Featured Article on the Edmonton Writer’s Group Blog

The Edmonton Writer’s Group was recently kind enough to ask me to respond to a prompt for a series of blog articles they are publishing.

They asked, ‘What inspires you to write?’.

My article is now up on the site, and can be read by clicking here.

Also, remember that ‘All Mapped Out’, the fourth anthology by the Edmonton Writer’s Group is available for purchase now! You can pick up the paperback here, the e-book here, or contact this writer by clicking here to purchase a signed physical copy!

Kind Regards,

-Brad OH Inc.

Reminder- ‘All Mapped Out’ is Available Now

‘All Mapped Out’, the fourth anthology by the Edmonton Writer’s Group is available for purchase now! You can pick up the paperback here, the e-book here, or contact this writer by clicking here to purchase a signed physical copy!

All Mapped Out’ is the newest collection of stories from The Edmonton Writers’ Group. One of Edmonton’s longest-running writing groups. The stories in this book showcase the talents of a group authors from throughout the area. Previous EWG collections like Between the Shelves and Edmonton: Unbound both revolved around a central theme. All Mapped Out follows that same format.

Our authors write in a variety of genres, including romance, science fiction, mystery, crime fiction, historical fiction and non-fiction, and many write stories that revolve around world-building.

Having a central theme helped challenge the creativity of each member who submitted a story. If you think All Mapped Out is a geography book, you would be letting your mind wander in the wrong direction. Each of the fifteen stories are about the journey each author takes you on. Some will make you laugh, or bring a tear to your eye, and others will take you to a magical or futuristic destination. Whatever the final destination our stories take, we hope getting to the end is half the fun.

Whatever emotions these tales evoke from you, The Edmonton Writers’ Group hopes you enjoy your travels with our authors.

My story in this anthology is called ‘The Great River’. This is a story I’d meant to write for a while, and the theme of the anthology seemed like the perfect place for it. It’s really a simple hero’s journey, but the idea of the protagonist’s slow-dawning realization, and the wandering journey of self-discovery through a post-apocalyptic future really hooked me.

As a life-long devotee of Professor Tolkien, I had always imagined I would never venture into writing fantasy, as to my mind, it had already been done far better than I could ever dream. ‘The Great River’ is most likely the closest I will ever venture to that genre — its simplicity and singularity keeping it sufficiently distant from the richness of Middle-earth.

Remember, you can pick up the paperback here, the e-book here, or contact this writer by clicking here to purchase a signed physical copy!

-Brad OH Inc.

Launch of ‘All Mapped Out’ and the Conclusion of ‘A Good Place for a Miller’

Today, we are happy to provide new information about ‘All Mapped Out’, the fourth anthology from the Edmonton Writer’s Group. ‘All Mapped Out’ is a collection of stories by Edmonton writers, and each story is connected by the theme of maps. With approaches as varied as the writers themselves, stories cover arrivals, departures, and other life journeys.

Like our previous anthologies, all profits from ‘All Mapped Out’ will be donated to the Edmonton Public Library.

‘All Mapped Out’ is available now! You can purchase the paperback here, the e-book here, or contact this writer by clicking here to purchase a signed physical copy!

Finally, as promised last post, today we’re also sharing the second part of ‘A Good Place for a Miller’—our story from our previous anthology, ‘Edmonton: Unbound’.

The first part of the story can be found here.

-Brad OH Inc.

‘A Good Place for a Miller’ (Part II):

… “So, there are others there too?” asked Jeremy, surprised by the speed the men travelled at, and doing his utmost to keep up without seeming like he was trying to.

“Should be a few,” Slick said.

“And…they won’t mind either, if I join?”

“Not if you don’t cause trouble. The way you drink beer, you should be just fine, kid.”

“Yeah,” Lucky agreed, “leaves more for me! Haha.”

… “So,” said Slick, “what’s this festival you wanted to go to anyway? Must be something, if losing it’s worth losing all the rest.”

“Yeah, well I think so. But it’s not just about that, it’s about having the ability to choose something for myself. I’ve been listening to this band for a long time, and they really speak to me. So, I wanted to finally go to this festival they have—the ‘Gathering of the Juggalos’—and meet some of the other fans from around the world.

