as well as possible other neat things, like a limited hardcover edition, and your name listed in the acknowledgements. If you wish to give, give what you can, as every little bit helps, but I'm hoping you'll take advantage of the rewards available, and we all work together to help make the launch of my first anthology as successful as it can be.

I'd like to thank everybody who helped make this happen, especially to the authors, to my supportive wife and kids, to other friends and family and people in the SF, Fantasy and YA communities, and of course to Ed Willett of ShadowPaw Press. Look for announcements of events coming up in November, and I look forward to seeing you all there.


On ShadowPaw Press

A word about ShadowPaw Press: Edward Willett has set up a fascinating boutique publishing company out in Saskatchewan that is punching well above its weight. ShadowPaw is publishing some of our biggest science fiction authors and, as a member of the Literary Press Group of Canada, making his books easily available to bookstores across Canada. And you can see from the covers he's been able to put in front of our books, he's got game.

He's also got experience. He's a longstanding science fiction author of his own, and has won Prix Aurora Awards for his work. He has done a tremendous job helping others in the industry, running the award-winning Worldshapers podcast, and editing multiple multi-author anthologies, including his most recent, Shapers of Worlds - Volume V. He seems to have made it a personal mission to help Canadian writers get their words out in the best ways possible, and it's been an honour to work with him.

Speaking of getting the words out, Ed is running his own Kickstarter campaign to help launch Shapers of Worlds - Volume V. He's gathered a number of great names for this anthology, and this fundraiser is your chance to help this lovely labour come to pass, as well as nabbing some great rewards along the way. I would consider it a personal favour if you would support his cause, either on Kickstarter, or his Crowdfundr campaign to support ShadowPaw Press's Spring List (where you can nab a number of great books).

I really appreciate the worl that Ed is doing bringing more Canadian science fiction and fantasy into the world, so please support him, and support this industry, ensuring that our voices continue to shout.

Finally, here's a book trailer for Tales from the Silence.

In the End, There is Tea

The past few months have been hard and stressful in so many ways, I can't count. I'm also leery of sharing too many details because of privacy. But I will say that, this week, my father went into an assisted care home so he can remain safe and comfortable while he lives with dementia. I am amazed at how quickly this has come on, although if I'm honest with myself, the signs had been building for a while. Still, back at Christmas, my father was well enough to drive over to have breakfast with us. Now I'm paying all his bills, and he's never driving again.

And while it's hard to admit, we have been very, very lucky these past four months. We were warned by a friend who had to deal with a similar situation before to secure a Power of Attorney while my father was capable of giving it, because (for obvious reasons) it becomes a lot, lot harder once someone progresses to the point where they can't give it. Then he had a stroke which we caught and called the ambulance on early thanks to Wayfinder's quick thinking. Then we had another need for hospitalization that occurred while we were at a follow-up appointment in a hospital. That routed my father to a hospital that he wouldn't normally have been sent to, and they recommended an assisted care facility that wouldn't normally have been on our radar. And thanks to our healthcare system, these multiple hospital interventions have cost us almost nothing out-of-pocket. A pox on any politician that tries to take that away from us (and should that send you to hospital, may you receive as good quality of care as you intend for the rest of us).

Best of all, my father accepted this. We'd been worried that this would be a terrible fight. But after being told by a doctor that he had dementia, he agreed to assisted care, and now he is safe and cared for, receiving three meals a day and laundry service, medicine reminders, just steps away from the help of qualified nurses should he need it. It is a tremendous load off our shoulders that had been pressing us flat for weeks.

But it's still a time of change. We now have a house we have to settle, bills to pay, services to shift or delete. A lot of work is ahead, and although it comes with less stress and deadlines, it's still a melancholy task.

However, I'm still visiting my father -- this time in his private room -- and we share a tea every second evening. We've been doing that for a while, since my mother passed away, and that's not going to change anytime soon. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, give thanks for these quiet moments of relative normalacy. Be thankful that, in the end, there is tea.

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.

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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.

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