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Kenneth Tam Guest Author for Second Year


What would happen if animals, instead of humans, were in charge?

That question, asked by one grade nine student of another on the way home from school in 1998, sparked some interesting philosophical conversations. It was also the genesis of the Equations novels, a science fiction series by Kenneth Tam that will see the fourth book’s debut at Canada’s largest science fiction event, Toronto Trek 19, July 15-17, 2005.

Tam, a native of Newfoundland who currently lives in Waterloo, will be an author guest and panelist at Toronto Trek for the second year in a row. He published the series’ first novel, The Human Equation, in October 2003 when he was just 19 years old. The second and third novels, The Alien Equation and The Renegade Equation, followed quickly in July and December 2004 respectively.

“Story-telling has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember,” Tam says, “and I started writing seriously — meaning my stories started having fewer pictures and more words — in about grade 6.”

“My current focus is science fiction. I’m a serious sci-fi fan; I’m also a lover of history,” says Tam, who will enter his fourth year as a full-time honours history student at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, this coming September. “For me, science fiction is the perfect genre because I see it as the history of the future, and the fun part is that it’s history I get to write.”

Tam explains that he draws on his study of military history extensively in his novels. “There are many military actions in the books, and for that reason they appeal to readers, especially young adult readers, who enjoy sci-fi action. But, the stories go well beyond the battles to deal with questions of integrity, principle, and even the importance of protecting the planet,” Tam continues. “Because of that, many of the readers I’ve had contact with have never read sci fi before. They also range in age from about 14 to over 70.”

In addition to being an author and full-time student, Tam works part-time as a Sports Information Assistant for Laurier Athletics, and does freelance graphic design ‘when time permits.’ He’s a research assistant for noted naval historian and author, Dr. Barry Gough. And he’s a partner in Iceberg Publishing, the independent publishing company (and publisher of the Equations novels) started by Tam and his family in 2002.

One of Iceberg’s primary goals, Tam explains, is to encourage young people to read and write, “I started writing at a young age, and I want to let kids know that they’re never too young to take an interest and begin telling stories.”

In May, Tam traveled to Newfoundland and to Alberta to promote the launch of the pocket paperback editions of his novels, and during these visits he took the opportunity to speak to junior high and high school students about writing under the Iceberg Author in the Classroom program. He addressed more than 400 students during individual classroom visits. He also conducted a day-long writing workshop for 18 grade 8 and 9 students in Manuels, NL which was described as a “great opportunity and success for our students” in that school’s annual report.

“Because we’re building Iceberg in our spare time, we don’t get the chance to visit as many schools as we’d like,” Tam comments. “But whenever I get the chance to speak to young people about writing, I’m glad to take advantage of the opportunity.”

In the meantime, Iceberg Publishing continues to expand, with Tam’s fifth title scheduled for release in spring 2006, and another title from Jacqui Tam in the same timeframe. The company also anticipates it will begin accepting submissions from other authors in the near future. “Once we’ve laid the groundwork with our own books, we’re looking forward to bringing titles from other authors into the company,” Tam says.