Yo, Canada!

Posted in My Opinion, love it or leave it with tags , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2014 by tgrey468

Happy Canada Day EVERYONE.

Wherever you are in the world, whatever your nationality, help us celebrate our nation’s birthday. Why? Because you are welcome here.

For 147 years we’ve been doing our best to build a nation that has open doors and open arms, whether you’re fleeing or vacationing.

We are the largest country in the world, but one of the least regionally-segregated (no matter how Quebec rattles the separation sabre). We’re all proud of where we call home, but we don’t beat each other up over it.

Lake Oesa, BC

Lake Oesa in Yoho National Park, BC

We’re far from perfect, but instead of denial and a rant from a pulpit, you’ll get an apology…and a coupon for Tim Horton’s.

We don’t want to run the world, we just want to help it run better.

If the US, China, and Russia are the bullies, the Brits are the -self-appointed upper crust, the Aussie’s are the friend out back with the dirty mags and Dad’s beer, then Canada is the Boy Scout. Not dumb, not smart, just plodding along, trying to be prepared while the rest of the world ignores us or yells at us or makes fun of our funny uniforms.

We follow others into a war but we’ll lead the charge when we’re needed.

We don’t fear the enemy, we fear apathy.

We don’t pound our chest to say how great Canadians are (except right now), we pound the table of international human rights and say how great we ALL are.

My family has been in North America for almost 400 years, and in Canada for over 250 years. We didn’t build it with doors to keep people out or people in, we built it as a gathering place.

One mean of the Iroquoian word ‘kanata’ is ” settlement”. So settle by the fire, put your feet up, and help us celebrate a day we’re glad to share with the world.

There will be beer and fireworks later.

Happy Canada Day.

Ciao for now,

T-Bone

An Imagined Conversation based on a Real Finding

Posted in My Opinion, love it or leave it with tags , , , , , on May 18, 2014 by tgrey468

Seen on the ground next to a bus bench: two used pregnancy test kits and an empty pack of smokes.

The conversation that went with them? Maybe this is how it went…


“Can I bum a smoke?”

“Sure, but not if you’re pregnant.”

“I’m not.”

“Prove it.”

“Okay.” Pees on tester. “See. Not pregnant.”

Image

“Maybe. But you got that from the Dollar Store, so how do we know it’s accurate?”

“Cuz I got two of them. I’ll do it again. This time you hold it, to prove I’m not messing with it.”

“Okay.”

Pees on second stick. “See. NOT pregnant.”

Wipes pee-wet hand on own shirt. “Fine. Here’s a smoke. Do you need a light, Steve?”

“Nah. I’m good.”

Litter, by Sam D'Amico

Pack o’ smokes.
by Sam D-Amico (samdamico.photoshelter.com)

***

That’s it, that’s all.

Ciao for now,

T-Bone.

When Lassie Needed Timmy

Posted in My Opinion, love it or leave it with tags , , , , , on May 18, 2014 by tgrey468

A very surreal experience this morning…

Pup on the move.

When the dog comes to the man for a rescue.

Walking to work when a small Yorkshire Terrier raced across 50′ of quiet road, barking like mad and favouring one rear paw. It was cold and a bit snowy out. He was wearing tags so I called him over to pick him up but the barked and ran away a few feet, waiting for me to follow.

So I followed. He kept coming back, barking, running away. I kept following him and he led me back across the street and up to a house. He ran up the side steps and to a patio door. I rang the bell, hoping someone was home, otherwise I was going to be late for work trying to solve the problem.

A moment before the door was answered, the patio door slid open and the pup raced in, across the house and up into the living room window where it barked at me. The door was answered by the Dad, and the dog was definitely theirs. He didn’t know the dog was even out. I think the kids in the background might have known what was going on, though.

So Lassie came to Timmy for the rescue, for once. Well, well, well.

 

That’s it, that’s all.

Ciao for now.

T-Bone.

It’s Not Just a Degree… It’s Your Life

Posted in My Opinion, love it or leave it with tags , , , , , , on May 18, 2014 by tgrey468

Learn from my harsh lesson. Do not let your children pick their post-secondary educational institution simply for its reputation; let them pick it for what it has to offer, what they will learn, and how it will help them grow in the directions they want to.

Benny & Me Grad

Graduating from Teacher’s College with one of the best things I took away from University: Benny, my creation from Children’s Drama class.

