Hayden Trenholm's Blog

January 2, 2017

It is, of course, standard practice as the New Year rolls in to reflect on the year just past. A year in review is almost de rigeur but, I thought, as a science fiction writer, shouldn't I be more future focused?

As we all know, past is prologue. So, in brief, 2016 was a mixed bag. Certainly, a lot of notable people died -- some of them celelebrities, others simply useful in a vast number of fields. But people were born, too. Quite likely some of the children who were born last year will change the world. Hopefully for the better. Besides I long ago accepted that mortality is the spice that makes living worthwhile. I lost my father when I was 24 and my mother more recently, and, over the course of my life, many good friends have left this world. I feel bad about the loss of a favorite singer or actor and regret the passing -- especially the too soon passing -- of anyone who has striven to make the world a better place. But none of that matters (to me) in the face of the death or illness of a close friend or family member. 

But enough about them. This blog is about me.

I had a satisfying creative life. Two stories were published and I wrote a couple more -- one of which is already sold. I won an Aurora Award (with Mike Rimar) for editing the  Second Contacts anthology and also put my name on another anthology (again with Mike), Lazarus Risen. I edited three novels for Bundoran Press and bought three more for publication in 2017. I ran a reasonable successful fundraising campaign so I can pay a decent rate for our next anthology, 49th Parallels, which I will edit solo.

My work at the Senate remained interesting -- but was conducted in full knowledge that it was my last full year of well-paid employment. My wife, Liz, retired from the governmnet on December 28th and I will follow suit in the next 3 to 4 months. Which means next year will be dramatically different from last -- more freedom but a lot less money. 

I had no serious health challenges -- other than aching joints and the fatigue of being (almost) 62 and far too sedentary. It will take an effort to change the advance of entropy next year. And while some friends and family had some health scares, none of them left me. My travel was limited to a week in Mexico and some time out west as well as regular visits to Yellowknife -- including what may have been my last one in November.

And politics. What can I say? I'm reasonably satisfied with the new Canadian government. Far from perfect but who would expect perfection from government (or any other human construct)? It's better that what came before and seems to have an agreeable vision for the future. Far better than what we're seeing in other countries, I think, where everybody wants to turn back the clock to an non-existant 'better days.' These days, even nostalgia ain't what it used to be. I was as shocked and disappointed by the election of Donald Trump as anyone who considers themself remotely progressive. Trump is bad, no doubt, but he's no Vlad Putin.

Which brings us to the turning point.

There are three things I intend to do more of in 2017 than I did in 2016. The first is travel. I'm heading to Mexico in a few days and will enjoy the sun and surf and culture and food for 17 days. Later in the year, we're heading for England for nine weeks -- which will include side trips to Scotland and Cairo (and maybe Berlin) and we'll be out west again in August. And after that, who knows?

Writing is also on my list -- I wrote 3 short stories last year and I want, at a minimum, to double that ourput. I've also been accumulating notes for not one, not two, but three new novels. I plan to get one of them done by this time next year.

The third thing I plan on doing is 'changing the world.' I don't intend to become a revolutionary by any means but I intend to do something -- for a stranger, for my community, country or the world -- that will leave things a little better after I do them than before. It will take a while to get rolling but I don't think it is too ambitious to aim for 26 specific accomplishments before 2017 is done. Because If I don't do them, who will?

One thing I'll keep doing at the same rate is Bundoran Press -- we once again have 3 novels and an anthology on the schedule. As for 2018? I'll let you know.

Some things I intend to try to do less of next year is worry and get angry. Worry is easy but largely pointless -- if something troubles you, act to change it. As for anger -- moral outrage is fine but yelling at people accomplishes nothing. As Matilda says -- if it's not right, you have to make it right. Fight, yes, but for a purpose and in a direction. So, I'm going to try that. And, like all human constructs, it won't be perfect.

As for politics. I think the Canadian governmnet will have a tougher time in 2017 but, if they stick to their principles, will do okay. Which is good enough for Canada.

I'm worried about Europe, of course, especially France which seems likely to turn to the right and Germany, which may be the last bastion of liberal democracy on the continent. Brexit will hurt more people than it will help -- but I sort of think that was the whole idea anyway. Anger and revenge rather than a clear vision of something better.

And Donald Trump? Almost certainly the worst President since Nixon (though he'd have to work hard to be as bad as some the guys from the 19th Century -- and Donny is not know for his work ethic) but probably one of the most ineffectual, too. Some of his Cabinet appointees won't be confirmed -- not because the Senate votes against them but because some of them will quit in the face of sustained nasty questioning. Some who do get confirmed won't be as bad as we suspect (and some will be worse than we can imagine). In any case, Trump will discover that the Senate and Congress, even with Republican majorities (for as long as those last), will not simply role over and do what he tells him. And as for the Blue State governors -- hahaha! Any appointment he makes to SCOTUS will be bad but hopefully he won't get to make two. That would be really bad for a very long time.

