Category: Friends (page 1 of 12)

Harbord House Science Fiction Book Club

With members of the Harbord House SF Book Club, the “drinking club with a book problem”

Warning: spoiler alert if you haven’t already read A Time and a Place and plan to…

This past Thursday I had the honour of attending the Harbord House Science Fiction Book Club as their guest author. They’d selected my debut novel A Time and a Place as their book selection of the month. Or more precisely, member Dana Silnicki had selected it.

It’s my understanding that at about forty members the Harbord House SF Book Club is one of (if not the) largest SF book clubs in the nation. I’m still flabbergasted that they chose my book; doubly so that they asked me to attend so that they could discuss the book with me.

This was the second time I’d been invited to discuss A Time and a Place at a book club. The first time was quite a pleasant experience so I was quite looking forward to this one. I felt like I’d made a bit of a mistake at the first book club, though. I’d been so excited to talk about my book, and there had been so many questions, that once primed I had difficulty NOT talking about it. Afterward I felt like I’d talked too much. I definitely didn’t want to make the same mistake this time.

My friend Fergus and his partner Donna happen to be members of the club. They graciously allowed me to crash at their place that night, so we attended together. As we stood talking in the early moments, Fergus happened to mention that he belonged to another book club. I forget what he called it exactly, but it was something like “The Horribly Awful” or “Embarrassingly Bad” science fiction book club. Briefly, I wondered if perhaps I’d misunderstood and had actually been invited to that one. Fergus assured me that wasn’t the case.

We sat upstairs at Harbord House, a lovely environment in which to drink, dine, and discuss books (the club advertises itself as “a drinking club with a book problem”). Dana introduced my book and me and invited me to say a few words. Because she had stood while talking, I did as well and thanked everyone for the invitation and murmured some other inanities. The group started asking questions. Protocol was such that you were only allowed to speak if you held the ceremonial conch shell. Someone passed it to me and I did my best to answer the questions. Unsure whether to remain standing or sit down, I remained standing for the first couple of answers until someone kindly suggested that I could sit down if I wanted to. Sheepishly, I sat down, wondering if anyone was starting to clue in that I may resemble in more ways than one the slightly bewildered protagonist of A Time and a Place.

Dana Silnicki, to whom I am indebted for having selected my book

Speaking of which, much initial discussion centred around the now familiar question of Wildebear’s like-ability (or lack thereof). Some in the group seemed to like his down-to-earth nature while others just wanted to give him a smack. I confessed that I did not know that I had written an anti-hero, someone potentially unlikable. I was just trying to make him real. I listened as Fergus described Wildebear as “bewildered” and saw the light go on in his eyes as he made the connection between the name Barnabus Wildebear and the word bewildered. I had to confess (for the second time) that it was not deliberate (the group advised me to take credit anyway, but I cannot tell a lie). I suppose it’s possible that my subconscious had something to do with it… yeah, let’s go with that. ūüôā

The question of the immutability of time came up. That is, the notion that in the universe of the book you cannot change the past. Twice now it’s been suggested to me (online and in person) that in A Time and a Place I create a universe in which neither Wildebear nor anyone else can change the past only to negate that concept later in the book. I tell you now that is not the case. I think the misunderstanding may arise from the number of times Wildebear visits the past. But each time he does so he changes nothing. He is incapable of changing anything because the past (in the book, at least) is immutable. I humbly suggest that if the reader thinks otherwise, they are misunderstanding the events in the book (I fully accept responsibility for perhaps not making this sufficiently clear in the book itself).

That being said, it was clear to me that the book club members had not only read the book but read it carefully. What a treat for any author, particularly one just starting out, like me. It makes all the effort of having written the novel so worthwhile. If only I could go back in time and tell the version of myself that was writing A Time and a Place that one day I would enjoy a night surrounded by people who had read my book and were there for the express purpose of discussing it. I suspect I would make that version of myself tear up.

Heartfelt thanks to Dana for selecting my book, and for the members of the Harbord House Science Fiction Book Club for their warm welcome and friendly camaraderie.

Mark Askwith Talks to Ira Nayman at BookMarkit! 2019

Gradually getting the interviews and readings from BookMarkIt! this past May edited and posted. Here’s the latest, with Mark Askwith talking to¬†Ira Nayman, author of the Multiverse series of novels, and editor of Amazing Stories magazine, in a really interesting chat about science fiction, humour, how he got into editing, and much, much more.

Mark Askwith Talks to Sienna Tristen and Avi Silver at BookMarkit! 2019

What could be better than Mark Askwith in conversation with, well, just about anyone?

Not much, in my opinion. (Pizza from the Michael’s Pizzaria in Summerside, PEI, but that’s about it.)

Here’s Mark in an engaging conversation with Sienna Tristen and Avi Silver at BookMarkIt! 2019 this past May. I’ll be posting several more such interviews (and readings) from BookMarkit! over the next month or so, just as soon as I can get them edited. Stay tuned!

Audio: Dean Ples and Tim Lorimer

Video: Jess Riley

Everythings Nice sting by LIMO Recording Studio…

All material copyright BookMarkIt! Inc.

Maighread MacKay Reading at BookMarkIt 2019

Finally finding the time to edit and post the readings and interviews of the many fine authors who attended BookMarkIt! inc. 2019. Here’s the first one up: Maighread MacKay. Many more to come!

Many thanks to Dean Ples, Tim Lorimer and Jess Riley for the technical production.


The other day I got to wondering about an old friend of mine.

He was a real friend but he was also a Facebook friend. Sometimes the two are one and the same.

I was thinking that he hadn’t posted in a while. Or maybe the Facebook algorithm was keeping his posts from me. Anyway I found his page easily enough. Strangely, the first post in his feed was someone else sharing pictures. The second post was by another person, who wrote, “I miss my friend. I hope he is at peace.”

That… didn’t sound good. I scrolled down a bit more and saw posts about him being missing. I didn’t scroll down anymore. Instead, I searched elsewhere online for him and saw more posts about him missing. And then a post about him being found. Or rather, his body being found.

Of course, I was shocked. This was July. These posts were from December. We’d been good friends (and neighbours) for a period of a few years a decade or so ago. Then life happened and both of us had moved and we’d only seen one another sporadically since then.

I take the position that once I’m friends with someone we’re friends for life, almost always picking up where we’ve left off once we see one another again, even after several years. I’m pretty sure that would have been the case with this particular friend.

But now that is no longer possible.

He was only in his late forties. Police do not suspect foul play. On the one hand, it’s pretty obvious what happened to him. On the other hand, there is a deep well of unknowability there. Clearly something was horribly wrong, resulting in a tragic ending.

This was a kind man. The first time I ever met him we had just moved into our new house. I was in our driveway, our enormous driveway, trying to rid it of about five feet worth of snow. He came over from next door with a shovel and we tackled it together. Then he disappeared into his house and emerged with beers, and we celebrated our victory over the snow with beers in the driveway. We were fast friends after that.

Later, we came home from a week in the hospital with our premature babies to find that he and his wife had painted and decorated a room in our house for us, a nursery for the babies. It was tastefully done with great care and skill. Who does that?

There is more, much more, including tragedy and, I know, mistakes, and then we parted ways, and obviously there’s a lot I don’t know that ultimately led to an untimely, tragic end for my friend.

There isn’t much about him or his life online, but I know that the work he chose for himself over the last twenty years, crafting specialty wheelchairs, helped make a lot of peoples’ lives easier. I see in photos that he successfully grew a great, magnificent grey beard, that initially looked odd to me, because I knew him mostly as a young man, but that I see suited him somehow. I know that he left behind people that cared about him a lot.

Death is strange, with such finality to it. I’ve seen a few friends go in the last couple of years. Not a one of them old enough to actually go forever, in my opinion. I think about them all a lot. I’ve been thinking about this particular friend frequently the last few days. I know that he, that they, are all still part of the universe, just in a different way.

But that doesn’t comfort me just now.

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