Sat, May
Sat, May 27, 2017

Icarus Down, Aurora Award Nominee


I believe that the first award nomination I’d ever received for any of my published works was for this year’s Saskatchewan’s Snow Willow Award. It was a tremendous honour that I’ll always cherish. The same goes for this news that I can now announce: Icarus Down has been nominated for the 2017 Aurora Awards in the Best Young Adult Novel Category.

The Aurora Awards celebrate the best in Canadian science fiction, fantasy and horror literature. They are currently run by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and have been around since 1980. They are a people’s choice awards, so you can participate in the voting process if “you are a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant… [and] purchase an annual membership to CSFFA” (it’s only $10).

You can see the ballot here, and I am delighted to be included with fellow nominees Randy McCharles, Edward Willett, Amanda Sun, Michell Plested, and Adam Dreece. Other nominees include Guy Gavriel Kay, Madeline Ashby, and Robert J. Sawyer in the Best Novel category, Margaret Atwood and co-authors Johnnie Christmas and Tamra Bonvillian in the Best Graphic Novel category and dozens more too numerous to mention here. It is an honour to be included in this list.

The winners will be announced, I believe, at Canvention 37, hosted by Hal-Con 2017 in Halifax between September 22-24, 2017. Sadly, I won’t be able to make it, I don’t think, but I’m still honoured, and it sounds like it’s going to be a great time over there. Thanks to the people behind the Aurora Awards, and for those who nominated me, and best of luck to all the nominees.

Mon, May
Mon, May 22, 2017


A sign that one of my fiction projects is coming together is when I end up gathering a decent “soundtrack album” for it. With the exception of The Young City, every one of my published works was written to a soundtrack of songs that fit the mood of the story I was writing. I’ve already talked about how I’m indebted to the Quebec singer Jorane for the music I played for Fathom Five and The Dream Kings Daughter, and I have to thank Cameron Dixon for introducing me to Zoe Keating, whose music dominates the soundtrack to Icarus Down.

I now have decent soundtracks to both The Sun Runners and to The Curator of Forgotten Things, and it’s interesting comparing the two. The Sun Runners is dark and angry, and its tunes are sung by Lana Del Rey, Woodkid (thanks to Andrew Flint for pointing me his way), MS MR and Zella Day. They match a story that is more action oriented and explosive. Whereas The Curator of Forgotten Things

It’s dark too, in some ways, but it’s more melancholy. The tunes are softer, and some take on the theme of giving ourselves over to the computer. I’m including a list below; it is a work in progress:

  1. Deeper Understanding, by Kate Bush, The Sensual World
  2. Elephant, by Hannah Georgas
  3. Immune, by Groenland, The Chase
  4. From Darkness, Light: III Prelude, by Emily Howell
  5. Arsonist’s Lullaby, by Hozier, From Eden
  6. Somebody, by Hannah Georgas
  7. 26 September, by Groenland, The Chase
  8. From Eden, by Hozier
  9. Our Last Shot, by Groenland, The Chase
  10. Enemies, by Hannah Georgas
  11. It Will Come Back, by Hozier
  12. Paris or Amsterdam, by Basia Bulat, Tall Tall Shadow
  13. Criminals, by Groenland, The Chase
  14. Ode to Mom, by Hannah Georgas
  15. Hurt, by Johnny Cash, The Man Comes Around
  16. Pendant que les Champs Brulent, by Jorane, _Un Sorciere Comme les Autres**
  17. Waiting Game, by Hannah Georgas

My biggest discovery trawling for soundtrack songs was Hannah Georgas, and this video below gives you an example why…

Sun, May
Sun, May 14, 2017

Ludicrous Science Shows

I discovered two science programs on Netflix — no, not Bill Nye’s new series, although that’s kind of cool. Watching them again, I’m reminded of the difference between PBS and commercial television, and how hard some people think they have to work in order to try and keep people watching.

Nova is still the gold standard when it comes to science documentaries. They play to the PBS style of decorum and dignity as they present their material, although they’re not above goosing things in order to attract eyeballs. I still remember the episode where they were talking about the coming switch of our magnetic poles; the trailers gasped, “Are we due… for a FLIP!” Turns out, yes. In fact, we’re overdue. And what happens when we get such a flip? As one scientist puts it, “a statistically significant increase in cancer rates, and some of the best auroras you can imagine.”

Outside of PBS, though, the producers don’t seem to have that dignity. One particularly laughable show currently streaming on Netflix is Deadliest Space Weather. In each half-hour episode (as opposed to the hour format PBS uses that gives subjects more depth), the show highlights the most extreme weather in the solar system. Most extreme winds! Most extreme pressures! Most extreme meteor storms!