“You know, they’re a sort of community themselves, the Juggalos. They’re united by their role as outcasts, their love of the music and even a special bond with each other. Outside of my house, I’ve never had anything like that and…”

“Boy, I feel like I’ve had it easy hearing all this tragedy,” Lucky joked.

“Go on kid, you’re alright,” said Slick.

“Well,” Jeremy continued, somewhat less sure of himself now, “It would have been nice to feel like a part of something, you know. I don’t know why they couldn’t just let me have that.”

“Ain’t their choice,” said Slick. “If you wanna go to the damn thing, then go. Hell, I left my home, such as it was, long before your age. Look at me now, got all the ‘community’ I need, just like you say.” Slick grinned and slapped Lucky on the back. Jeremy felt his stomach drop.

Mill Creek Ravine was a long, wooded section of the city which followed naturally the curve of the tiny creek. Dirt foot-paths and off-leash trails were the primary function of the park, weaving through trees and alongside the creek-bed where the thin trickle of water which had long ago burrowed the ravine from the hard earth tickled the polished stones of its bed.

Walking a long stretch bordered tightly by trees on both sides, Jeremy heard footsteps approaching. From around the corner came a man, woman, and young Golden Retriever pup, all jogging peaceably—the last vestiges of civilization draining from the park along with the day’s light.

“Hello,” Jeremy smiled and nodded, a custom long ingrained by the rigidly enforced politeness of his upbringing. Much to his surprise, he was met only by distant avoidance, and the couple hurried past with no greeting and as little eye-contact as they could manage.

Jeremy heard Slick chuckling to himself, and felt the chill of night begin to gnaw at his exposed flesh. “It’s weird how little time I’ve spent down here, living so close and all. It really is pretty this time of evening,” Jeremy said.

“You go where you need to be I guess. Not much need of a cold forest for a guy like you. Not most of the time, least of ways,” said Slick.

“I only go where my needs are,” said Lucky, crushing another empty beer can into his bag as he grabbed a fresh can from the sack on Slick’s shoulder.

As the trio moved, the trees parted, affording a panoramic view of the valley, and up to Whyte Avenue. A short hill rose to their right, and Jeremy noticed a picnic table and fire pit which he initially took for the group’s campsite. But they kept walking, past the bench, and back down into the woods, crossing a wooden bridge as they went. Finally, the pair slipped off the path and knelt by the stream to fill their canteens. “What’s that for?” asked Jeremy.

Slick rolled his eyes and chuckled loudly. “For drinking, what the hell do you think? It’s not all beer all the time down here you know. A man needs real water now and again.”

“Speak for yourself, I’m fine with beer,” said Lucky.

“That’s half your problem,” said Slick, and Jeremy allowed himself a laugh of his own.

Taking a knee on the bank, Jeremy cupped his hands and filled his mouth with water, swishing it around in his cheeks to rid himself of the beer’s stale aftertaste. The water was dirty and tasted odd, leaving a gritty feeling in his mouth even after he’d swallowed. Jeremy remembered fighting with his parents many times over being told to settle for a cup of cold tap water in place of a soda, and felt a hot flush steal over him.

“So, how long have you guys been out here?” he asked.

Slick gazed upward, as if loosing himself in the riddle. “Hell, I don’t know. I’ve been out and about, on and off different streets most of my life. Bounced between cities, occasionally found spells of work. I just go where I see fit, find what I can. Same for Lucky. Same for most of us, I guess.”

“So,” Jeremy continued, feeling emboldened and connected to these two strange men, “is there anything that would ever make you stop wandering? Where would you want to stay, if given the chance?”

This brought a pause from both men, and a long, terminal silence. Finally, it was once again Slick who broke the tension. “Stay, huh? Well that’s just it I guess, ain’t it? I stay where I can, where people will have me. Like I said kid, you ought to go where you’re wanted, and make it fit as best you can. Running around trying to find a place to rest is no kind of life, after all. What the hell is it you think you’re looking to find out here anyway?” Slick sealed up his canteen as he spoke, and motioned the others back onto the trail.

Jeremy thought about the warmth of his room, and the lock on his door. He remembered the porch light left on when he arrived home late from work, and the judgmental glare of his father waiting in the porch when he arrived home late from anyplace else. “Well, I guess I don’t know what I want to find exactly. But I still want to have the chance to search for it, you know? Didn’t you ever want more freedom—the chance to make decisions for yourself, to seek your own destiny and see what you’re truly made of?”