Still, America is resiliant and slow to change. It took fifty years to get from the civil rights movement to President Obama. I doubt if it will turn on a dime even if the guy in the White House pouts and calls them meanies for not doing everything he demands. And remember, momentum is a tremendous thing and as powerful as the President is (not as powerful as a Prime Minister with a majority), the future has a mind of its own. You can't make people be who they were last week, let alone fifty years ago and you can't re-create an economy of the 1950s on the back of the digital age. The world has changed -- and mostly for the better -- and won't change back because some people feel disgruntled or deprived or even legitimately aggreived. 

Still, for a lot of people, things are going to get rough and even cruel. Which is why people like me -- and like many of you -- have to do a little extra. We need to defend the vulnerable, support the endangered, stand up for rights and democracy, hold our hand out to help and keep our eyes focused on a brighter world.

Because what's that alternative? Curl up and die?
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Published on January 02, 2017 09:31 • 6 views

September 4, 2016

Once again I'll be attending Ottawa's Canadian Conference on the Speculative Arts, generally known as Can-Con. I'll spend a lot of time in the dealers' room, manning the Bundoran Press table and, I trust, selling a few books. However, I'll also be doing some programming.

Friday, 9 p.m. I'll be hosting, along with Liz Westbrook- Trenholm and Michael Rimar, the Bundoran Press Publisher Reception - Readings from Lazarus Risen and Stars Like Cold Fire. Drop by for a nosh and a drink in the Tavern ConSuite 3rd Fl - Room 315

Saturday 10 a.m.
Character Arc and Mental Health: Autism, depression, anxiety and mental health diagnoses are more than character tropes. Which writers effectively structure compelling characters without misrepresenting what it means to live atypical lives? Which ones need to do better and how could they? Hayden Trenholm, Susan Forest, Fanny Darling, Ada Hoffmann, Lynne MacLean (m) Zenith Room

Saturday 11 a.m.
Brave New Baby – Speculating Birth, Health and Death in the Future: Tremendous new medical tools are now available to improve lives and combat disease, such as stem cell banking, gene therapy, cyborging, and early integration with technology. What exactly is the field of now and the medical field in 20-40 years from now, and how is science fiction engaging with it? Anatoly Belilovski, Lesley Donaldson, Julie Czerneda, Angela S. Stone, Hayden Trenholm (m) Sunset Room

Saturday 5 p.m.
The Strangers Among Us: Readings from the Mental Health-themed Anthology - Suzanne Church, A.M. Dellamonica, Julie E. Czerneda, Susan Forest, James Alan Gardner, Rich Larson, Lucas K. Law, Ursula Pflug, Robert Runté, Hayden Trenholm, Edward Willett Zenith Room

Saturday 7 p.m.
Play Reading: Prisoner of Zelda - Hayden Trenholm, Agnes Cadieux, Geoff Gander, Brandon Crilly A romantic comedy with a twist -- and guns. Zenith Room

Sunday 11 a.m.
Bodies of Difference: Disability in Spec Fic – This panel explores the representation of disability in speculative fiction. We examine representations of medicalized bodies, portrayals of people who are disabled, and the narratives that surround disability in our society. This panel is about imagining a future for the bodies we occupy. Madona Skaff,Rebecca Simkin, Hayden Trenholm, Ada Hoffmann, Cathy Hird, Derek Newman-Stille (m) Dawn Room

Hope to see you there.
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Published on September 04, 2016 09:33 • 8 views

December 30, 2015

Another year has passed and I’m convinced if I don’t blog on Hayden’s Hubris at least once, I’ll be too ashamed to hold my head up high. And we can’t have that happen, can we?

I have to say that 2015 was a real mixed bag. There was a certain amount of sadness, tempered with fair dollops of joy. Still, I won’t be sad to see it come to an end. Maybe 2016 will turn out better.

So let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. While I had a relatively healthy year – aside from the aches and pains of turning 60 and being in the worst shape of my life – but there was plenty of illness and death in my life. My mother-in-law, who turned 90 in August broke her hip last spring and has since gone into a slow decline. As the year ends, she is in hospital with pneumonia and her prospects of going home again are dim. Her decline was probably sped along by the death of her daughter after a very brief illness with lung cancer. Kristine was only 68 and, until her sudden illness, was full of life and energy.
Three friends – not close ones but people I saw regularly – also died this year, two from cancer and one from a respiratory illness. A very close friend was recently also diagnosed with cancer and another has been in hospital for months because of serious depression.
As the saying goes, getting old is not for sissies.

On the bright side, a younger friend was successfully treated for her cancer and, by all appearances, has beaten the disease. A couple of other friends recovered from quite serious illnesses and are back to their old selves. It is sometimes a wonder what doctors can achieve.

