Sun, Jul

Latest Columns

My latest column is up at The Kitchener Post. Here's an excerpt:

Growing up in southern Ontario, I have enjoyed living in a world of progress. I've been a fan of trains and subways since I was a young boy, and some of my favourite memories have come when my parents have taken me to see a new subway station or line as it opened.

Even though Toronto's subway growth stalled in the early 1980s, I've always thought of my area of the world as a growing environment. New subdivisions get built, and new transportation infrastructure expands to fill them.

For this reason, I rode the first GO Train that departed Kitchener station for Toronto on Dec. 19, 2011. I eagerly look forward to taking the first ride on Waterloo Region's LRT. I look forward to visiting Ottawa when they open their LRT in 2018, and returning to Toronto when the Eglinton Crosstown LRT opens in 2021.

One of the best things about supporting these projects is looking forward to using them and having the new service make your life easier or better.

But by 2021, I will be 49. The Greater Toronto Area and Waterloo Region continue to grow, so we have to plan for more transportation infrastructure. But when I see plans that call for Toronto's Downtown Relief Subway line to open in 2031, I realize that some of these projects may not open until I'm 59 or older.


I've written before about how old I feel. I sometimes do it just to make my father feel older. But I do think this is a change in my thinking. Before, when feeling old, I've been looking back and counting the anniversaries. Has it really been ten years? Twenty? Twenty-five?

But now I'm starting to look forward, with a sense of regret over what I might not get a chance to see. And that realization is more humbling, I think.

In other news, I also posted what I think might be the last history on all the regular streetcar routes the TTC operated. For years, I had a list of every route abandoned by the TTC since 1921. I know that there are routes that were abandoned beforehand, but those articles will come another day. In the meantime, I'll just sit and appreciate the work that's been done so far. Here's an excerpt on the history of the Davenport streetcar:

In its last days of operation, at the end of 1940, the DAVENPORT streetcar was the shortest regularly scheduled streetcar route on the Toronto Transportation Commission's network. Offering a round trip of 2.93 kilometres, it was longer only than the DUFFERIN streetcar, which did not operate as regularly. Throughout the history of the TTC from 1921 onward, only the LANSDOWNE NORTH streetcar was shorter. There were no loops on the DAVENPORT route. Streetcars operated from a crossover on Davenport Road just west of Bathurst west to a crossover on Davenport Road just east of Dovercourt, and returned via the reverse route. Short double-ended streetcars were usually used.

But the shortness of the DAVENPORT route from 1924 to 1940 belies a longer and more illustrious history, which stretches beyond the start of the TTC to the beginnings of electric streetcar operation in Toronto. The street has been served by three separate electric railway companies, and its development affects the shape of public transit in its neighbourhood to this very day.

So, apparently, there is a game called Pokemon GO, which you can play on your smartphones that has people trekking all around their neighbourhoods, collecting cute Japanese little monsters. To say that it has been a wild success is understating things.

Indeed, the success of Pokemon GO is a bigger a news story as Pokemon GO itself. Its popularity has shocked people for coming out of nowhere, and it has led to no shortage of dog-bites-man news stories. Wandering players have come upon dead bodies. China believes Pokemon GO is a US/Japanese conspiracy to locate Chinese military bases. But for many people, Pokemon GO gives crotchety people the excuse to say “damn kids, get off my lawn!” Literally.

It hasn’t helped that some players have done some stupid things while playing the game. This video, screen-captured below, is one of the more egregious examples I’ve seen:


For those who don’t know, this is an individual playing on his cellphone, walking down the middle of the subway tracks at Union subway station in Toronto. I found this screen capture on the Twitter feed of Brad Ross, the Toronto Transit Commission’s chief public and media liaison officer. He went ballistic, and for every good reason. It’s hard to think of a more selfish and stupid disregard for one’s own life, not to mention the psychological wellbeing of the subway driver who runs him over, the cost of emergency services that attend to the scene, and the delay this could have caused to thousands.