Slick gazed intently for a moment at his dry and cracking, discoloured hands, and Jeremy felt his own—soft and sweaty, fidgeting in his clean jacket pockets. “Can’t be much help on that point, I’m afraid. Never had any shortage of freedom,” said Slick. “No family, no commitments. Free as a bird, like they say. But don’t you worry, someone at camp might be able to point you in the right direction. It’s not far now.”

Together, Jeremy and the two men continued, crossing another short wooden footbridge, winding again through the trees until finally, at Slick’s cue, they turned off the dirt path and traipsed deeper into the woods. Jeremy felt his stomach growling, and a queer feeling welling up in his chest. He swallowed back a sudden lump in his throat, and fell in line behind Lucky.

Not far in there was a break in the trees, and at a bend in the creek, a small campfire burned in a hole dug in the earth. A bedraggled man and woman clung to each other near the flames. Further out, sitting cross-legged on the rocks by the water, was an older man with a somber look on his red, weathered face.

Slick and Lucky offered some brief greetings, and took their seats by the fire. “These are Grace and Riley,” said Slick, pointing to the couple near the fire, “and that one we just call ‘The Old Man’. He comes by this way now and then. This is Jeremy, he’s with us for now.”

“Hi,” Jeremy knew his greeting was muted and sheepish, and was relieved when it drew nothing but a brief nod from the couple, and an inquisitive, bemused stare from the Old Man. He settled in front of the fire beside Slick, still nursing his now warm beer.

“You’re a lucky bunch tonight,” said Slick, passing around his bag of beer.

“I’m lucky!” said Lucky, taking one eagerly.

“So, Jeremy here’s feeling lost—looking to figure out how he fits in, and thought he might find it down in these parts,” Slick explained to the uninterested crowd.

“He’ll find something,” said Grace. Jeremy squirmed.

“I just,” he began once more, and took a swig of stale beer to bolster his courage, “I just want to do things on my own for once. I want to know how far I can go without anyone else taking the wheel from me.”

From across the fire, the Old Man stirred. He stretched his back, then leaned forward, a deep and ancient sounding rumble welling up from his chest which slowly grew into articulated words. “We all want control of our lives at some point,” he said. “And that’s just fine. But it’s not the times we’re in control which define who we are, boy.”

An uncomfortable silence hung in the cool night air. The rest of the vagrants eyed one another and sipped on their beers, waiting for Jeremy’s response.

Taking a pull from his own diminishing can, Jeremy considered his words carefully. ‘Control of our lives,’ he reflected in his head. He could remember his parents setting his clothes out as a child, pulling him from parties when his behaviour was not acceptable. He recalled his awards for academic excellence and the raise he’d recently been given at work. “But I’m not out of control right now. I’m doing pretty well, honestly. I just want a bit more freedom.”

“Don’t we all,” the Old Man replied, “but when we fight most desperately for control, we often lose what we’d look to gain.”

Jeremy was confused. He knew he’d learned a lot at home, and was merely eager to put that into use. He felt ready, and resented any implication to the contrary. He wished that he could speak as freely to his parents as he could to these bedraggled strangers—to tell them how important the Gathering was to him, and what it would mean to him if he could only go.

The Old Man leaned forward, “What are you thinking about right now?”

Jeremy’s beer can was empty. He crushed it up and tossed it into a pile of other discards. ‘Home’, he knew.

All week when he was there, Jeremy had dreamt of freedom and independence. Tonight, in the cold, with beer and liberty and everything up to him, he found himself looking back to the comfort of home, and family.

The Old Man smiled, and Jeremy understood.

Soon, he would speak to his parents about what he needed, and the value of the trip he was now determined to take one way or another. It was something he needed, and that was a good thing to know. But more important still, Jeremy now realized that ‘community’ was not a tangible thing, but a function served—it was the people one could rely on when they needed more than themselves. Through happenstance or fate, the men and women at the fire tonight had found it by necessity. Jeremy knew now that he needed to return to his, and to understand that independence was not about being alone, it was more about knowing when you shouldn’t be.

“I should be going,” he said. The small gathering gave him a content nod, and returned to their own affairs.

In front of Jeremy, the way home stretched out mysterious and still. The night was dark and the path was long, but Jeremy knew he could face it on his own for the simple fact that in the end, he would not have to.

