Last December, I made the five-hour drive from Edmonton back to the place where it all began to come together: Lethbridge, Alberta. Lethbridge is one of Alberta’s smaller cities, currently boasting a population of some 90,000, and from 1996 to 1999, it was the town we Iceberg partners called home.
It was in Lethbridge where Jacqui wrote her award-winning Standing Tall: A Daughter’s Gift. It was while she was writing that book that I really grew into writing — first turning 20-page Star Defenders stories into 40,000-word Defense Command ’novels’, then drafting the now-defunct Bonaventure series. Those two projects would be shelved in favour of the Equations in 1999, but were obviously revived in 2005, and turned into the Defense Command novels we now know in 2006.
I can’t really overstate how important my years in Lethbridge were to making this happen. I’ve previously mentioned that His Majesty’s New World owed much to my time in Alberta, but beyond just getting to understand a landscape outside Newfoundland, the experience of living so far from home helped forge a passion for writing — the chance to create a new world, all my own.
This passion was aided by two crucial things: first, and most important, was being able to learn from Jacqui. Before Iceberg existed — before we even thought it could exist — she was telling her dad’s story… and I got to learn how writing worked as we spent hours sitting back-to-back at different computers, writing our own books. If not for those days, I may never have gotten started on this path.
But in addition to her teaching was a second, crucial factor: I had two Admirals on my side every day at school, and if you’ve read Defense Command, you know them both… because I’m lazy, and I stole their identities (with permission) for vital roles in the series.
Marlene Stoll and Greg Noyce are two key figures in the Defense Command universe, and Ken Barron never lets you forget it. In real life, as I attended Father Leonard Van Tighem School in Lethbridge, it was Marlene Stasiuk and Greg Noyes who left indelible marks on me — encouraged me on a daily basis to make the most of my good fortune.
I’ve written previously about the importance of all the teachers who helped guide me through those days in Southern Alberta, and when I visited in December, I had the chance to see many of them when I dropped by FLVT. Even better, though: I was able to connect with both Marlene and Greg.
Somehow, it had been a decade since my last visit –– for book events and workshops at FLVT in 2005, when both Greg and Marlene were still at the school. We’d kept in loose touch since then, but at last we could sit down and chat. So much to catch up on –– so much more to say when I visit again.
And one thing we did was attempt, rather badly, to take selfies. So here they are: Admiral Marlene Stoll, and Admiral Greg Noyce, as they appear in real life.
Marlene is now retired, Greg is Principal of St. Catherine School in Picture Butte. Both remain fine role models, and I’m delighted that Iceberg’s westward venture has allowed me to reconnect with them properly.
So if you’ve wondered about those two Admirals who, along with John Fiora, are responsible for the rare good qualities that Ken Barron possesses as an officer, now you know. And if you haven’t already, you can find them both appearing in Sins of Mars — because no final farewell to Defense Command could be complete without some representation from the finest Admirals, who in fiction have saved millions of lives, and in reality have made thousands and thousands of lives better. Mine included.
Cheers, Admirals. See you again soon.