Some themes & references

Aurora Borealis at Minnedosa, MB

Here’s an incom­plete list of the themes and ref­er­ences that I’m con­scious­ly includ­ing in my new short sto­ry, “Sum­mer­time in the Void” (1st draft com­plete, work­ing on the 2nd draft):

The last few days

Our friend Tess dropped by for a vis­it last week­end, and stayed overnight. I decid­ed to snap a pho­to of her, and one of Kath­leen as well.

Then I saw a love­ly red-and-yel­low autumn tree on my way to work.

Autumn leaves
The tree up the block went all red and yel­low

And today it snowed.

The court­yard through a win­dow spot­ted with snow

Review: This is How You Lose the Time War

Signed copy of the novel

I was­n’t going to buy any books on our Ottawa trip. I was­n’t. I have too many books already at home.

Then we were walk­ing back to the hotel from Byward Mar­ket, and we stopped in at Chap­ters, and I found myself in the SF/F sec­tion hold­ing a copy of This is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar (an Ottawa writer) and Max Glad­stone. I opened the book, intend­ing to skim the first chap­ter and then set it back on the shelf, intend­ing to go home and request a copy from my local library.

But I found Amal’s sig­na­ture on the title page, and well, long sto­ry short, I bought the book.

It’s a wild ride, a time-trav­el novel­la about two agents work­ing on oppo­site sides of a time war. Red works for the Agency, a tech-based orga­ni­za­tion, and Blue works for Gar­den, an orga­ni­za­tion that might be an organ­ism. They write each oth­er let­ters across the time­lines, the threads of his­to­ry and future, at first to taunt each oth­er (“Nyah nyah, you’re gonna lose!” “Are not!” “Are too!”) and, lat­er, as they get to know each oth­er, to express their feel­ings for each oth­er.

The epis­to­lary affair spans all of his­to­ry, most­ly in var­i­ous ver­sions of Earth (at one point, one of the char­ac­ters goes to see Romeo and Juli­et, to find out if it’s a tragedy or a com­e­dy in her cur­rent time­line), but some­times on oth­er worlds or even in the vac­u­um of space. Red and Blue’s rela­tion­ship pro­gress­es upthread and down­thread, through past and future, in let­ters writ­ten in some of the weird­est stegano­graph­ic ways I’ve seen: one is writ­ten in a vol­cano, anoth­er in a thorn­bush grown over a year from a seed. Only one, if I recall cor­rect­ly, is writ­ten in ink on paper.

The writ­ing itself—Amal’s and Max’s, I mean, not Red’s and Blue’s—is beau­ti­ful­ly wrought, by turns amus­ing and hor­ri­fy­ing. Moments as calm and sedate as a woman braid­ing her hair or enjoy­ing tea con­trast with the same woman, pages lat­er, wash­ing her hands after slit­ting some­one’s throat.

And the lan­guage! I’m pret­ty proud of my vocab­u­lary, but the authors, in their search for le mot juste, more than once sent me to the dic­tio­nary to make sure I under­stood the pre­cise point or image they were try­ing to con­vey.

I enjoyed the novel­la, with its twists and turns, its hunter-vs.-hunted sto­ry chas­ing itself down the cor­ri­dors of time. High­ly rec­om­mend­ed.

Buy it from McNal­ly-Robin­son or Indiebound.

Ottawa, days 7 & 8

Sun­day was my cousin Chad’s wed­ding to his new wife, Kather­ine. It was a love­ly day, a nice brief cer­e­mo­ny, and a great sup­per and dance. It was about 1 am when wet got back to the hotel and crashed.

Mon­day we got up and had break­fast with the fam­i­ly, then said our good­byes. We did a quick tour of the Diefen­bunker, the bomb shel­ter meant to pro­tect the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment in the case of nuclear war.

Then we head­ed to the air­port, to catch our flight home.

Series: Ottawa 2019

The entire series: Mon­day in Ottawa; Ottawa, Day 2; Ottawa, day 3; Ottawa, Day 4; Ottawa, day 5; Ottawa, Day 6; Ottawa, days 7 & 8.