Coming Soon… ‘All Mapped Out’

Today, we here at Brad OH Inc. are happy to announce that the Edmonton Writer’s Group will soon be releasing our fourth anthology, ‘All Mapped Out’.

‘All Mapped Out’ is a collection of stories by Edmonton writers, and each story is connected by the theme of maps. With approaches as varied as the writers themselves, stories cover arrivals, departures, and other life journeys.

Like our previous anthologies, all profits from ‘All Mapped Out’ will be donated to the Edmonton Public Library.

In order to celebrate this exciting new release, we will be releasing—tor the first time online—the story from our most recent anthology, ‘Edmonton: Unbound’.

This story, ‘A Good Place for a Miller’, was written specifically for the anthology, and touches on some topics that are unusually personal for my writing. It’s an anomaly of sorts, and I enjoy it for that very reason.

‘A Good Place for a Miller’ will be released in two parts. The first will be found just below, and the second will be released soon, along with updated information about where to pick up your copy of ‘All Mapped Out’.

-Brad OH Inc.

‘A Good Place for a Miller’ (Part I):

Jeremy Miller was 17 years old the only time he ever ran away from home. Slipping out the back door late in the evening, he’d passed the Youth Emergency Shelter, and loped out onto the grassy incline which fell away from the cracked sidewalk and sloped down into the cool green hills of Mill Creek Ravine. Jeremy had walked this little strip on his way to work and back many times in his short life, and had more than once contemplated taking the small step off the sidewalk and down into the valley below.

Today, he had finally decided to make that idea a reality—and not just as a detour on his way to work. Jeremy wanted to escape, to find himself, and more importantly, to find out if there was anyone else in the world feeling as desperate to get started on life as he was.

“Might not be what you’d call living exactly, but it’s half true at least, I guess.” The old man with the dirty toque scratched at his beard, and ran his index finger along a scar on his cheek.

Jeremy didn’t understand. “What do you mean? You live here, or you don’t.”

“Sometimes we sleep here, sometimes we sleep other places. Living means something different to each of us kid,” Dirty Toque spoke from the side of his mouth.

“That’s just the kind of thing I was hoping you’d say,” said Jeremy. “That’s why I came here today, to find out what life really means to other people.”

“I’ve got all I need to live right here,” said a younger man with dry, red skin and a stained plaid jacket. He held up a can of beer and burst into a chorus of dry, staccato laughter.

Jeremy had to bite his lip to avoid letting loose a sarcastic quip he might regret. Self-talk was a long-standing habit of Jeremy’s—perhaps a relic of his being an only child of two very busy parents, or perhaps more so the result of his self-imposed isolation and natural introversion. In truth, it was some combination of those, and no doubt other, more implicit reasons as well.

The older man inched his way forward—a nervous, perhaps predatory approach that made Jeremy squirm beneath his new jacket, which was admittedly too heavy for the meager, early spring weather.

“You have plenty more than you need to live by the looks of it kid,” he pulled at the sleeve of the jacket, “what are you doing down here anyways? ‘Find out what life really means’…what the hell is that about?”

Jeremy tugged away instinctively, feeling guilty about his sudden apprehension, yet unable to shake it. “I don’t live very far from here,” he explained, “but I’ve never really spent much time down in these valleys. All my life I’ve heard about the people down here, whole communities, who know and trust each other. They survive because of their connections, not despite them. You’d think that sort of thing would be more abundant out of the valley than in it,” he finished, and a shadow blew across his face even as the chill of night began to deepen.

It was true. Jeremy had often heard tales of this coven of the lost; a significant community of Edmonton’s homeless who set up makeshift shelters down in the woods of Edmonton’s River Valley—a series of park lands forming one of the continent’s largest city parks.

These gypsy-esque men and women often partied long into the night, despite their desperate circumstances. That kind of resilience had often struck a young Jeremy as brave…inspiring even. If any of it was true.

These tales had come to Jeremy through the complaints of his chagrined neighbours, whispers from children whose parents were police officers or probation workers, and the often-elaborated speculations of his rather distant academic peers—speaking of things they’d seen, or rumours they’d heard as if the River Valley was some far off and inaccessible source of fear and legend.

Mill Creek Ravine, though not a part of the River Valley proper, was close to Jeremy’s house, and he had determined it would be a good starting place.

