Blog Archives

Someone’s looking forward to spring

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I’d better get the new book done before he starts walking!

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It’s a beautiful day outside, with cherry blossoms and a blue sky and yellow sun and breathable air and all that. I’m at my desk, writing. Sigh. Well, maybe I’ll take a break to play some Frisbee with the older boy. By play Frisbee I mean let him hurl the Frisbee as hard as he can into my legs. Parenting. You’re not doing it right if you’re not bleeding.

This is what happens when you hike with children

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Nimoy is dead but Spock lives on

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I just learned a few minutes ago that Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Spock in the original Star Trek TV series and the early movies, has died. I feel so incredibly sad.

Some of my earliest memories are of Star Trek. In fact, I can remember the first chapter books I ever had were Star Trek books my older brother gave me for Christmas one year. I couldn’t have been older than five. Maybe I was four. I’m not sure. I didn’t know what they were, but when I read them things changed for me forever. I was taken away into Gene Roddenberry’s magical, semi-utopian future. (It would have been utopian if not for all the Klingons and Romulans and weird space entities!) Star Trek was the drug that kickstarted my imagination.

I don’t know how old I was when I discovered the TV series. I was definitely still in elementary school. I watched them all, even though they were a forbidden fruit. I grew up in a bit of a violent household, and my father didn’t approve of Star Trek. I don’t know why. He had a hard upbringing himself and was all about working all the time and working hard. He was the hardest working person I’ve ever known, in fact. I was a whiny little brat who just wanted to read books. Some things never change. I would sneak Star Trek onto the TV when he was outside, working in the garden or building something in the shed. Every now and then he’d come in and catch me watching those shows where anything was possible and the machines did all the work for you. We’d clash, and I’d lose.

I’m OK with all that now. My father mellowed out before he died a few years back, and we had a much better relationship. I don’t think we ever became close, but I developed a deeper appreciation of what he had been through in his life and how strong a man he was before a series of strokes reduced him to memories. I have respect for him now, because I’ve learned how hard it can be sometimes to be a man and a parent.

Those Star Trek shows and books were an escape for me, the vehicles that carried me away from a life I didn’t want to be in. They took me away from that home with a violent father, a bed-ridden and absent mother, a sister who died far too early and a brother who found his own ways of escaping. They led to Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and all the other classic works that fuelled my imagination and made me dream of other worlds that were, if not better than mine, at least different. Star Trek was the gateway drug. If not for Star Trek, I might not have read those other books. If I hadn’t read them, I might not have discovered Roger Zelazny and all those other writers that turned me into a writer myself.

Hearing the news of Nimoy’s death triggered a flashback through my life, returning me to that childhood day where I sat in my pyjamas under the Christmas tree, holding those Star Trek books in my hand. It’s the earliest moment I can remember right now. I think it’s the first moment of my life that leaps out at me because it’s the moment where my life truly began, where the person who I am now was born.

Looking back on my life, I see now that Spock was always there. He was there in my childhood, in those books and TV shows. He was there in my teenage years, coming back in the movies when I perhaps needed him most. He helped coax me out of my damaged shell when I joined a theatre group that did improv Star Trek comedies in my early adulthood — that was when I actually learned how to interact with people like a normal human being. He returned again when I was an adult, in the reboot movies, when I began to have children of my own. And now he is gone.

Except he’s not. Leonard Nimoy is gone, yes. But Spock is still there. Spock is there in every moment of life in some form or another. All the Star Trek characters are. Even the redshirts! (I always kind of saw myself as a redshirt, to be honest.) Spock will live on in my imagination. Spock will live on in the imaginations of millions of people around the world. And he will keep living on in the minds of others long after we are all gone to our own graves.

Thank you for reading this. Now I’m going to watch some Star Trek with my son.

Live long and prosper.

My most memorable meal

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The writer Lawrence M. Schoen has a pretty fun feature on his site called Eating Authors. First you need to fatten them up a bit with a big book contract, then you sauté them in scotch….

No, not that kind of eating authors. The other kind, in which authors talk about their most memorable meals. Lawrence asked me to be a part of it and I was happy to agree. It was a difficult choice to choose my most memorable meal, as I’ve had some pretty interesting ones. The one I kept thinking about wasn’t necessarily the best meal I’ve ever had, but it was the one that stuck in my mind the most, mainly because I never saw the meal. I was eating in the dark, you see, at a restaurant called Dark Table. Head over to the Eating Authors page to read about the illuminating experience.