Ottawa, Day 6

AWATTO - The OTTAWA sign from the back

We lazed around in the morn­ing, read­ing and what­not. Around 12:30 we head­ed out for lunch, walk­ing about a kilo­me­ter or so to Flo­ra Hall Brew­ing, where we shared a plough­man’s lunch and had a beer apiece. It was all deli­cious.

Then we head­ed out to the air­port, to pick up Susie. We took her down to the Byward Mar­ket for a birth­day choco­late feast, and then wan­dered around a bit, being touristy. Then we head­ed out of town, to Kana­ta, where the rest of the fam­i­ly is stay­ing at a hotel in prepa­ra­tion for Sun­day’s wed­ding. We met up with them for snacks and drinks, and then, feel­ing ridicu­lous­ly stuffed, we head­ed back down­town to our hotel.

Par­lia­ment, seen from across the riv­er

Bed soon, and tomor­row we leave down­town Ottawa for the hotel in Kana­ta. Our vaca­tion draws near its end, but we’re start­ing to feel ready for it to be done, too.

Series: Ottawa 2019

The entire series: Mon­day in Ottawa; Ottawa, Day 2; Ottawa, day 3; Ottawa, Day 4; Ottawa, day 5; Ottawa, Day 6; Ottawa, days 7 & 8.

Ottawa, day 5

A much more relaxed day. We meet up with my aunt Veron­i­ca and uncle Marc and wan­dered around down­town. Kath­leen found some shoes for the wed­ding, since her good shoes had a bro­ken strap when she opened up her lug­gage; then we went down to the Byward Mar­ket again and had some choco­late at Cacao 70. Marc gave a lit­tle impromp­tu tour, and then he and Veron­i­ca head­ed home.

We head­ed out for sup­per, to a place of seen on an episode of You Got­ta Eat Here: Burg­ers and Fries For­ev­er. It was deli­cious, espe­cial­ly the parme­san-and-herb-cov­ered fries.

Back at the hotel, Kath­leen fell pret­ty much instant­ly asleep, while I stayed up writ­ing. I fin­ished the first draft of a short sto­ry, which will need a lot of edit­ing before any­one else gets to read it.

I don’t think I took a sin­gle pho­to today.

Series: Ottawa 2019

The entire series: Mon­day in Ottawa; Ottawa, Day 2; Ottawa, day 3; Ottawa, Day 4; Ottawa, day 5; Ottawa, Day 6; Ottawa, days 7 & 8.

Ottawa, Day 4

Reflected building

Today, we toured the Supreme Court…

  • Kathleen, with Parliament in the background
    While we wait­ed for our Supreme Court tour, we wan­dered around behind the build­ing, where there’s a love­ly view
  • Supreme Court
    The Supreme Court’s name engraved in mar­ble
  • Supreme Court
    Because the Jus­tices are cur­rent­ly away, we got to enter the actu­al Supreme Court

…where I got to close the door in the actu­al Supreme Court, since I was the last to enter the court­room.

Next we toured Rideau Hall, the offi­cial res­i­dence of the Gov­er­nor Gen­er­al.

  • Canadian flag at Rideau Hall
    The Cana­di­an flag at Rideau Hall, sig­ni­fy­ing that the Gov­er­nor Gen­er­al is not at home
  • Rideau Hall
    Rideau Hall
  • Painting of Michaëlle Jean
    Our tour guide talks about the paint­ing of Michaëlle Jean
  • Stained Glass
    Stained-glass win­dow at Rideau Hall. “The Arts engage and inspire us”

And then, because the day was­n’t full enough already, we went and spent a few hours in the War Muse­um.

  • Uniform
    Uni­form of Lt. A. T. Kines of Rob­lin, MB
  • Painting: "Carry On"
    Car­ry On: LCol Dwayne Kevin Hobbs, CO of The Toron­to Scot­tish Reg­i­ment” by Gertrude Kerns
  • View of the Peace Tower
    There’s a spot in the War Muse­um where you can see the Peace Tow­er at Par­lia­ment

Then we had sup­per and went back to the hotel, where Kath­leen is cur­rent­ly asleep and I don’t think I’m going to last much longer.

Series: Ottawa 2019

The entire series: Mon­day in Ottawa; Ottawa, Day 2; Ottawa, day 3; Ottawa, Day 4; Ottawa, day 5; Ottawa, Day 6; Ottawa, days 7 & 8.