“Yeah, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” mumbled the younger man. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Jeremy Miller, and I’d like to join you for a while, maybe have a talk. I hope it doesn’t seem rude or creepy,” this statement drew a series of inquisitive, raised eyebrows from the two men before him, “I just want to know what people live like when all is truly equal.”

“Can’t get more equal than nothing for everyone,” said the first man, with a chuckle.

“Miller, eh?” asked the second, “that’s a bit fancy for these parts, ain’t it?”

Jeremy scrunched up his face, but again held his tongue. “It’s just a joke, son,” the man with the toque cut in, “‘Miller’ is a beer, but a bit pricey for us. I’m Slick, and that there’s Lucky. Guess where he gets his name,” he finished, reaching into a bag at his side and passing Jeremy an unopened can: ‘Lucky Lager’.

It was cold in Jeremy’s hand, and heavy. “Thanks,” he said.

“So, just what is it brings you to a place like this anyway?” asked Slick.

Jeremy considered this for a moment. How could he take his whole life’s experience and present state, and sum it up for a stranger in the cold? He held tightly onto the can of beer, and pushed his finger under the tab. It popped open with a sharp crack and impotent hiss.

‘Why am I here?’ he ran the question through his head once…twice. It was a big one. Jeremy sighed, and brought the cool lip of the can up to his mouth. It tasted awful—thin and watery, with a strange, bitter flavour. He forced it down, and the aftertaste somehow brought to mind the smell of his mother’s fresh bread baking on cold winter mornings. Jeremy forced this down as well.

“I guess it’s been coming for a while now…I just needed to get out of there. I’m tired of having no control over my own life, and no ability to change anything around me.”

Slick grinned. Lucky took a long pull of beer from his own can.

Jeremy tugged on the sleeves of his jacket, self-conscious now as he gazed upon the crusty and tattered garments of his new friends. “Maybe it seems silly to you guys, I don’t know. I do everything right…I get the best grades I can, hold a job, try to be respectful around the house, but my folks still always think they know better. I wanted to go down to the States for a music festival this summer…I thought it would be a chance to figure out my place, and to experience a sense of community built around something other than common location. I’ll be on my own soon, and by then I’ll need to know how to build my own life, but I’ll never be able to do that with my parents constantly worrying about me and holding me back.”

“Doubt you’ve done much to solve that worrying bit tonight,” said Slick.

“You’ve got that right,” Jeremy agreed. “Still, I’ve never had to struggle for anything, I’ve never even known anyone who has! I don’t know how to trust strangers, or judge intentions, or what it takes to rely on anyone outside of my immediate family. In less than a year, I’m meant to be a man, and it’s high time I started acting like one!”

“So, you ran away to freeze under a bridge? Not many men I know choose that.” Slick rubbed at his scar.

“Why are you here then?” asked Jeremy.

“Not to prove a point. ‘Least ways not anymore.”

“It’s not about proving a point, it’s about being prepared,” Jeremy stared off towards the bright lights of downtown Jasper Ave, and spoke as if to himself. “When I’m out on my own, I want to be able to make a difference. I want to be able to walk amongst and understand all kinds of people, and I’ll need to do that if I want to change anything in this world. I know perfectly well that I have it easy, but that will only make it harder for me to have any real impact. I need to understand and experience all levels of society before I head out into it…how else can I know my place?”

Lucky chuckled at this, “I tried to find my place once too…ended up same place as you started. Funny, ain’t it?”

“Well,” said Jeremy, braving another sip of beer, “how did you guys end up here? Is it really like they say, is there really a whole community down in these valleys?”

Slick sighed. “Community is just any folks that can’t make do without one another kid. If I were you, I’d go back home to yours now. Be warm and happy—the choice don’t always last.”

“Go home, watch TV…be happy.” This time, Jeremy took a bigger swig of beer. He didn’t notice the taste. “What kind of happiness is it when you don’t ever know anything else? It’s placation, not peace! I want to know everything life has to offer Slick; how else can I ever know where I fit in?”

The men shook their heads vacantly, then nodded to one another. In an eerily unified motion, they tossed their empty beer cans on the ground, crunched them flat under their feet, and tucked them into a grimy plastic bag held by Lucky.

Jeremy gazed silently down to the creek below. On the far side of the little trickle of water which made up the creek was a dirty grey concrete wall—the dual struts of the bridge which shortly turned into Whyte Avenue proper. Whyte was another legendary Edmonton locale—but one which his lack of a fake ID prevented Jeremy from resorting to in his current moment of doubt.

Slick reached into his bag, tossed a beer to Lucky, picked one out for himself, then glanced up at Jeremy, who nursed his current one self-consciously. Slick smiled, and swung the bag up onto his shoulder.

“Better get moving.”

“Where are we going?” Jeremy asked.

“I’m heading to camp, I expect Lucky is as well,” said Slick. “Where you’re going, that’s up to you.”

Jeremy scrambled to his feet, nearly spilling his still near-full beer in the process. “But…can’t I come along?” he whimpered.

“Like I said,” Slick spoke over his shoulder as he walked, already turning left onto the path running beneath the bridge they’d been stationed under when Jeremy had slipped off the street and into the valley to find them, “that’s up to you.”

“So,” Jeremy rejoined, sidling up alongside the duo, “do you camp here every night?”

“Some nights I camp here, some nights I camp other places,” said Lucky.

“Different folks all got their own spots. Right now, we’ve got a lil place up by the bend in the creek. Not a whole lot, but it works,” said Slick.

“So, there are others there too?” asked Jeremy, surprised by the speed the men travelled at, and doing his utmost to keep up without seeming like he was trying to.

“Should be a few,” Slick said.

“And…they won’t mind either, if I join?”

“Not if you don’t cause trouble. The way you drink beer, you should be just fine, kid.”

“Yeah,” Lucky agreed, “leaves more for me! Haha.” …

To be continued…

‘Between the Shelves’ at ‘Words in the Park’ and Interview with Author/ Editor Hal J. Friesen

cropped-cropped-blogbanner13.jpgToday, we’re happy to formally announce that the sales of ‘Between the Shelves: A Tribute to Libraries by Edmonton Writers’ have led to the donation of over $700.00 to the Edmonton Public Library System We at Brad OH Inc. think that’s awesome—and we couldn’t have done it without all of you!

Many of the Authors (and both Editors) will also be set up at ‘Words in the Park’ this Saturday, September 26th from 10:00am-4:00pm in the Sherwood Park Community Centre. We’ll be selling and autographing copies of ‘Between the Shelves’!

In celebration of these accomplishments, we have an interview with Editor and Author Hal J. Friesen, who appears in ‘Between the Shelves’, which you can now purchase here in either Kindle ($2.99) or Paperback ($12.50) copies. All proceeds are to be donated to the Edmonton Public Library System.

BetweenTheShelvesCoverThis interview was conducted by a variety of Authors featured in ‘Between the Shelves’ in anticipation of the anthology’s release:

  1. Brian Clark: What is the biggest thing you have learned from this self-publishing experience?

HF: I learned how achievable it is to put out a product of professional quality using readily-available tools. There were some frustrating moments getting the book formatted properly and tweaking cover blurbs, but on the whole it felt great to see a self-published book that could easily have come from a professional publishing house.

I also need to mention how pleasantly surprised I was at the scope and variety of stories submitted to the anthology. I thought I had a pretty good idea what I was going to get from the EWG group members, but they surprised me in a very good way.

  1. Vivian Zenari: What is your educational background, and how has that influenced your writing?

HF: I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Science from UNBC with a Joint Major in Chemistry and Physics, and a Minor in Mathematics. Basically for my undergraduate degree I was trying to refuse specialization, which in hindsight might not have been a good approach in terms of employability. I had knowledge in many fields but was missing snippets from each to prevent me from being completely proficient. My Master’s Degree in Science, focusing on Plasmas and Photonics, helped me tune my abilities and knowledge toward more practical applications – as ridiculous as that might sound after working on laser fusion experiments.

The breadth of theoretical and experimental science experience I’ve gleaned through the years helps me to appreciate how certain science fiction ideas might be implemented, the realities both pleasant and unpleasant of logistics that really help make a fantastical proposition seem real. When I wrote in high school I was thinking of sci-fi notions in a more detached and academic way. After academia, ironically, I think about them more in terms of what’s happening on the ground, what’s happening to the little guy who has to pull the levers, which helps make science fiction more meaningful to readers.

