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Just Plain Late

AN-Sackville-LateIt’s quite impossible for me to be fashionably late, so this week I’m going to be just plain late.

As previously mentioned, I’m going to turn up at Sci Fi on the Rock this weekend, but I won’t be on the ground for the entire event. The convention kicks off on Friday afternoon and wraps up Sunday, and I won’t reach Newfoundland until Saturday afternoon. This is bad luck for me — I’ll miss out on some important events.

For instance: on Friday, Engen Books will be launching a special new anthology, Sci Fi From the Rock. I have a long history with Engen –– I’ve known founder Matt LeDrew since before the company existed –– and after a few false starts, this is the first time I’ll contribute to one of the company’s books. The prologue of Whitecoat is being reprinted in Sci Fi From the Rock, along with works from a vast list of Atlantic Canadian writers (see the full lineup here).

It’s an important occasion… which I’ll miss.

AN-BartlettI’m hoping to land in time for Scott Bartlett’s Saturday afternoon panel Take Control: Why You Should Self-Publish Your Fiction and How to Do It. Scott is an award-winning writer with whom I share a weird history: back in 2005, when Iceberg was doing workshops and classroom visits in Newfoundland, he was in one of the groups that was subjected to my blathering. Now, the roles could be reversed –– if my flight lands in time.

I should be on the ground in time for Saturday evening’s Most Dysfunctional Writing Panel Ever –– an Engen Books tradition, which my involvement in Sci Fi From the Rock entitles me to join… But the fact that I’m not sure if I’ll be there begs the question: why am I missing the first day and a half of Newfoundland’s finest science fiction convention?

Brace yourself: it’s for a lady.

In fact, she’s a septuagenarian lady who I couldn’t fly east without stopping to see. She’s white and blue with the curves of a whaler, and in case you haven’t guessed, her name is Sackville.

AN-SFFOTRI’d been crafting plans to visit Halifax to see her during Battle of the Atlantic Week this year, but with Sci Fi on the Rock’s tenth anniversary, some tough choices had the be made. As I’ve mentioned before, our recent cross-country move has made traveling to my home coast a greater logistical challenge than it used to be, and recognizing that I can only manage one such trip this year, I simply had to see her.

So while Engen will be launching Sci Fi on the Rock, I’ll be lunching aboard Sackville with some of the finest people I know: the members of the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust. I’ve written at length about meeting some of these people in 2013, and I’ve even appropriated at least one of them for Champions… so with apologies to my friends in Newfoundland, I couldn’t miss seeing them this time.

Or seeing Sackville herself. Indeed, this will be the first time I see the fearless Flower-class corvette since incorporating her into Champions (featuring her on the covers of Outports and Harm’s Way), and since her fictional descendant took centre stage in the Defense Command tenth anniversary novel Sins of Mars.

Knowing her sense of humor, I have to wonder if she’s going to get me back for dragooning her into so many stories…

No matter what, I’ll be glad to see her again –– especially because she’s due for some important yard work in the fall. It’s nothing to worry about, but I still feel it’s important to visit now, and wish her well. I’m lucky to be counted among her thousands of friends, and I will forever be possessed by the vision of my grandfather standing at the rail of his merchant ship, looking out across the swelling seas, and seeing a white and blue lady with the curves a whaler.

Sackville and Lady Alex Smith: they dress to match, and they make rather a good team.

So if you enjoyed reading about Alex and Sackville swimming together in Outports, or about Shelby McLaws skippering DCNS Sackville on a mission to save nearly a million lives in 2240, please check out the real ship. That’s what I’ll be doing on Friday, in the Royal Canadian Navy’s Halifax Dockyard.

And then it’ll be off to St. John’s to see other fine friends who, like me, get to tell fictional stories because Sackville, her sisters, and most importantly her sailors rode the waves and fought a war.

Fashionable or not, it’s a good reason to be late.

My view from the bridge wing as Sackville approached the dockyard in May of 2013.