In my twenty-nine years, there’s been only one May 27th upon which I forgot to wish my mother a happy birthday. The ironic thing is that this wasn’t because I was away and it slipped my mind; the year was 2005, and she and I were on an Iceberg book tour in Lethbridge, Alberta. We spent the whole day basically working side-by-side… and I forgot to say it.
Such a loser.
There’s no defense, of course, though to set some context, the day included: no fewer than three 25-question workshop/lectures to students at FLVT, my beloved former school; lunch with former teachers; a book launch in the evening; and an obligatory dinner with friends I hadn’t seen in years. By the time my night was done, it was after midnight.
And I hadn’t said Happy Birthday.
Considering all the work we’ve put into Iceberg Publishing, it’s perhaps no surprise that my mother never expressed real concern over this. No Catholic guilt was inflicted, no recriminations were made as we headed for Banff, where she had to speak at a conference and I had to finish work on The Earther Equation. But as someone who has always put certain emphasis on important anniversaries, I didn’t forget my failure –– I’ll always feel badly about it.
Nine years later, and another bit of Iceberg work lands upon my mother’s birthday… though, fortunately, this one is far less labor-intensive. This morning sees the launch of Scourge, the third installment of the Champions of 1942, but that should hardly disrupt my entire day. Indeed, the novella has been available for pre-order for some time, so really my only obligation now is to write a note about it. If I can’t do that, and offer birthday wishes at the same time, I might need to find a new job.
Admittedly, a novella with such an ominous title mightn’t seem the most appropriate birthday gift for one’s mother, but as readers will soon discover, it’s surprisingly fitting. See, in Scourge we get to see the influence good mothers have on their sons… and, for that matter, the importance of good fathers to their daughters.
While the latter matter is best left to the book itself, the former is well-illustrated in the excerpt available here. It’s about a young boy –– nearly three years old –– joining his mother on a dangerous mission to another planet. By his own decision, this son has decided he will protect his mom from alien monsters, and being a supportive and intelligent parent, she not only lets him come along… she gets him to help with her work. A pretty family-friendly scenario, I’d say.
Now, the kid in question is Ciaran, an alien dragon who’s roughly the size of a blue whale and is a better conversationalist than I am… and the mom is Sass, who has been a ship engineer, an ambassador, and a mother for many years. They really do have alien monsters to worry about, and when Ciaran says he’s there as bodyguard, he’s not just being endearing (he’s really good at knocking things over, and crushing cars).
But extraordinary though their particular mission might be, I do feel as though writing about their cooperation is like writing about my childhood, because my parents –– both now my partners here at Iceberg –– made certain to include me in their daily missions. Few things were off limits just because I was a kid; if I was old enough and responsible enough to help, I was given that chance. How to spend money, what activities to take part in, setting plans for a day… even deciding to move across the country. From an early age I learned that, even as a ‘little man’, my words mattered, and my decisions had consequences.
Those lessons remain fundamental to my character. They made it possible for me to help look after my grandfather… to retain myself in the midst of darker times… and even to be a real contributor to this company, from the day it launched on my eighteenth birthday.
I’m a long way from needing to worry about parenting children of my own –– most women have the good sense to stay away from a mad writer who spends far too much time in make-believe worlds. But one day, I may need to offer a little man or woman the same insight that my parents provided me… the same sort of experience that Sass grants her son, as they try to determine exactly who is orbiting the new world. I hope I’ll be able to live up to the example.
In the meantime, I get to see some dragons reinforce the lessons. In literal terms, Ciaran is pretty much the opposite of a ‘little man’… but I still love spending time with him on the page, because he reminds me of those wonderful early days of learning, and action. The only difference is that, where I liked to play with toy cars (especially if they turned into robots), he plays with real cars as if they were toys. As is appropriate, I envy him.
And I thank Sass, and my mom, for making him possible.
So happy birthday to Jacqui Tam. She is the literal opposite of a whale-sized dragon, but she’s plenty awesome… and even better than our beloved Sass, because she’s real.
Oh, and Jacqui: though this author note is a mildly-pleasant surprise (that you didn’t get to edit), we also got you, like, presents and stuff.
Go ahead, edit out the ‘like’.