I went to a college/university with a stunning campus and a stellar reputation, but they taught nothing of what I wanted and needed to learn. I made some fantastic friends who were and still are wrapped around my heart and soul, but as far as time and money well spent… It was four years of great moments strung together.

I have a classical education many around the world would envy… and it was a waste of my time.

Learning-wise, the best semester I EVER had was when I was 29 and registered to go BACK to high school (after getting two degrees) to take the visual Arts and Architectural Drafting that I couldn’t take the first time through. I didn’t go to night school, either, I went back to day school. Grade 11. With 16-year-olds. My art teacher was a year younger than me and graduated from the same teachers college the year after me. But I didn’t know how to paint, so I had something to learn from her. We all had a blast. I even went to the Prom, without a date of course.

 

College pranking.

In the college residence hall after a newspaper-filling-the-room prank. Yes, the old fella there was a fellow student. Burt was a wonderful man who chose the university life to keep his mind young after he retired from teaching and couldn’t live on his own. Geoff P. is on the left and that’s me on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn to expand on what you love, not what your loved ones love.

That’s it, that’s all.

 

Ciao for now.

T-Bone.

Swords & Sorcery Writers Are Doing It Wrong.

Posted in My Opinion, love it or leave it, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2013 by tgrey468

I use Grammarly’s grammar checker online because having poor grammar is worse than serving warm beer to your future ex-father-in-law.

~~~

In this post I’m not going to trash on Fantasy as a genre or Sword & Sorcery as a sub-genre of any form of media, but rather I’m going to rant on about something which drives me crazy within the genre.

Have you ever noticed that many fantasy novels talk about legendary events in their fictional kingdom/land which happened thousands of years before the story’s present, and yet in that present,  civilization still has advanced only to a medieval state of technological development? They still have only wagons, single-blade plows, and water wheels, and books are often still hand-illuminated, not mass printed. This would make self-publishing a bitch, but that’s not my point.

I’m currently reading George R.R. Martin’s Path of the Dragon, a fun short story in 2009’s The Year’s Best Fantasy (edited by David G. Hartwell). The heroine is now looking up at the statue of a harpy killed 5000 years before. 5000 years before the story’s present they had the weapons to kill a harpy, but in the 5000 years since that great victory, their civilization has still not developed tools more advance than swords, shields, and bows, and they still sail everywhere.

In 5000 years we have gone from the first oil-burning lamps to receiving images back from the Cassini Probe circling Saturn. 5000 years ago the Sumerians were just starting to use cuneiform writing instead of pictographic signs, and now we can access the sum of all published human knowledge with a device that fits in our pocket.

Now, before the fantasists get their jodhpurs in a knot, I want to put forth a theory to explain technological advancements, and why some civilizations don’t have them, especially in fantasy literature. Before this, though, I will concede the point that most of our greatest advancements have come about from the desire to kill each other faster and more efficiently. Many of the gadgets we enjoy now were developed for one military or another. What I want to address here, though, are advancements outside of the war machines.

We are lazy. Mankind… humans… peeps. We are inherently lazy, and it is our insatiable need to save time and energy and keep from getting our hands dirty which has brought about many of the grassroots advancements. We have gone from a lever and a fulcrum and manpower to lift one item at a time, to forklifts that can lift tons at once, and then drive the load across to the shipping container which will be lift by a crane as big as many castles. We have gone from a pulley and rope system to move objects on and off a ship’s deck, to the Canadarm moving payloads on the International Space Station.

Steam Engine

The steam engine was known as the iron horse of the west.

We are lazy. Proof: Using steam power to produce mechanical motion goes back over 2000 years, and yet it wasn’t until the 1700s that steam engines became common. Why did we wait 1700 years to make use of steam as something more than entertainment? Well, steam power as we know it now, is a great labour-saving form of power and in the late 19th century was even achieving 10,000 horse power. Steam wasn’t a big deal for 1700 years because there was already a cheap, common labour-saving source of energy for most of that time… and it was slave labour. Take a look at civilizations who made use (and abuse) of slaves, and they were slow to try anything else with any seriousness. Once slavery became outlawed, devices began to pop up to save toil and sweat of the men and women who now had to be paid for their labour. As we all know, if an employer can find a way to get a job done with little or no expensive manpower, he will. Of course, some inventions caused a boom in the slave trade. The cotton gin is one such.