And, as if that’s not enough, they then use the best special effects their limited budget can buy to show credulous viewers what would happen if, oh, the conditions of Venus SUDDENLY TRANSPORTED TO EARTH!!

Well, yeah, if the atmosphere suddenly became thicker and heavier than the bottom of the ocean and spontaneously began to rain pure acid, I suppose the Eiffel Tower would be kind of toast. But what, really, is the likelihood of that happening? Why are you giving this so much time and energy?

The sad thing is, there are interesting facts among all the dross. I didn’t know, for instance, that the surface winds of Venus blow barely above five miles per hour but, because of their thickness, they have the force of a hurricane. I didn’t know about the twin cyclones that regularly appear at Venus’ south pole. These are interesting things, and I wanted to know more — no, I don’t want to see what happens if we spontaneously thicken the Earth’s atmosphere and turn up the heat to 900’C!

All in all, Deadliest Space Weather is worthy of being given the Rifftrax treatment.

Far better, though, is How the Universe Works. Although written for commercial television (apparent given its pauses for commercial breaks), it spends more time on its subject, and doesn’t do ludicrous things like show a special-effects apocalypse every ten minutes. Their material tends to the more extreme, but they stick to the facts, offer interesting explanations, and generally don’t insult the audience’s intelligence.

Thu, May
Thu, May 11, 2017

Mid May

I haven’t had much energy to keep this blog going of late. I have been writing, but it has been primarily client work. I haven’t worked on fiction either. My juices must be at a low ebb, and I’ve been concentrating on just what needs to be done, rather than things I’d like to have done.

Erin has gone to Saskatchewan with Rosemarie and Vivian on a TD Book Week tour — 17 school and library visits in five days. She’s going to be tired when she gets back, but it’s the sort of thing that’s on any writers’ bucket list. It’s an author tour boot camp, something to be proud of doing, even if you wonder how you could possibly have done it (at the time, you don’t fret about whether you can do it, because I suspect you just don’t have the time to fret).

That leaves me with Nora, my father and Michael. I’m trying to make sure that I cook at least some times this week, and have Nora’s grandparents over. So far, that’s been going well.

It’s been a hard slog, and it still feels hard. Last month, I had my first birthday where my mother wasn’t present. This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and while my mother was decidedly not into celebrating Mother’s Day, it’s still a thing to think about, and remind you of who isn’t here anymore, and that drains you.

Still, I sometimes feel there are sparks happening at last. I may not have touched The Sun Runners for months, or even listened to the “soundtrack album”, but I’m listening now, and thinking about where next to take the story. And, strangely enough, The Curator of Forgotten Things has started to earth up ideas. I’m only 4,000 words into this story but, critically, the last 1,000 came in the past week.

There are still grey skies as I write this, but we’ve had some sunny days at last, and the promise of more to come. Someday soon, summer may finally arrive.

Thu, Apr
Thu, Apr 27, 2017

Ruth Gillespie (1949-2017)

I think most people, when they settle down to have a family, find some friends who are also forming a family, and unite, meeting often for many social occasions. The children of the two families grow up as close as cousins if not closer. They become, in fact, more than friends, but part of a family that goes beyond simple genetics.

Ruth and Paul Gillespie were that family for my parents, and I grew up with their daughter Michelle and their son Justin as special playmates that I trekked to Mississauga for. Ruth and Paul had emigrated from Ireland a few years before I was born and became friends with my parents after Paul and Eric met at the civil service office that Eric worked at. As I learned from Paul and Ruth, and as I learned from gaining Irish-American in-laws, when you are befriended by an Irish person, you gain a friend for life, fiercely loyal and enthusiastic. There are few better gifts.

Paul and Ruth were, in many ways, yings to my parents yang. They were exuberant where we were soft spoken. They were passionate where we were thoughtful. And it worked. The two sides meshed well. And in many ways, I think Ruth and Paul had a similar ying and yang relationship. They had different styles and different ways of thinking that complemented and completed each other.

I was sorry to learn, some months ago, that Ruth had become ill, but she didn’t let that slow her down. I remember seeing her at my mother’s funeral, having travelled some distance with Paul to get there. It brought back memories of dinner parties, birthday celebrations, going to see Irish Football at the Skydome, them showing up at my first Communionand more. Despite the sombre occasion, she smiled, as one should, to have all of those memories.

Ruth passed away on April 21st and the memorial service is today in Milton, Ontario. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Ruth’s name to the charity Development and Peace’s Share Lent, Women at the Heart of Change Campaign. She will be sorely missed.

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