There is no question: the player is a grade-A idiot. But I cannot accept one of the Tweets that followed, wherein an individual states, “This generation is embarrassing.”

Way to paint with a broad brush, there, guy.

Indeed, I’m pretty familiar with this generation. My children are at the tail end of it. I’ve seen and worked with students at high school and university. They offer as much of a range of skills, passion, hopefulness, cynicism, intelligence and stupidity as my generation did in the eighties. For every idiot playing Pokemon GO on the Toronto subway tracks, there are literally thousands of teenagers and young adults who are working hard at school or at their jobs, who are investing their time wisely and passionately for all our futures.

You rarely see and hear about those people who knuckle down and work hard. They’re not the squeaky wheels that get noticed. Do not judge an entire generation by those few who attract your attention, displaying the worst the generation has to offer. Trust me, our worst was just as bad, and we have as much right not to be so judged.

And the same goes for Pokemon GO users. The media only captures the most stupid, because they’re the ones which are newsworthy. “Thousands upon Thousands Play Pokemon GO Without Injury” is not a particularly compelling headline.

Furthermore, Pokemon GO has been successful in getting people out of their homes. That includes stupid people. So, of course you are going to see more stupid people around now that the game is available. Before, these people spent their time trolling online newspaper comment sections.

Update 17:00: It gets worse: that wasn’t a Pokemon Go player. From a Facebook comment: To be fair, this person isn’t actually playing Pokemon. He’s an actor, filming a comedy video on the dangers of playing Pokemon Go (without authorization from the TTC). Which is possibly even more dumb.

Definitely more dumb!

Good luck with that in Kitchener’s rush hour traffic…


Mon, Jul

Glitter and Gold

You know what Marvel should do with this? Buy it and show it as a trailer before every one of their movies. Or to advertise a Marvel Cinematic Universe Blue Ray box set…

I recently submitted my last proofs and changes for Icarus Down. In between that, and Scholastic’s professional proofreading department, I expect (fingers crossed) that this will mean clean copy for the novel when it comes out on August 30. The book is now at the printers, and I await its release with baited breath.

We are working on launch and publicity events. I can, for instance, announce that Erin and I will be doing a joint launch of The Swan Riders and Icarus Down at Bakka Phoenix Books at 3 p.m. on Saturday, October 1.

I have a long history with Bakka bookstore. It was on Queen Street West near Soho back before I was even a teenager, as they were the best place in Toronto to purchase Doctor Who novelizations, and I spent a lot of my allowance on picking up those books. Bakka was a special bookstore, even then. Sure, there were other bookstores that were bigger (The World’s Biggest Bookstore, for instance), and there were chain stores like Coles where Doctor Who books could be found, but long before I appreciated the difference between independent bookstores and the chains, I felt that Bakka Bookstore had a particular passion behind it. There were books found here that I could not get elsewhere. And they were cool — for me at least, but back then I already knew that cool for me was not particularly cool for other people, and I was cool with that. I gave me something that others didn’t necessarily want to play with, and that meant more for me.

My mother and I went to Bakka Bookstore a lot, and it was likely the place where my mother researched contacts in science fiction publishing, and found an outlet to sell her first short story (in a Canadian science fiction magazine called Stardust, I believe). It was through Bakka that I found the book Doctor Who: A Celebration (celebrating the 20th anniversary of the series; this was thirty-three years ago!) that told me about the existence of the Canadian fan club known as the Doctor Who Information Network. Until then, I had no idea that there was such a thing as fandom, and people like me who liked things as strongly as me.. It’s safe to say that Bakka fostered my love of science fiction, and got me into fandom. The rest, as they say, is history.

So, to put it mildly, I chuffed to be releasing my first science fiction novel in the bookstore that made it happen. The location may not be the same (which, now that I think of it, must be why they tacked on “Phoenix” at the end of their name, correct?), but the people behind it and the passion they bring to it most definitely are. I’m looking forward to showing off and signing copies of Icarus Down on Saturday, October 1.

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