You’re asking what the hell any of this has to do with 5000 years of swords and bows and no advancement in a fantasy novel. Well, in some of those fantasy worlds, magic takes the place of (or supplements) slavery. Why invent a steam-powered battleship when a wizard can cast a spell and direct the winds? Why invent flying machines when dragons will do just fine? This sounds somewhat reasonable, doesn’t it?

Except that it’s not! In thirty years of reading fantasy, I have never read a single novel or short story where every man woman and child had enough magical ability that they didn’t need to lift anything heavy or carry anything on their backs or travel for miles by horseback or on foot. If everyone had magic, then I can understand why a society would stay at a medieval level of plow and broadsword for 5000 years. Maybe. But in almost every story I’ve read, magical ability is limited to the powerful few or the condemned few, and what that means is that if Johan down river has no cheap/easy access to magic, he’s going to look for easier and easier ways to move his goods up river to the market. He might start with a few good men on oars, then maybe a draft horse pulling from the shore. After a while he might think about a flat-bottomed boat with wheel of paddles on the back, doing the pushing and powered by men pulling on ropes or a draft horse walking on a turntable in the hull. Whatever he comes up with, as soon as his neighbour, Andre, sees the device, he’s going to try and do it one better. Then Johan sees Andre’s and makes modifications to improve on Andre’s already modified design. And so on and so on. The race is on and there is no end in sight…because Andre and Johan can’t afford slaves and they don’t have magic, and because they’re both lazy, greedy sons of bitches who need to feed their families and expand their businesses. From one mule to two. From two mules to six men. From six men to one horse and pulleys. From a horse to steam power. From a low-pressure, always exploding steam engine to a cast iron tank, greater pressure and more power. Then from two gears to three and then three to six, with sizes varying and then the torque multiplying tenfold. Like I said, no end in sight.

Some of you will argue that I’m ragging on fantasy novels and by their very definition as fantasy stories they can bend or break the usual rules. Of course they can. I hope they will. But for a reader

Dragon blue moon

Dragon across a blue moon.

to suspend their disbelief and trust that magic exists in the story, the world still has to have certain conventions adhered to. If you go over the top with the fantastic creations, the story is lost within the imaginings. If you have talking dragons, horses with opposable thumbs, civilizations at the same level of social and technical development for 10,000 years, and everyone knowing everything instantaneously, the story about the half-deaf, half-elf, siamese twins in love with different girls, could get lost.

Wait! You say. There are numerous real civilizations/races/cultures who haven’t advanced!  Yes there are. There are primitive cultures even now who only have the more-than-a-bone-knife tools they were given, having developed very little on their own. They hunt, they fish, they farm a little, and they are primitive. They haven’t walked themselves over the threshold and into the world of metal working and the printed word and agricultural needs to feed growing masses. Until we fucked with them, they were peoples of killing only for food, oral traditions, and healthy lifestyles. But when was the last time you read a true fantasy novel in which the world was a primitive one? Not just one part of it, but the entire world? If there are any such novels, they are few and far between. Most English-language fantasy novels fall out of the same European medieval mold, and they get it wrong.

That’s all I’m really trying to say. These writers are being lazy and not letting their imagined world evolve and advance as it should. Am I nitpicking? Of course. It’s what I do. Will I change how people create their fantasy worlds? Not bloody likely. I’ll incorporate some of it myself, but the masses will follow along the same, unenlightened path, because that’s what the publishers and readers expect.

But what do I know? I drive a bus for a living. ;)

That’s it, that’s all.

Ciao for now.

T-Bone.

Tesseracts Seventeen

The cover of Tesseracts Seventeen, from Edge Publishing.

P.S. TESSERACTS SEVENTEEN is now available from Edge Publishing and it contains my absolutely marvellous short story, “Why Pete?”, which makes full use of technological advances as mankind tries to colonize the stars.

Does University/College Frosh Week have any value?

Posted in My Opinion, love it or leave it with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2013 by tgrey468

Does Frosh Week still have value?

Currently two Canadian universities are making headlines because of inappropriate behaviour encouraged during their Frosh/Orientation Weeks.

The article I link to at the end of my rant asks if Frosh Week still has value. This is my answer:

If Frosh Week (the week of orientation mostly for students living in residence) hasn’t seen many changes from my day (1979), then it has no value, in my opinion.