I understood that the restaurant was going to be dark inside, but I didn’t understand what that darkness meant. I couldn’t see a single thing, and I instantly lost any sense of where I was. I couldn’t remember the last time that I’d been in such utter darkness. Even during the frequent power blackouts where I live, I still have sources of light — the ambient light from the moon or stars, or even my iPhone flashlight in a pinch. But inside Dark Table, it wasn’t just dark — it was nothing at all.

The Peter Darbyshires: We are legion

A little while back I got contacted by another Peter Darbyshire who was getting ready to publish his first book. That’s right — there’s another Peter Darbyshire author out there. Cue the Highlander music!

I promised him I’d give the book a shout-out when he published it, so check out The Carpenter’s Tale if you want to read a book by another Peter Darbyshire. (It just launched, although he went with the name P.A. Darbyshire to avoid confusion. Or maybe he just didn’t want to be associated with me. I can’t blame him if so.)

Hmm, maybe if there are more Peter Darbyshires out there we could all band together and make the bestseller lists through our accumulated sales….

Also on Instagram!

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If you’re interested in such things, I’ll point out that I also post lifestream-type photos on Instagram as well as Flickr. The WordPress theme I’m currently using doesn’t allow me to put an Instagram badge up on the top of the site beside the Flickr one, so I thought I’d mention it here. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

The things that matter

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Operation Let’s Fix the Baby’s Heart seems to have been a success.

I mentioned in an earlier post that our new baby was born with a heart defect that would require a medical procedure. The good doctors and nurses at B.C. Children’s Hospital performed the procedure yesterday – a heart catheterization to fix our son’s pulmonary valve stenosis. Basically, they threaded a line up through the femoral artery in his groin to his heart, where they inflated a balloon to force open the problem valves and relieve the pressure on his heart. We won’t know for a while if it’s a permanent fix or if they’ll have to perform actual heart surgery to fix the problem, but everyone is optimistic at this point. And the baby? He’s happy and sleepy.

Not long ago, the only fix to this problem would have been heart surgery, which is always a dangerous affair. Procedures like the one our son had are fairly new but incredibly safe and much less invasive. Medicine has come a long way, thanks to people like the health professionals at B.C. Children’s and other hospitals. Once again, I am humbled by the daily miracles they routinely perform.

OK, now it’s time to initiate Operation Reduce Parents’ Stress Level.

The ultimate weapon

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I love getting surprises in the mail — especially when it’s the ultimate weapon, created by my good friend Paul Vermeersch. Thanks, Paul!

Forbidden Desert — it’s family fun!

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I was introduced to the game Forbidden Island last year and I quite enjoyed it. The game is simple enough: you and your friends or family members are a group of explorers who become trapped on a mysterious sinking island. You must collect four artifacts before you can escape, but it’s not an easy task as the different parts of the island get flooded. Each of the characters has different attributes — the Pilot can fly anywhere, the Diver can move through flooded parts of the island, etc. — and you must work together flawlessly to succeed.

The game is the perfect mix of simplicity and playability. The rules are few and straightforward — you do little more than moving, shoring up parts of the island and trading artifact cards — but the game is always different thanks to the tile board setup. And the ever-increasing amount of water adds great tension to what is really a quick game.

The cooperative nature makes it a great family game, as you must work together rather than against each other. In my household, competitive games don’t go over so well, so this was a great find for me. I bought the app game, as it was cheap, and we have enjoyed a few family evenings playing it.

Plus, there’s the great imaginative play of the game. When I play it, I can picture moving through a Jules Verne/Myst like city, as water slowly rises around my ankles. It’s like playing the idea for a book.

GAMEWRIGHT-415When I heard there was a sequel, Forbidden Desert, I was very excited. And lo and behold, I received it for Christmas. It’s a great complement to Forbidden Island or even a great stand-alone game. Best of all, it follows the same simple yet playable formula without repeating the original game too much — it has enough new features to feel like a brand new yet familiar game.

Forbidden Desert features a group of intrepid explorers crash landing in the desert atop a mysterious city as a sandstorm blows. Their only hope is to find the different parts of an ancient flying craft so they can reassemble it and escape the city before the sandstorm buries it. It’s the same basic formula as Forbidden Island, with a few twists: the sand is constantly burying the city and moving the tiles about, as the storm covers and uncovers different parts of the city. The characters are different, with different abilities — I like the Meteorologist, who can spend action points delaying the storm or seeing what’s coming next. It’s even more cooperative than Forbidden Island, as you’ll need to end up sharing water and solar shields and so on.

Both games are delightfully playable and admirably simple — if you don’t believe me, just check out the photo of my four-year-old playing the game with me. He’s already planning the sequel — Forbidden Mountain! I’d be delighted to play that one.