If I’m honest, I remember very little about my first book launch.
It was a hugely significant night for me –– The Human Equation was released on Thursday, October 9th, 2003, turning me from a nineteen-year-old geek into a nineteen-year-old geek who had also written a book.
Media coverage stemming from that event moved me onto the convention circuit, which fundamentally shaped everything that has happened since. Personally, professionally, and for Iceberg, so much changed that night in 2003… but I couldn’t even begin to tell you what I said, what I did, or even how it went.
Pictures prompt some fragments of recollection: I can see that John Fioravanti –– my former-teacher and fine friend, who later became one of our award-winning authors and the founder of Fiora Books –– was our emcee. But I don’t remember what he said.
I know that the audience included my grandmother, many of my co-workers from the athletics department at Wilfrid Laurier University, and some former classmates I hadn’t seen in what then seemed like such a long time.
I recall there was a strange moment when the CTV reporter needed me to walk around the venue so she could grab B-roll. I tried to look important as I strode past event posters and signage, but naturally looked ridiculous instead.
But the introduction, the reading, the questions from the audience, the signing, and the chatter after are all lost in a blur. I suppose that’s not unique –– many of the events I’ve done over the years have blended together by now –– but you’d have thought the crucial first outing would have left an indelible mark.
Instead, only one aspect of the occasion truly stuck with me: my best friend Peter Caron wasn’t able to attend. That night he had a shift at Canadian Tire –– he had to work.
That was no problem, I assured him. One of the primary reasons he and I had been best friends since Grade 10 was our mutual and enduring respect for responsibility –– when you have a job to do, you either get it done or go down trying. In many ways we were very different (he was far less antisocial and far more team-oriented than me), but when it came to important stuff like one’s duty, we might as well have been the same person. Obviously, that person didn’t take work lightly.
So while I’d miss having my friend around for support at the beginning of this great new venture, it was more than fine…
Except it wasn’t –– not to him, anyway.
Instead, when we showed up early at the venue and began the lengthy setup process, he appeared unannounced. He wore his uniform so he could head directly to his shift, but was determined to help in the meantime. And so, once the venue was ready and the ‘fun’ was about to start, he went off to work.
Some hours later, after we sold the last books and people disappeared into the night, we started to put the place back to rights. This is always the most thankless part of an event –– everyone’s exhausted, hungry, out of sorts… but the job has to be done. Since this was one of Iceberg’s first launches, we had little experience with the process, and had no idea how to streamline it.
Fortunately, our efforts were made immediately easier: with his shift complete, Peter returned to check in on us, and to help.
Because obviously, what else would he do?
Peter was my best friend long before that night, and he continues to be my best friend to this day. Recent calculations indicate that it’s been seventeen years. We’ve lived in different cities for nearly a decade now, and we see each other too rarely, but he remains the person I turn to with some of the most difficult questions, whether they are to do with life or writing.
If you’ve read Defense Command, you’ve seen some of the results: Charlie Peters is his blatant alter-ego (Charles is Peter’s middle name), and most… perhaps all of the major plot points in that series were crafted with his counsel (any idiocy being my own, which he couldn’t talk me out of).
Other friends contributed profoundly to Defense Command as well — Wes, Charles, and Mik to name an elite trio –– but Peter’s long tenure has given him the position of most-senior advisor on everything I’ve written. Whenever I come across a character who does the difficult thing because it is the right thing, there’s a good chance Peter’s influence is part of his or her story. The likes of Savanna Felix from the Equations, and Smith from His Majesty’s New World, would not quite be the same otherwise.
I’m fortunate to be able to rely on Peter’s advice, and extremely grateful that he offers it. However, because we see each other so infrequently, and because the matters we discuss are often laden with spoilers, I don’t get the opportunity to say so very often. But now, finally, I have an excuse to embarrass him with praise.
This summer, Peter completed two achievements that –– like the first book launch –– can change everything that comes next: he finished his software engineering degree (he can program killer cyborgs, or something), and he passed his engineering officer course. He is now a troop leader in the Royal Canadian Engineers reserve (in infantry terms a ‘platoon leader’, like Jimmy Devlin was in The Grasslands). I think of it this way: he’s now the sort of officer who might have been called up to lead my grandfather’s unit during the Korean War.
I can pay no higher compliment to my friend than this: I fully believe that Sergeant Dick Barron would have trusted Second Lieutenant Peter Caron with his life, and that they would have served well together.
These significant achievements had to be marked, so a celebratory barbecue was arranged for this past weekend. The event took place in Peter’s current home in Montreal, which (for those unfamiliar with Canada) is 3,500 km from my current base in Edmonton. Having used up all my vacation in the recent Yukon expedition, I couldn’t take off enough time for a proper visit in honor of the occasion… but like he did in 2003, I tried to manage the next best thing.
Between Saturday evening and stupid-early on Monday morning, I spent thirty-six hours on the ground in Montreal. This wasn’t nearly enough time, but we were still able to raise a glass, cheer the roads that lie ahead, and wander along the Lachine Canal and through the Old Port for hours while discussing all manner of truly important things. One topic among many was Black Sun, so once again a new series will benefit from the wisdom of Charlie Peters.
But to be quite honest, I’m the main beneficiary. I don’t have many friends, but those who inexplicably take on the job sure do make an impact.
Some years ago, when Smith’s friends were rallying to his aid in The Empire, I wrote this:
When a man was born without brothers, it was profound for him to see he’d found some anyway.
Believe me, it’s much easier to write fiction when you’ve lived it.
Congratulations, Peter. Now go use your combat engineer skills to save the Earth from raccoons (or is it squirrels now?).