On our first night we were offered great quantities of alcohol, paraded around campus en masse (the boys), and pressured to sing odd and sometimes crass chants outside the various female residences while dropping our pants and exposing ourselves. The ladies were then encouraged to dance in their windows and bare what they would. Some did, some didn’t. Many were so drunk that they just danced like hookers in the brothel doorways in Amsterdam.

Back then it was seen as every Soph’s (second year students on the orientation committee) duty to keep the Froshes humble. Our end-of-the-week Kangaroo Court involved mostly sober public humiliation in the light of day for anyone who had dared to overstep the Frosh/Soph boundaries in the previous 7 days.

Because WE dared to stand up to the Sophs and mock the head Soph in a skit during talent night (we held a mock-trial of our own, charging him with having sex with two different freshettes, including a re-enactment using a stuffed beaver and no nudity. Yes, we also used an absolutely crass chant.), our punishment was to be lined up, honey poured down the front of our pants, peanut butter smeared on our faces, and forced to bow face-first into a bowl of flour, apologizing for our transgression out loud, to the Soph and the crowd (but not to the two ladies, whom we never named).

We were the lucky ones. One musclebound frosh was ‘coerced’ into stripping to his tighty-whiteys, stand on a table, and flex during the remainder of the proceedings.

Almost every chant/song we had was sexual in nature, though nothing as crass as St. Mary’s University’s nasty under-age rape/no-consent one. Our school symbol was the beaver, so it lent itself to a lot of rudeness. The men’s ball hockey teams had names like The Penetrators and The Cunning Linguists. I made a few good friends in my three years in residence there, but at times (especially during the first year) it was hellish. 

College Residence Life

We pranked a friend by stuffing his room with crumpled-up newspaper while he was out on a first date. He came home after the disastrous date, saw the paper and wordlessly shoved it out into the hallway. Here we are trying to find it a new home. I’m the one with my arms in the air.

Now, in all fairness to the school, the college administrators knew very little about what was happening. Also, in my first year I was roommates with the wildest member of seventeen guys in our residence from the same graduating class from a certain Toronto private school. Life that year was a zoo, and some day I’ll tell you some of the really dark stories about drunk driving, abusive practical jokes, breaking into a female residence, putting a car in the chapel foyer (one of the fun incidents I instigate), and the writing of The Beaver Cookbook, my first self-published tome.

Nope, Frosh Week was pretty much a waste of time, and only slightly better than a fraternity hazing. Although I didn’t exactly live in fear, I did have to look over my shoulder much of the time, and that’s no way to get an education. 

Ciao for now,

T-Bone.

The article which inspired my response: 

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/dailybrew/does-rape-chant-furor-tell-us-value-university-200532833.html

 

 

 

“Why Pete?”: The Making of a Story

Posted in My Opinion, love it or leave it, Short Fiction with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 19, 2013 by tgrey468

Last summer I got word from L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest that my short story, “Why Pete?” had been awarded an Honourable Mention in the second quarter of their quarterly international short story contest. I was ecstatic. I had an Honourable Mention from their Illustrators of the Future Contest from the early 90s, and this latest one completed the set.

Honourable Mention for "Why Pete?"

Writers of the Future Honourable Mention, 2nd Quarter 2012, for “Why Pete?” by Tim Reynolds.

“Why Pete?” is a pure science fiction piece written during a year of writing horror, fantasy, vampyre, zombie, and steampunk short stories. It tells the tale of Space Ark Commander Lily Rayn when she awakens from cryosleep near the end of her journey to a new star system with a load of colonists.

The Honourable Mention is a terrific honour and all, but there was no cash prize and the story didn’t get published, unlike the first-place winners. With stories, publication is what it’s all about, with hopefully a little cash thrown my way as a symbolic gesture.

So I submitted “Why Pete?” to Lightspeed Magazine. It was rejected. Next there was another competition at Arc. Nope. Then it was off to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (a perfect fit, or what?!). They liked it, but it wasn’t for them. Then the story made its way to Clarkesworld and it was rejected so fast it almost bounced. That’s fine, though. Rejection is okay.

Story rejections happen for a number of reasons. Here are a few, in no particular order.

  1. The story really does suck. (This was not a problem with “Why Pete?” because the judges at WOTF are very picky.)
  2. The story is of a type which doesn’t appeal to the editor. (He/she hates space operas, or whatever.)
  3. The story is not a good fit for the publication. (The story is science fiction, the publication is Homes & Gardens.)
  4. The publisher has recently purchased and/or published a similar story. (Just bad timing.)

