And Now, From Science Weekly





Good morning, I’m Sybil Sanderson.

We here at ‘Science Weekly’ are pleased to report a new development in the world of space. A shake-up has been reported in the Canadian government that may have an impact on that country’s contribution to space exploration.

Minister of Space, Jonathon Erikson died last week after being shot in his bed. His body was discovered by his wife. His post has been filled by his Deputy Minister, Anika Lavalle, who was only recently promoted to the deputy position from advisor. Investigators are still trying to piece together the evidence that may lead to an arrest of Minister Erikson’s murderer. It is with great curiosity that we turn our attention now to the newly minted Minister Lavalle. Who is she? How did a virtual unknown rise to such an important position? We were able to ask these questions, and more, of the Minister herself in a brief interview granted just this morning.

Thank you for taking the time to speak to us today, Minister Lavalle.


My pleasure.


You must have an enormous amount of work waiting for you, so I’ll get right to it. How does one go from an advisory position to Deputy Minister of Space?


In my former position, I apparently caught the attention of our Prime Minister Cohen. He asked that I advise him on various occasions, after which he appointed Deputy Minister of Space. It’s a great honor.


I can imagine. Has the mandate of the Ministry of Space changed at all since your promotion?


Yes, it has, Sybil. The Prime Minister has tasked my office with establishing the preliminary steps to building a research station on the Moon. Then we’ll work to meet the criteria that will allow us to build a multi-national research station there. While no country can claim the planet, only politics stands in the way of working together. That said, it is our wish that Canada take a larger role in exploring space. Research, asteroid mining and launching exploratory craft from the Moon is all a part of that plan.


Will Canada still play a technological support role on the International Space Station?


Yes, we will. The Government of Canada wants to expand our role in exploring space, not reduce it. We want to be a leader out among the stars. We are putting plans into place that will enable many more Canadian citizens to be a bigger part of that. We expect to see more job creation come from this new mandate, as well as current contract extensions. Residual economic developments are expected to boost the overall health of our economy as well. Obviously, I can’t go into a great number of details, though.


It will be fascinating to see how it all unfolds. Thank you for sharing a small part of your vision with us, Minister Lavalle.


Thank you for having me, Sybil.


So, there you have it, folks, Canada gets a new Minister of Space, and a new purpose out among the stars! Stayed tuned for Ryan Rutledge’s report on the repairs to the Hadron Collider…



You Have An Interesting Name, Coriander Wolf


I wanted to take a couple of minutes today to tell you about two women that are about to go off on an incredible adventure across space and wondrous worlds. But before they can save an expedition lost on a world that is not Earth…they have to meet, right?

You’ve heard me talk about Cori and Devi, and how they’ve been tasked by the Canadian government to find and retrieve a ground-breaking expedition. You’ve seen little snippets that I’ve posted here. But how did they come together?

“If It’s Easy” is an inexpensive short story that recounts how Devi and Coriander met in the most unlikely of places, Northern Ontario. It’s sweet, charming and a reminder of how easily our hearts can fall for the right person. You can find it at iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Overdrive, Kobo, Scribd, Tolino, Amazon, and 24Symbols.

I hope you enjoy it. I hope they charm you as much as they did me. I’d love to hear what you thought. Please drop me a line in the comments below!

Happy reading!



Why Dystopias?


I was talking to someone the other day about my newest project (yes, I’m a writing multi-tasker), a dystopian novel, and they asked me an interesting question.


“Why, what?” Was my oh-so-intelligent response.

“Why write dystopian? What the hell is it, really? Isn’t it all depressing and bleak?”

Those questions were rather revealing and interesting at the same time.


Dystopian fiction has been characterized thusly,

‘Dystopian literature is a genre of fictional writing used to explore social and political structures in ‘a dark, nightmare world.’ The term dystopia is defined as a society characterized by poverty, squalor or oppression and the theme is most commonly used in science fiction and speculative fiction genres.The most popular definition of dystopian literature is that it is anti-Utopian.’


I’m not sure I agree with all of that.


These days, the dystopian genre has more facets than it did in George Orwell’s day. A number of authors have taken it in directions uniquely their own, thereby opening the genre for all kinds of interpretation. Dystopian fiction is no longer just about Big Brother, oppression, and totalitarianism. These days it can be about a facet of life after some radical planet-changing event. Dys usually denotes something bad, so right off, we know we aren’t headed for a romance story.

But even that presumption can be turned on its ear because more and more, we can read dystopian fiction that includes romance.

I think a more accurate description of the genre might be ‘a genre of fictional writing used to explore a world that the reader would consider worse off than his or her own, socially, politically or environmentally.’


Sure, there are heavy elements, and I have read a few where I came away depressed and worried about the future.

But not all dystopian novels and short stories are like that. I’ve read many where I was left with hope for the future. I’ve read some, where the main characters fell in love and forged a new life together in their radically-changed world.

See? Lots more options than what Orwell had to work with in his day.


As for the first part of that question, I write it because I’m fascinated by it. I’ve been a fan of dystopian literature for over twenty years, and it’s been interesting watching the genre grow and stretch its boundaries. Once, it was the domain of white men focused on doom and gloom. Now, some of the best dystopian novels and short stories include women of colour, lesbians just trying to survive in a radical world, self-affirming A.I, rabbits looking for a new home…and the list goes on. We’re not in post-war Kansas anymore, Dear Reader.


For me, the dystopian genre offers a new way to look at the world. What it can be, what it looks like to some people, and where we’re going if we aren’t careful. Advisory, cautious, revelatory, and hopefully entertaining.


But the greatest reason for me to write dystopian fiction can be summed up by this quote,


“Write the book you want to read, the one you cannot find.” Carol Shields  



A Descent of Colours


I know, I’m a tease. I like to use my blog as a testing ground, a sounding-field for bits of fiction I’m working on. It’s interesting to see who comments, who hits ‘like’, and who doesn’t. Sometimes, it’s just about getting it out of my system and seeing how the words look.

Kind of like the person who throws cooked spaghetti at the wall to see if it will stick, and declare it done if it doesn’t slide off.

At any rate, here’s a bit that just flowed from somewhere. Try it on.

Tell me if it moved you or made you yawn. Could you see the colours?



Walker turned away from the cob barn and let the others herd the sheep and chickens into their new home. He turned toward the lake. The sun had just begun its descent and slid toward the horizon, saying its daily farewells in a chorus of yellows and oranges. The water picked up the colors and replied in an echo so intense that Walker found himself unable to tear his eyes away. The sunset was doubled, mirrored, and for just a minute, Walker was able to forget about the pandemic, forget for just a moment about all of the people who couldn’t see the colors he did. He forgot that the little community of Eden might be one of the last communities in the province. For just a minute he didn’t have to think about survival or security or keeping animals alive so they could feed him.
There was only the sun, and himself.



Low Tech Tuesday!

I thought I’d start something new here on the blog, low-tech Tuesday. I’ll put up a picture of a low tech device or tool and you tell me if you know what it is. If you don’t, take a guess in the comments. I’ll give you all a few days and then come back on the weekend and tell you what it is and how it’s used.

Sounds like fun, right?

Here we go with our first installment…



So….what do you think it is? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you soon!

After People, Part 2


Previously, we engaged in a little thought experiment (Brought on by sleeplessness via the dog laying on my arm. Thank you, Harley)


In my ‘what-if’ scenario, I lived in a world with a much-reduced population. One where there weren’t enough people left to keep the power and internet on and priorities were food, water, and shelter. Once all the food in my nearby city was gone, there was nothing to hold me there and I had left the concrete for the bears, rats, and coyotes. In my thought experiment, I retreated to the woods north of the city and began to build a refuge there.


I imagine that while I walked, I would desperately try and remember the Survival Rule of threes.

  • You can survive for 3 minutes without air
  • You can survive for 3 hours in a harsh environment without shelter
  • You can survive for 3 days without water
  • You can survive for 3 weeks without food

(All of these assume you’re not in icy water)


So let’s assume I have a backpack containing a wool sweater I found somewhere, a 2 layer weatherproof jacket scrounged from the back of a truck (the dead man at the wheel wasn’t going to be needing it anymore) and enough food for a week. In the pocket of the coat, I found a lighter, a bottle of water, a bandana, a battery operated flashlight, a 6” folding knife, and the dead man’s keys. On that keychain is a small strike-a-light thing that creates sparks when you scrape it. From a survival standpoint, this is a potentially life-saving discovery!


Ever vigilant for wild animals, I suspect it would take me a couple of days to reach my destination. I’m in fairly decent shape for a walk of that length, but I don’t consider myself fit. I’m conscious of where I put my feet because a sprained ankle would seriously limit my safety. I stay warm at night in the sweater and weatherproof jacket, and I’ve been lucky enough to find safe places to sleep at night, albeit fitfully. Let’s assume I made it out of town without incident.


I come across a small village seemingly uninhabited. I stay in the bush waiting and watching for as long as I can. Yes, it might be nice to have someone to talk to, but I can’t assume only the good people survived. So I’m cautious. I finally decide to approach one of the houses that looks in good condition. I can see a few crabapple trees in the yard and what looks like an overgrown garden nearby the house. I see no signs that anyone has been there for some time, so after a whole lot of internal debate with myself, I finally decide to check the house out.


Close inspection shows all the windows and doors intact and not a single human print in the dirt driveway. I look in all the windows I can reach, half expecting to hear a shout of alarm or warning. There’s no one inside and I find the back door unlocked. With a whispered apology to whoever owns the house, I quietly slip inside and explore. There are two levels, a basement with a walk-in pantry, a cold-room and various appliances. Knowing how long the power has been off, there’s no point in looking inside the freezer. Its contents would have thawed and rotted long ago. But the cold room is situated in such a way that it is kept cool by the earth itself, and the heavy door that protects it. My flashlight shows built-in shelving stocked with all sorts of cans and jars of food, and I breathe a sigh of relief. On the floor are crocks and bottles. The crocks are full of sand that holds potatoes, carrots, and apples. The bottles are all labeled ALE. It looks as if the previous occupants knew a thing or two about preserving and home brewing. The walk-in pantry holds a variety of buckets. They’re all labeled according to their contents, and if the labels are all correct, the house is well stocked with rice, flour, dried beans, bottles of spices and dried fruit. Leaving the basement, I return my attention upstairs.


There is a kitchen, whose cupboards are well-stocked with dry goods in large glass jars. Dishes still rest nestled inside each other in another cupboard. Down a long hallway, I find a bathroom and two bedrooms, all empty of people. There are no bodies of the dead, no signs of panic or violence. It looks like the people who lived here just vanished. Curious, I explore further. Back in the kitchen, I take a close look at the table and find my answer. A notice of mandatory evacuation.


Next time: What would I find out in the barn that might help me stay alive?


I’d love to hear your impressions of my little thought experiment. Let me know in the comment section!


After People, What Next?



I have just finished reading a novel that focuses on surviving in a future ripped apart by war. It’s never made explicitly clear how long after the war, but I got the idea that it was a couple of generations at least. It was an entertaining book, and there were a couple of parts that nearly made me put the book down. I was impressed with the level of editing the book had received, only finding one mistake in a novel these days is pretty remarkable. My copy of Harry Potter has more than one typo! Anyway, I stuck with the book until the end and only have one niggling little quibble with it. 

The setting is New York City, specifically a greatly expanded Central Park. Now, even 25 years after a population-altering event, the underground pumps would have stopped working, and New York would be very, very wet. New York is actually already very wet. A team of men and 753 pumps struggle every day to keep the underground river from rising, and their efforts become even more focused and determined when it rains hard. Even as little as 2″.

According to Alan Weisman, a man long considered an expert in what might happen to our world without us, 650 gallons of water rush not too far below ground in Brooklyn.  One supervisor of Hydraulics Emergency Response has been quoted as saying that without electricity those pumps would shut off and stay off. In a half hour, the subway tunnels would become so flooded, trains could no longer run. Within 20 years, Lexington Avenue would be a river.

Trees change faces too. The Chinese ailanthus tree would take over, as would weeds and native greenery. Seeds of weeds would blow in from various parks and take root. With no one to maintain the weeds and grasses, New York would not remain a sterile, concrete world. There would be more than just herds of zebra, bears and wolves for any remaining humans to deal with.

So while I recognize that the novel I finished yesterday is only fiction, and meant to be entertaining, I do wonder if the setting might have been better researched.

Regardless, all of this got me thinking while I couldn’t sleep at 2 A.M.

Let’s say for the sake of conversation that something horrible happened and mankind was not completely wiped out, but our numbers were dramatically reduced. Life has become day-to-day survival. Due to that same reduced population, there is no more power grid, no one to keep the internet running, not enough people to man the oil refineries, or make steel, or cigarettes or music, or any of the other dozens of things we’ve become accustomed to living with. Because I live in Northern Ontario, I, of course, turned my pre-dawn thoughts to how such a scenario would play out up here.

The closest city to me, an hour away by vehicle, would be taken over by the woods that surround it. The city was originally carved from the bush (as we Canadians call it), and a substantial wood-lot still resides at its heart today for educational purposes. (It is owned by a local college) It isn’t unusual to see bears in town, or fox, cougars have been known to come calling, coyotes and even a lynx has been spotted. So the local wildlife isn’t waiting around for human-kind to relinquish our grasp on the city. They’re already staking their claim. There is already a rat problem, and while some theorize that without our trash, the rats would die off due to an altered diet and hungrier predators…I’m not so sure.

I think the city would quickly become wild and while there is a river on one side, there’s not a lot of farms. Some, yes, but even if we had a well-established agricultural presence, those farms need people to till and plant and water and harvest. With a reduced population, farming would become subsistence-driven. Every survivor for themselves, as it were. For the sake of this mental exercise, I imagined I would survive (somehow), and then further tried to imagine exactly how I’d live.

Day-to-day existence would become a constant search for water, food, shelter, and safety. No more coffee, no more bananas or avocado. Once the trucks had ceased bringing food in, there would be no more shipments to the grocery stores and quite likely no one to run the stores anyway. After a while, there would be no more need of town and I would quite likely attempt to establish a refuge in the woods north of the city.


What do you think would happen with a drastically reduced population? Let us know in the comments!