Other aspects of my life have been happier. My day job at the Senate has gotten a lot more interesting in the last few months and promises to be busy and exciting for the next year or two. I was pleased to help my boss launching his autobiography and happy for him that it has generally been well received. Liz reached a major milestone in her work and can now look forward to retiring in a year or less. I will follow shortly after – though I might be around for nearly 3 years.

In the meantime, Bundoran Press continues to take up a lot of my spare time. We released 4 books this year and had an Aurora nomination for a 2014 book. I already have books bought for both 2016 and 2017, one of which will be partly funded by an Indiegogo campaign. You can read more about that at my Bundoran Blog.

With work and publishing keeping me busy, my own writing has lagged a bit. I had two story sales during the year with “Drone Dreams” being published by Perihelion SF in November. “Marion’s War” will appear in the anthology, Strangers Among Us , next August. I have a few other stories out to market and hope to find a bit more time to write next year. However, on a related matter, I now have two students that I mentor professionally (and am always interested in more).

It wouldn’t be a year without lots of travel and this year, in addition to business trips to the NWT and family/friend visits in Toronto and Alberta/BC, Liz and I expanded our horizons by going to Cuba in February and Turkey in October. Both trips were fantastic, though quite different in scope and style. We particularly like snorkeling in Cuba and intend to do a lot more in Cozumel when we go there this winter. The highlights of Turkey were the Aya Sofia in Istanbul and the fairyland landscape of Cappadocia.  Other than Mexico, we don’t have any particular plans for travel in 2016 but I’m sure that will change in the next few years.

And we had plenty of visitors this year. Susan (Liz’s daughter) and her boyfriend, Kevin, came from England and stayed with us for much of 10 days. It was a fabulous time. We also got in several visits with Steven and his sons in Burlington. A few people came to dinner while visiting Ottawa though, as it turned out, no one stayed over. One of the other highlights involved visiting other people – a group of writers hosted by Rob Sawyer in early July. It’s always fun to hang with other writers. Which of course reminds me of all my writing (and non-writing) friends here in Ottawa and the many parties, retreats and writing events we took part in both here in Ottawa but also Kingston, Toronto and Calgary.

So I guess 2015 wasn’t the best year of my life but, on the other hand, it really wasn’t half bad.
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Published on December 30, 2015 11:04 • 36 views

December 30, 2014

Picture I can't let the year pass without one last visit to my poor neglected blog -- I have too much hubris to believe you wouldn't miss me. It's not that I haven't been blogging; I have, just not here.

So 2014 was a fairly eventful year -- especially in October -- but I don't want a single event to overshadow all the other things that have occupied my time for the last 12 months.

I'm happy to say that, after a quiet 2013 as a writer, my 2014 was, well, a little less quiet. I had two stories published and wrote three more (and co-wrote one with my wife) and have two fairly well-developed ideas for two more. I also undertook re-writes of 2 older stories. Not a lot compared to earlier years but an increase over the previous two. Moreover, I made progress (roughly 10,000 words) on a new novel and started the research and note-making process for two more.

I intend to make sure that 2015 is even better -- so I am targeting at least three sales (not really in my control -- all I can do is send them out) and at least 5 new stories written. I will also write a minimum of 20000 words on my new mystery novel plus 10000 on a new SF novel. I know, I know, everyone else is determined to write 50K every November but I don't have that much typing in my fingers anymore. I also intend to focus on finding an agent and putting together a proposal for a non-fiction book I've been thinking about.

Of course, my major writing related work has been as an editor and publisher at Bundoran Press. In addition to editing an anthology of stories from around the world, called Strange Bedfellows, I worked on five novels -- two published in 2014 and 3 that will appear in 2015. Right now, I'm in the middle of reading stories for another anthology, Second Contacts, which I am editing with Michael Rimar.

And, as I mentioned I am blogging as the editor of Bundoran Press here (and you can read my most popular posts here: first second third). In July I started a new blog called Ten Minutes of Words. The premise is that I write for ten minutes, do a little editing and publish every single day. I haven't missed a day yet and as a result have written nearly 70,000 words of opinion, fact, stories and trifles. You can read the five most popular here: one two three four, five.

I also read a few books -- I finished 30 and started another 7 or 8 but gave up on them. The best was The Peoples' Platform by Astra Taylor, followed closely by The Swerve by Greenblat. The best fiction I read was a tie between Anne Leckie's Ancillary Justice and Harbach's The Art of Fielding. I watched fewer movies than usual (and caught up on a lot of old TV on Netflix instead), the best of which were Now You See Me, Beginners and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Travel occupied a certain amount of my time in 2014 as well. I went to four SF conventions: Ad Astra in Toronto, When Words Collide (WWC) in Calgary, World Con in London and CanCon in Ottawa. I was also a featured writer at the NorthWords Literary Festival in Yellowknife. I also spent a day in Toronto selling books at Word on the Street.

While out west for WWC, I got to visit family and friends in Calgary, Sundre and on Vancouver Island. When in London, I got to spend time with my wife's daughter, Susan and Liz and I also took side trips to Dublin and Paris. While in Paris, I was thrilled to find the French translation of my book Circle of Birds (Circle d'Oiseaux) in a bookstore in the neighbourhood where Hemingway lived.

Of course, throughout all this I was also working at my regular job as Policy Advisor to the Senator for the Northwest Territories. I assisted him with several major studies and especially with legislation impacting the Northwest Territories. I was able to travel to Yellowknife several times and meet with key stakeholders there. I also wrote a lot of letters, a few speeches and several research papers. It's hard to believe but I've been in that job over 13 years now. Readers of this blog know that this work drove most of the (few) posts I made here.

Of course, I can't finish without talking briefly about the shooting at the War Memorial which I had the misfortune to witness. You can read my account here. But, of course, events like that do not simply occur and go away. The events on the Hill are still having repercussions for my work -- with heightened security and an over-reaction in terms of legislative proposals by the Conservative government. I trust the good sense of Canadians not to be taken in by Harper's security hysteria.

My own life was also seriously disrupted. Although I returned to work the day after the attack and worked steadily through to late November, I was plagued with poor sleep, flashbacks, depression and a profound sense of fatigue. Eventually, my doctor sent me home for three weeks to work on these issues using cognitive therapy. I'm pleased to say it worked well and I feel much like my normal self. I remain a generally happy person and am optimistic about the future. I'll never get over what happened but it no longer dominates my thoughts or feelings. And, on a positive note, I have greater understanding and empathy for those who struggle with emotional issues.

I can't promise to blog here more often -- but you never know what the future will hold.

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Published on December 30, 2014 14:36 • 83 views

May 25, 2014

One of the favorite mantras of the Conservative party is that Justin Trudeau lacks meaningful experience and is not up to the job of being Prime Minister.

That's a serious charge and one well worth investigating.

Mr. Trudeau has a B.A. and a B.Ed. and worked for a nine years as a teacher. The Conservatives for some reason think that isn't much and especially like to point out he was a 'drama' teacher though that was only one area he taught. In addition to teaching drama, Mr. Trudeau also acted professionally (maybe his success as a professional artist galls the wannabe rock star in Mr. Harper).

In addition to these credentials, Mr. Trudeau studied engineering and began (but didn't finish) an M.A. in environmental geography. He served as chairman of the Board of Katimavik, running a multi-million dollar organization with roughly 900 employees at its peak. And, of course, he grew up in 24 Sussex Drive, travelled broadly in Canada and internationally and learned politics at his father's knee.

He was 37 when, in 2008, he was elected an MP. Five years later he became leader of his party.

Well, not exactly an overwhelming resume but not meagre either.

Let's consider the alternative.

Stephen Harper, born and raised in Toronto before moving to Alberta at age 17, has a M.A. in Economics from the University of Calgary, as we are frequently reminded. An M.A. does not an 'economist' make — especially since he never worked in the field. Indeed, an M.A. as a terminal degree doesn't quite make you anything. I should know, I have one myself.

Mr. Harper has worked in the private sector. He spent a brief time working for Imperial Oil, first as a mail clerk and then as a computer technician. In 1987 (age 28), he became policy chief for the fledgling Reform Party. At age 30, having lost the 1988 election as a Reform candidate, he moved to Ottawa to be the policy advisor to the first Reform MP, Deb Grey. There he stayed, until the election of 1993 when he was elected for the first time to the House of Commons at the age of 34. Four years later, after a policy dispute with leader, Preston Manning, Harper sort of left politics to become head of the National Citizens' Coalition, a right-wing lobby group. This was certainly his biggest job (though how big is uncertain — the NCC is highly secretive about their membership or staffing; their stated budget of $2.8 million would suggest a staff of 25-35) prior to his return to Parliament as leader of the new Conservative party in a by-election in 2002. He was now Leader of the Opposition. To this point in his life, he had never ventured outside Canada or the United States. Less than 4 years later he became Prime Minister.

Well, not exactly an overwhelming resume either — but apparently enough for the Conservative party.

But what about bench strength. Liberal bench strength is hard to judge — we have no idea who will ultimately get elected or join Cabinet if Trudeau forms a government. The current caucus includes both long-time political members (that is those who spent more time on Parliament Hill than off) but also a fair smattering of people with strong and varied non-political resumes.

The same thing can be said for the Harper cabinet.

The picture is slightly different when we look at the front bench — those half a dozen Ministers who seem to be the most significant in the current government and who will be leading candidates to replace him when he goes.

John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs) has played a prominent role in all Harper governments, holding major Cabinet posts and often being a primary government spokesman in the House of Commons.

John Baird was elected as an MPP in Ontario in 1995 at the age of 26. Prior to that he worked as a political staffer at Queen's Park. He was a Minister in the Mike Harris government before transitioning to federal politics. While I personally don't denigrate the job of politician (I'll blog about that some other time), there are those who might say: He never had a real job.

Jason Kenny (Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism), a highly successful political operative who has wooed many new Canadians to the Conservative banner, actually started his political career working for the Saskatchewan Liberal party as executive assistant to Ralph Goodale. That apparently didn't suit him and at age 21 he started working for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, becoming its President a year later. The CTF is another secretive right wing lobby group with an indeterminate base of support. Officially it only has five members. Mr. Kenney studied philosophy at a Jesuit university in California but did not finish his degree. He was elected as a Reform MP in 1997 at age 29 and has been in Ottawa ever since. Sorry: He never had a real job.

Tony Clement (Treasury Board) has a law degree and actually practiced law for four years, though he seemed more occupied with organizing for the Progressive Conservative party in Ontario (he became party president in 1990 at age 29). Two years later, after an unsuccessful run for Toronto City Council, he became a senior advisor to PC leader and Premier Mike Harris. Elected as an MPP in 1995 at age 34, he served in Cabinet in a number of portfolios. He was defeated in 2003 and spent almost three years out of politics (if you don't count his unsuccessful bid to become the leader of the united Conservative party) working as a lawyer and small business person. In 2006 he was elected as part of the first Harper government. Okay: He did have a real job but didn't seem to take it very seriously.

Similar things can be said about the career of Peter McKay (Minister of Defence). He spent six years as a lawyer, including working as a crown prosecutor in Nova Scotia, before being elected to the House of Commons at age 32, taking over the seat previously held by his father and Mulroney Cabinet Minister, Elmer McKay.

Rob Nicholson (Justice) has been in the House of Commons longer than any of them — elected at age 32 in 1984, after working for a few years as a lawyer. He did return to the field of law after his defeat in the elector slaughter of 1993 but was back for more in 1997.

Both of them did have real jobs — though the job they had was exactly what is traditionally thought of as 'prep school for politics.'

Not all of the prominent Ministers in the Harper government are quite this callow. The late Jim Flaherty, didn't enter politics until age 46 after more than 20 years as a successful lawyer and partner in a significant firm.

His successor, Joe Oliver, had a solid if not spectacular career as an investment banker (though he spent part of that as a lobbyist for investment bankers) before entering politics in his sixties. I'm not terribly impressed with Mr. Oliver (having seen him perform in committee) but he certainly had a significant life outside politics.

There are others who have had solid to spectacular careers away from Ottawa — Lisa Raitt, Chris Alexander and to a lesser extent, Rona Ambrose — but none of them are front line players (yet).

On the other hand, we have James Moore (Industry). While by all accounts a bright guy (he too has an MA — obtained in 2011 while in office), Mr. Moore may have the least experience of them all. He spent a couple of years after university as a political staffer for the Reform party and as a radio talk show host, before being elected at age 24 in 2000. He's been in Ottawa ever since. Once again: never had a real job.

For reference:

Paul Martin, son of a long serving politician, did not himself seek public office until he was 45 after a long and successful career as a businessman. He also had a law degree.

Jean Chretien was a lawyer who was first elected to the House of Commons at the age of 29. He served there (occupying almost every senior Cabinet position) until 1986 after losing the Liberal leadership to John Turner (and government to Brian Mulroney). He left Ottawa if not politics and spent 4 years in the private sector as a lawyer and member of a number of corporate boards. Chretien's career was a significantly richer than Harper's (who has never held a Cabinet post except PM) but was still mostly political.

Brian Mulroney was politically active from his University days as a supporter of John Diefenbaker and later opponent of Joe Clark. Still, he had a long career as a lawyer and a business executive before becoming an MP in 1983 at age 44 (in the seat now held by Peter McKay). Oddly enough, long before he had tested the waters with the electorate he ran for leadership of the PC party — in a contest eventually won by Joe Clark.

Prime Ministers before this group had private careers ranging from thin (Clark) to extensive (Trudeau).

In conclusion, is Justin Trudeau too inexperienced to become Prime Minister? He certainly has a resume as good as or better than the current one did when he took office. Will he be a good PM? Only the electorate and time can answer that question.

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Published on May 25, 2014 08:19 • 46 views

April 11, 2014

In a fit of madness, I agreed to participate in a 'Blog Hop,' but only because I was asked by Marie Bilodeau, my good friend and fellow member of the East Block Irregulars. Anyone who knows Marie can attest to the fact that she is irresistible — the combination of infectious laugh and death threats does the trick.

Marie had already subverted the perfectly reasonable questions she had been given and proposed quite different ones for me to answer.

 Quote from Marie:

Sooooo, I received four questions, which I think are boring. They are as follows:

1) What am I working on right now?

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

3) Why do I write what I do?

4) How does my writing process work?

I personally would prefer hearing from you how you'd answer THESE questions:

1. What research would you conduct to write a scene in which squirrels become the sole proprietors of the Febreeze Empire?

2. If you could conjure one mythical creature to finish a book for you, which one would get to select the ending and why?

3. Bigfoot sex. Discuss.

4. What would you need to do to become the most prolific writer ever (can include crimes, questionable science and lack of morality).

Of course, I've been a subversive longer than Marie has been alive and I will answer both sets of questions simultaneously.

1.      As it happens I was working on a story that involved squirrels taking over the Febreeze Empire. I captured several squirrels (Note: don't put red and black squirrels in the same cage — they don't get along) and provided them with very tiny bottles of furniture cleaning fluid. Their lack of an opposable thumb made it impossible for them to operate the squeeze levers so I had to rig up a kind of harness they could manipulate with their tails. Disaster ensued. I've decided to switch to a series of mystery novels set in Paris between the wars. It requires more research but it is like to be a lot more fun.

2.      Anyone who has read my fiction knows that I have conjured up several mythical creatures — mostly modern myths such as HAL from the movie 2001 — to finish my books. How else would I know what the inside of a computer's mind looked like? And without the spirit of Sam Spade how could I merge the noir mystery and SF cyberpunk genres?

3.      I write what I do because I am obsessed with Bigfoot sex. Of course, they have to be consenting Bigfeet. {BIGFOOTS} Yeah, yeah, go back to the bedroom...

4.      My writing process involves recruiting thousands of unpaid chimpanzee interns working on thousands of keyboards. Now you know how I wrote a novel in Three Days.

I was supposed to recruit three people for the next round but when your condo is filled with warring squirrels, mythical creatures, fornicating Bigfeet {BIGFOOTS} chimpanzees, time is at a premium. It's a wonder I got this done on the day assigned.

Matt Moore and Geoff Gander were also roped into this effort. Go check them out.

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Published on April 11, 2014 14:28 • 34 views

February 8, 2014

In the interest of full disclosure, I currently work as a policy advisor to the Senator for the Northwest Territories, who, until a week or so ago, was a member of the Liberal Caucus. He is happy to sit as an independent Liberal in the hopes of having a less partisan experience.

I also was, for many years, an active member of the NDP and ran for them federally in 1979 and 1980. I've never been a Conservative though I did vote for Joe Clark once, while living in Calgary.

I've been working for the Senator since 2001 and have seen a lot of Senators come and go, not to mention a few Prime Ministers and party leaders.

Reforming the Senate was a priority of the Reform party — in fact the Triple-E Senate was one of the defining characteristics of that party. The Canadian Alliance continued to support it and it is the avowed policy of the new Conservative Party — though they focus on a single-E, elected.

A Bill to limit the terms of Senators and create a consultative electoral system (consultative because the Prime Minister remains constitutionally empowered to appoint Senators) was introduced as early as 2006. At the time the Liberals and NDP (not to mention various experts and the Department of Justice) suggested that the government should test the constitutionality of such proposals through a Supreme Court reference.

The government demurred and the Conservative party frequently claimed that the opposition was preventing them from passing the Bill into law. The fact is: the opposition does not determine when a Bill will be debated; the government does. For five years, various iterations of the Bill sat on the order paper — un-debated because the government refused to proceed to second reading.

Why? The cynical explanation is, unfortunately, also the most logical. Senate Reform — and the supposed opposition of other parties — was a tremendous fundraising tool for the party. Over time, Stephen Harper eventually acknowledged there as a need for more Conservative Senators (mostly to make the Chamber operate properly — the Liberal majority in the Senate blocked no government bills, though it did amend a fair number, usually for the better. They did find other ways to annoy the PM. Once he got the hang of it, Harper appointed more Senators than any previous prime minister, including, as we well know, Senators Duffy, Brazeau and Wallin.

Perhaps, if he had used a blue ribbon panel to nominate Senators instead of his own poor judgement, the recent Senate scandal might not have happened — or been limited to former Liberal Mac Harb. I'm sure Mr. Harper would have enjoyed that.

Then we had the 2011 election and Harper's first majority. Passing Senate legislation should have been a piece of cake; he's used his majority to ram through far more contentious or outrageous legislation. But suddenly Mr. Harper was converted into a Supreme Court fan (remember he always claimed the courts were part of the opposition). Suddenly, he decided that a Senate reference was just the thing. It effectively delayed having to do anything (more fundraising opportunities) and gave him the out he was looking for — he can blame the Court when it quite rightly tells him he needs a constitutional amendment to make the changes he's proposing. Will he enter the lion's den of federal-provincial negotiations? Not likely, he won't meet with the Premiers at the best of times; I doubt if he has much stomach for the sausage factory of constitution making.