And then came the much-anticipated call for submissions from Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing’s Tesseracts Seventeen. Tesseracts is THE Canadian annual speculative fiction anthology. There is often a theme and the only requirement is that the author(s) must be Canadian, in one form or another. Authors whose works have appeared in past editions include Margaret Atwood and Robert J. Sawyer. I have quite a few friends who have had their terrific stories grace the pages of one or more editions of Tesseracts, so I was eager to join their esteemed company. Also, one of my all-time favourite short stories (of mine) was rejected by Tesseracts Sixteen last year, and I was ready for the wind to change.

So I submitted, with fingers and toes crossed. I love all of the stories I write, at least once they’re finished, but “Why Pete?” has a special place in my heart because Lily isn’t based on me whatsoever and yet she came alive for me like few other characters have. I read the story now and I still smile at the way she handles the situation. Yes, I wrote the situation and her reaction, but when a story is written really well, it can separate itself from the author and become its own entity. “Why Pete?” has done that, for me, at least.

“Why Pete?” came about because I wanted to write about fear.  I wanted to write a dark story that made readers shiver, but I wanted to do it without a single monster or creature. I needed a phobia. My own fears aren’t of a phobia level so I stole one from my wife, Sue. She has a fear of being buried alive. Ooh! A good one! I suppose I do, too, once I think about it. Anyone who doesn’t, is crazy as far as I’m concerned.

I’d found my story’s fear factor. Now I just needed to find an original way to tell it. Well, there are no original ideas, just different voices telling the same stories. I wanted something set in space, to become part of a larger literary canvas I’m weaving with a series of novels, and this might just be the right fit. How could I bury someone alive in space? Well, aren’t spaceships just like submarines and simply sealed coffins waiting to be cracked open at the end of a journey? You betcha!

Now for my hero, Pete. Yes, Pete was the original hero during the concept stage. The problem is that I know so many strong women that I thought that it was time I gave them a hero of their own. Enter Lily. Lily Bianca Rayn. Lily (White) Rayn. It has such a cool sound to it. ‘Rayn’ is rain… a purification. Lily and Bianca/White are symbols of innocence. I wanted a character whose very name screamed “innocence and rebirth!!” The story is really about starting fresh, with a blank slate, and that’s what Lily ends up doing.

The science of the story wasn’t too difficult to research. I allowed for the fantasy of cryosleep for a year and travel through a worm hole and then based all of the remaining science on submarines and various previous and existing space missions. By the way, the International Space Ark Mayhew is not named after Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies, but rather after my own ancestor, Thomas Mayhew, Governor of Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket & the Queen Elizabeth Islands in the mid-to-late 17th century. Many-Greats Grandpa Tom was an explorer and colonizer in his own right (and had the longest continuous Christian missionary effort in history).

The planet I sent Lily and the ark to is actually one in the Exoplanet Database, and is one of possibly habitable planets discovered by the Kepler telescope.

Because I’m all about using humour to break or bend tension, the Pete in the story became the personality overlay of the artificial intelligence that keeps Lily company during her ordeal. The original Pete who was the basis for the personality overlay, was Lily’s husband at the time of the AI’s programming. To say any more will give away some of the fun of the story, so I won’t. I’ll just add that the although I often start a story with the title, this one didn’t come to me until after the first draft was written and the original title, “One Hand Clapping” just didn’t fit the finished story.

Tesseracts Seventeen

The cover of Tesseracts Seventeen, from Edge Publishing.

I suppose I should tie this post up by adding that “Why Pete?” was selected by editors Colleen Anderson and Steve Vernon for TESSERACTS Seventeen: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast. It’s due out in October and is available now for pre-order from Amazon.com. For anthologies containing any of my other published stories, here’s my Amazon Author’s page.

Like so many of my short stories, I have an idea where the story starts and some of the things I need to have happen, but quite often I just let the characters and narrative voice start talking and plotting and acting and see where it takes the tale. Sometimes a character will make a simple statement (“I hate dogs.”) and that will lead the story to a place where dogs become important. Maybe she’ll even become a werewolf. Ooo! I like that! ‘Scuse me while I jot that idea down… a cat person becoming a werewolf!

Anyway, without dropping any spoilers, that’s how “Why Pete?” came to be written, awarded, and eventually sold. Next up for the story will be an option by Sony for a Hollywood film starring Mrs. Pitt or  some other tough-as-nails, tender-as-a-kitten woman. Yah. Right.

That’s it, that’s all.

Ciao for now,

T-Bone.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers