Gavin’s War

GAVIN’S WAR has been green-lighted to become part of Steve Konkoly’s Perseid Collapse Kindleworlds universe. I am very excited to join Steve, Bobby Akart, Sean T. Smith and the other writers who have contributed to Steve’s ambitious, collaborative multi-volume post-apocalyptic project. I look forward to sharing my work with new readers and introducing some of mine to Steve’s world. Look for a release some time this autumn.


He was an old man who lived by himself on an island in the channel, working as a game-keeper. After the Event, when the Foundation – along with everything else – was destroyed, he just stayed on, his life more or less unchanged. Lu and Steve, a refugee couple expecting their first child, have learned that a Chinese naval force is prowling the strait, preparing to invade. Gavin knows an armada’s passage will jeopardize the ecosystem and leave his beloved wild creatures vulnerable. Reluctantly, he must set aside his hermit’s ways and join Steve and Lu on their journey from island to island to spread the news and convince the paranoid, fractious communities of Canadian survivalists to unite and make a stand.

15 & 51

I’ve been thinking a lot about the numbers 15 and 51 lately. They’re important numbers in Canada these days. 15 is the number of dollars per hour the NDP proposes as the national minimum wage – about $30,000 per year – a no frills income, but certainly a livable one. 51 is the number of the bill the Parliament just approved (with the vote of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau), pitched to us as a national security initiative but which, in practice, is providing a legal framework for criminalizing dissent against the Keystone-XL/Enbridge pipeline complex, a legitimate exercise of our Charter rights of free speech and assembly dismissed as the “anti-petroleum movement” in this internal RCMP memo.


I was very upset to recently overhear a friend telling someone else why raising the minimum wage to $15 wasn’t a good idea. I don’t normally eavesdrop but as I sat there in my booth in the restaurant, I couldn’t help but overhear him go on about tax rates, about possible consequences to non-minimum wage earners. He didn’t know I was there. I wanted to tell him that $15 an hour wasn’t about abstractions like interest rates or actuarial tables but about poor people buying groceries for their families. It wasn’t an argument that would make sense to him, however. Because he exists in a world with enough money for it to be something of an abstraction for him. Money is only truly real to those who have too little of it.

Money can purchase freedom, for example by allowing people to afford the best justice money can buy. The coincidence of a widened scope of domestic surveillance with opposition to a livable minimum wage is not random. These increased incursions into our civil rights serve to enforce a social order wherein political power of the wealthy exists at the expense of the middle and working classes. C-51 comes at a time when the pipeline initiatives face growing civil opposition. And so the Conservative government has deployed the apparatus of State to criminalize dissent, and in so doing enforced a Politics of the Rich. Those who protest the pipeline once C-51 is in place will become, de facto, terrorists. And who earning less than $15 an hour can afford a lawyer?

The RCMP and the government of Canada have decided that exercising our Charter rights is not good for us because we might use them to promote an anti-petroleum ideology (whatever the fuck that is). They probably didn’t ever think any of us would get to read that memo when they wrote it, but we did. I want to tell the guys who wrote it that this isn’t about national security or pushing a revolutionary ideology. It’s about people demanding to have a say in what happens in the country where they live. But this isn’t an argument that would make sense to them. They exist in a world with so much power that it’s something of an abstraction for them. Freedom only really matters to those who have too little of it.


One thing that becomes really clear when you start a vacation is how too much exposure to a rigid schedule affects the way you conceptualize your own leisure time. ‘Unwinding’ is such an appropriate term for what happens whenever I stop looking at the clock and start living.

We were never meant to be slaves to a schedule. It’s antithetical to the organic currents of existence.



Interpretations of radical Muslim terror attacks tend to fall into two camps. One is dismissive of the deeper political resonance of such events, tending to frame them as “lone gunman”-style incidents while the other camp holds a very rigid (and, one could say, un-nuanced) understanding of the international dimensions of Islamic extremism. As happens when views about important subjects polarize, each side becomes identified with a particular political discourse.

The blood is barely dry on the pavement of Garland and already a social media war has erupted over interpretation of the incident. When New York Times foreign correspondent Mukrini Callimachi tweeted a characterization of the shooting in Garland as an attack on an anti-Muslim event, right-wing novelist Brad Thor fired back in a predictably acrimonious fashion and a flame war ensued wherein we saw two sides writ large: one attacking the other for offering what amounts to an apologia for abridging free speech.

“Free speech” is now used as a pejorative term by some on the left who conflate supporting this ideal with intolerant attitudes toward Muslims. The recent PEN dust-up wherein six writers declined the role of table hosts for the forthcoming PEN gala honoring Charlie Hebdo is one example. The writers withdrew, claiming an anti-Muslim bias on the part of CH. In fact, the honor had less to do with the magazine’s politics (which, believe me, are more akin to Alfred E. Newman than David Duke) and more to do with celebrating its perseverance in the face of terror. Yet these writers emphasized a PC interpretation of the proposed award (i.e., “how Muslims might see it”). It was a political gesture, intended to highlight the divide separating these two contrasting takes on the present cultural tension between freedom of speech and radical Islam.

Not only contrasting, but also irreconcilable. We either have free speech in our culture, or we do not. We cannot abridge or water-down or temper a political principle. We can temper our behavior, our own reaction to things that offend us. But when we water down a political principle, we deprive the individual exercise of his own rights – and of his own right to judge.

Put another way – you have the personal choice whether or not to offend Muslims by drawing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, but you do not have the right to make that choice for me or anyone else. That, in a nutshell, is the essence of free expression.

There is an emerging sense in our culture that if we just refrained from expressing certain ideas, drawing certain cartoons, saying certain things, then perhaps we wouldn’t have to cope with lethal terror attacks. It amounts to a softening of the line on free expression, a courting of censorship, a willingness to deal away portions of that freedom in exchange for a kind of fuzzy détente (“we don’t draw cartoons of Mohammed and you won’t try and kill us, ‘kay?”). This sounds reasonable to some on the Left. It also sounds good to British jihadi apologist Anjem Choudary.

Choudary tweet

It’s comforting to know that Choudary’s Sixth Century world-view does not preclude his using Twitter, where all of us (including, presumably, members of Special Branch) can keep an eye on him. A quick glance at his Tweets gives you the totality of the man’s views, and they are as tedious as they are clear. Choudary stands ready, hand extended, to seal the deal. Do what he wants – temper your political principles and artistic culture to suit his beliefs – and you can take the jihadi-approved first steps toward peace with the disciples of his god.

It’s your move.

Regarding the Queen

Visitors to my home are often surprised to see a portrait of the Queen and Prince Phillip prominently displayed. I grew up with grandparents and older relatives who observed the tradition of keeping the Queen’s picture in the house and I suppose it rubbed off on me. Given my politics and social values, people are puzzled by my attachment to the Royals. It’s worth explaining.

In elementary school, we began each day singing “God Save the Queen”. I was taught to stand and come to attention whenever that anthem plays (I still do), and the excitement I feel seeing the Queen on television is probably an outgrowth of that. Conditioned as a young person to respect Her Majesty, I feel a certain comfort just knowing she is there, maintaining the institution of the monarchy and, with it, many of the pillars of British culture. We live in a time when it is not fashionable to revere tradition – I get that. But for those of us who see its value, the Queen is its symbol, embodied – stubborn and unyielding, persevering despite changes in culture, standing for a set of values that transcend Self. The Queen, herself a servant of tradition, for me is a reminder of the importance of service and self-sacrifice. And for that example, I thank her.

Every monarch’s reign eventually ends. And on that day, the heir is summoned to the to the bedside, receives the royal ring and, with the first whispered “your majesty”, assumes all the burden of history and tradition. There is something very hopeful in that, and very human. It means that somebody is willing to devote their life to maintaining that connection to the past. It’s a good thing. It’s my culture and I’m proud to be a part of it.


Before the Sabbath

Time spent licking this WordPress site into shape cut into my writing a bit yesterday and today. Nevertheless, I finished chapter seven of Echo Tribe and have less than 20,000 words left to go. I am on track to deliver the novel to Permuted by the 31 May deadline.

In a few hours I will begin my last block of shifts before vacation. As it stands now, I spend slightly less than half of each week on the day-job and the rest of my time writing. This pattern has worked well and allowed me to get some good work done these past few years, but the pace is punishing. Days off are spent recuperating in bathrobe and slippers, like an invalid. Vacation will be much the same. My package of treats from Amazon arrived, including a copy of Jenn Brissett’s novel Elysium and DVDs of two favorites to add to my film library: Charlton Heston’s The Omega Man and Bless the Beasts and the Children, based on Glenn Swarthout’s novel. I look forward to a quiet and productive 12 days off, putting the finishing touches on the novel and enjoying these things.

But I still have to get through this block of shifts. The last few days before a vacation are always the most punishing. I’ll just focus on pushing through to those quiet afternoons and relaxing evenings that await me on the other side.

Lunar haze

Virtual Notebook

The world moves on and, with it, so must I …

After 6 years of managing my own writer’s website with links to my blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts and a bibliography that required a combination of data entry, typesetting and html coding skills to update, I have decided to migrate to WordPress. It’s scalable, phone-friendly, easier to manage and besides – having my blog, my bibliography and media links all in one place just makes sense.

I don’t blog probably as much as I should, although I do still maintain a handwritten journal. I’ll be writing more here soon. Think of this as my virtual notebook – a place to sketch ideas to share with readers, friends, fellow authors and any other interested parties. I will continue to maintain my FaceBook and Twitter accounts, and add links to those as I convert this shell into a workable web presence which will involve upgrading look and feel, porting the WordPress URL to my jamescribbles domain name, populating my WORKS and MEDIA pages all the while staying caught up on writing deadlines, selling more novels and short stories and attempting some semblance of a life.

Easy as re-fitting and redesigning a 747 in mid-flight. Just watch me.