Whatever happened to the Conservatives forceful assertion that Senate Reform could be accomplished without an amendment to the Canada Act? Like all magical thinking it disappeared in the face of reality.

That brings us to the magical thinking of the NDP. They want to abolish the Senate. I've heard two approaches broached. The first is naive; the second silly.

The standard argument accepts that a constitutional amendment is necessary — though they insist that it will only require seven provinces with 50% of the population, when it is almost certain to require unanimous consent (the Supreme Court may prove me wrong but I doubt it). They argue that if they form a government they will have a mandate (with at most 40% of the vote) to abolish the Senate. Provinces would recognize the moral imperative and immediately sign on to the process without demanding other more difficult changes. Were they asleep during the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accord processes?

A 7/50 agreement will be difficult — only Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba currently support abolition. It is doubtful if any of the Atlantic Provinces would agree — it would impact their already diminished influence in Ottawa and, in the case of PEI, would actually reduce the number of MPs they have. As for Quebec, they are already suing the Conservative government over their more limited changes.

More magical thinking with respect to the Senate. It will be abolished because we wish it to be. Go ahead — close your eyes and click your heels together and see what happens.

At least that approach is grounded in some sort of reality. The other plan is simply crazy. Under this plan, the Prime Minister would cease to appoint Senators. When their numbers drop below 15, the Senate (under their rules, which they could amend), a quorum would no longer be possible and the Senate would, in effect, cease to exist. Never mind this would take until 2030 and require the NDP to be in power for 15 consecutive years (or persuade other parties to agree to their plan), what about the constitutional requirement to have all legislation passed by both the House of Commons and the Senate?

No worries: the Governor General would never refuse to give Royal Assent to an bill passed by the peoples' representatives. Maybe, maybe not — I suppose an NDP PM could appoint a compliant a Vice-Regal representative.

The courts are a more difficult proposition. Judges are required to uphold the constitution and would be hard pressed to agree to recognize laws that break the supreme law of the land. At the very least, enterprising defense lawyers would use constitutional arguments to defend any client charged under such laws. It could tie up the civil and criminal justice system for years.

As for me, I do believe in Senate Reform. An elected Senate is only appropriate in a modern democracy. However, every country with two houses (there are over 60 including every single Federal state) uses a different method of (s)election for the two houses. Different terms, different voting systems, and so on. In Australia, they use preferential ballots for MPs and proportional representation for the Senate; as a result the two houses have quite different compositions. Most assign different powers or responsibilities as well.

[NOTE: Abolitionists often point to New Zealand and, more recently, Ireland as places that abolished their Senates. Neither is a federation with the need to represent provinces or regions.]

This kind of reform will require a 7/50 constitutional amendment and maybe Canadian politicians will someday have the courage to enter that arena again (polls suggest Canadian citizens want them to).

In the meantime, what about Mr. Trudeau's proposal? It is more show than substance, no doubt, but it is not without substance either. A more non-partisan Senate where groups of independent Senators sit in loose caucuses of the like-minded could be quite effective as a house of second sober thought or legislative revision. The traditions of the Senate make it extremely unlikely they would oppose the will of an elected government — as long as they weren't elected themselves. Over time — if future appointments were made through a process similar to the Order of Canada or, for that matter, the Supreme Court — the Senate might become quite non-partisan and more acceptable to the public.

And that might make actual constitutional reform more likely. Not quite magical thinking on my part — maybe just wishful thinking.

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Published on February 08, 2014 13:47 • 40 views

January 1, 2014

Well, another year has slipped by and this poor old blog has been neglected once again. True I have been busy with the Bundoran Press Blog, not to mention Bundoran Press itself.  But that's my other life.

Writing has taken a bit of a backseat, too, though I did finish another Paris mystery novel -- By Dawn's Early Light -- in April and continue to hope to sell the first in the series in the coming year. More about that later.

I had three short stories appear in 2013 -- one co-written with my wife, Elizabeth Westbrook. You can find those listed elsewhere on the web-site. Our only other collaboration, a humorous piece that has been rendered obsolete by history, is available as a free download.

I won the Aurora Award for editing "Blood and Water," and was lucky enough to present Robert J. Sawyer with his Lifetime Achievement Award at the same ceremony. I attend 5 SF conventions -- next year probably only 4.

In addition to the vast number of submissions I read for Bundoran Press, I averaged a book every two weeks for a total of 26. My top five:
Neil Gaiman: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Nickolas Butler: Shotgun Lovesongs
Willow Wilson: Alif the Unseen
Rex Stout: The Red Box
Robert J. Sawyer: Red Planet Blues

My favorite movies seen this year: Gravity; The World's End; Quartet; Silver Linings Playbook and Crazy Stupid Love (though The Hobbit, Star Trek into Darkness and Lincoln deserve mention)

I exercised less, drank too much, gained weight but generally became a better person -- one out of four ain't bad.

So, what about resolutions>

First, I will blog here once a month at a minimum. Hopefully I'll have something to say.
Second, I will carve out 5 hours every week for my own writing. My priorities: re-writes of By Dawn's Early Light, 6 new short stories and a good start on the 3rd Paris mystery.
Third, I will find a publisher and/or agent for In the Shadow of Verseilles.
Fourth, I will exercise more, drink less, lose weight and become an even better person.
Fifth, I will do something utterly surprising.

Check in at the end of the month to see how I'm doing.
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Published on January 01, 2014 12:29 • 32 views

September 2, 2013

The last eight months have -- without doubt -- been some of the busiest of my life. In addition to my day job providing policy analysis and advice to Senator Nick Sibbeston, I've also become a publisher, purchasing Bundoran Press from Virginia O'Dine. (Read about how that happened here.) While it has been great fun editing other people's work, it means I no longer have a publisher for my own science fiction. 

Before you weep too many tears for me, I should let you know that lately I've been focusing on historical mysteries. The first in this series -- set in Paris after World War I -- is now being considered by a major publisher, that is, they asked for the whole book and haven't rejected it yet. The second I finished on April 1 and will soon delve into re-writes. And I have had two SF short stories published this year and am working on several more right now.

Add in my freelance work editing a memoir and perhaps you'll understand why I haven't been blogging much lately (except as a publisher). Can't promise I'll do much better in the coming months but I will try.  If you feel a need to hear what I have to say, I will be sharing a booth with Ryan McFadden at Word on the Street in Toronto on September 22nd. I'll also be Editor Guest of Honour at Can-Con in Ottawa this October.
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Published on September 02, 2013 09:35 • 69 views

September 20, 2012

Just a quick note to tell you about my schedule at Can-Con.
Friday 7p.m.
Book launch of Blood and Water.  Short readings by Kate Heartfield, Jean-Louis Trudel, Derek Künsken, and Agnes Cadieux.  There will be books on sale at 25% off (special offer good for launch only).  And Snacks!
Friday 8 p.m
OPENING CEREMONIES -- I have a speech.  I promise to be bright, brief and bold.  I'll try to be funny too.  Your mileage may vary.
Friday 9 p.m.
Blood and Water Party.  It's in my suite.  Watch for the signs.  There will be snacks.  There will be drinks.  At midnight, I turn into a Troll and ask you to leave.  It's also my bedroom.
Saturday 1pm
Kaffeeklatch.  Bring your own coffee.  It's not in the bar.  Room 2, I think.  Come chat, ask questions.  It's after 12 so I should be fit to answer them.  (Thank you Derek for not scheduling me on the morning after I host a party)
Saturday 2pm
The East Block Irregulars Go to Chicago: WorldCon as a business adventure for writers Hayden Trenholm, Marie Bilodeau, Derek Künsken.  
Saturday 5pm
Writing Idol: Bring a page or two of your story (no names attached).  I'll read it aloud until 2 or more of our judges give the thumbs down.  Followed by a brief insta-critique.  There will be blood tonight!  With Alan Neal, Eric Choi, Leah Bobet, Paul Jarvey
Saturday 7pm
Media Guest of Honour Alan Neil interviews Author Guest of Honour Hayden Trenholm for CBC’s All in a Day.  Pretty much covers it.  It will be edited for radio so come hear the parts CBC doesn't want you to hear.

Saturday 8pm (panel ends at 8:45)
Creating Intensively: the 30-day novel, the 3-day novel, the 24-hour comic book and Clarion Write-a-thon. Hayden Trenholm, Dominic Bercier, Nicole Lavigne, Kate Heartfield.  I won the 3-day novel competition and finished second (twice) in a 24-hour play-writing competition as well.  I wish I could still write that fast.

Sunday 11am
The Realities of Space Travel: Economics and Exploration  Eric Choi , Hayden Trenholm (M), Cenk Gokce, Jean-Louis Trudel  I promise to drink lots of coffee before showing up.  (Not the world's greatest morning person).
Sunday 1pm
Editors: Anthology Editors discuss editing The Dragon and the Stars, Blood and Water and Imaginarium  Hayden Trenholm, Sandra Kasturi, Eric Choi  You've been to the launch, bot the book (right?) and drunk (for free!) at the party, now hear how Blood and Water was put together.

Sunday 2pm
Lessons of the Script  Kristopher Waddell (film), Hayden Trenholm (plays), Dominic Bercier (comics)

Whew!  It's a busy couple of days.  I'll be around for an hour or two after I finish my programming but since I have to fly to Yellowknife in the morning -- don't look for me at the dead dog!
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Published on September 20, 2012 13:57 • 91 views