  1. Brad OH Inc.: Hal, your story is about a man (Albert Einstein), gaining great knowledge from libraries, but also experiencing stunning existential terror. Do you consider libraries to be places of hidden danger, or is learning in general a threat to our sense of being?

HF: I used to read these time machine choose-your-own-adventure books, and they were like puzzles where you got stuck in time loops until you figured out the correct sequence of events to escape a grisly fate. There was one particular instance where I was trying to avoid being guillotined, but kept getting sent back over and over again, being chased, being caught, having the blade fall – to the extent that I fell asleep and had nightmares about it. Libraries taught me to be utterly terrified of the Spanish Inquisition.

I think in our age of ubiquitous fear-mongering, it’s important to recognize libraries and their potential role in contributing to the general fright that fits so well in a terror-state. In this story I wanted to show that even a brilliant Einstein can’t escape the spine-tingling horror of a nameless source of danger. His existential cataclysm in a place of learning draws close parallels to the dread during the discovery of a newly-christened terrorist cell, or the announcement of the construction of yet another totally-necessary prison. I felt that the role of books and libraries in general has been undervalued in terms of their capacity to inspire totally irrational fear, and wanted to emphasize how deeply they can touch our being versus other forms of media.

  1. Brad OH Inc.: Why did you choose Einstein as your character? Do you have some arcane knowledge of his life the rest of us aren’t privy to? Is there any biographical truth to this tale?

HF: I have a copy of Einstein’s original manuscript on Special Relativity, and if you go to the trouble of reading it you find very strange references in the margins, almost as if he was placating some unseen observer. With extensive and advanced calligraphic decoding I was able to parse some of the scribbles he had tried to hide after the fact, after whatever it was had stopped peering over him threateningly. It was clear he had communion with a library spirit, or as he named it, Wilfred, though exactly which library was unclear – I used artistic liberty in that aspect.

It’s amazing how much you can discover when you read the source material rather than just taking secondary sources at face value.

  1. Brad OH Inc.: Your passion for libraries is clear in this story. Share with us some of your most formative memories of being in the library. Is there any encounter in particular that stands out as a moment where knowledge was so startlingly thrust upon you?

HF:  Guillotines were startlingly thrust upon my unsuspecting neck in that traumatizing time machine book…

When I was a child, there were summer reading challenges where you got to move your pawn along footsteps lining the library walls, taking a step for every book you read. The path took a circuitous route around the two-story Prince George Public Library, and I would take out piles of books in order to get to the end. And I did.

My prize? PTSD from an impossible and horrific Spanish Inquisition time machine loop. And a ribbon.

The library used to have person-shaped chairs in bright colors, and I would sit near the large windows and browse through Goosebumps books, Tintin comics, and fantasy books. I would sway back and forth in the S-shaped chairs, knocking them flat onto the back, or upright again with a satisfying thunk. The trips to the library were a fairly regular occasion – my mother would tiptoe off to the romance section, and my brothers and I would spin the carousels housing adventure and horror novels.

Getting my first library card was actually one of my happiest childhood experiences, because I felt like I had graduated from this semi-weekly family ritual and had become an adult. It was a lot better than any actual graduation, that’s for sure.

  1. Brad OH Inc.: Your writing has historically been focused on some pretty heavy scientific concepts. What do you consider to be one of the most interesting unanswered questions in modern science? Do you have any possible ‘dream scenario’ solution to this quandary that strikes you as the most appealing?

HF: Not to avoid the question, but I guess the more interesting questions are ones we haven’t thought of yet. The untapped potential and dark corners of our understanding are very exciting places, which is why I enjoy good hard science fiction so much. One recent discovery was that the brain might have a lymphatic system, which opens the door to all sorts of medical progress and better development of humanity.

The unanswered question of life beyond Earth is a continually fascinating one for me, and my dream scenario is that I live long enough to see contact happen. That would be a great privilege.

The unification of gravity and the other fundamental forces is another issue that fascinates me. I remember the exact place where I first read Maxwell’s derivation of electromagnetism and the intimate relationship between them. I literally got up and wanted to run around (but couldn’t in my cramped dorm-room) because I was so excited by the beauty of something so connected and intertwined. Connectedness, for lack of a better term, is something I explore a lot in my writing, and it interests me equally in the natural world.

Similarly, the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity – the small with the very large – is also quite an interesting unanswered question. I’ve read a proposal that suggests the answer might be in our interpretation of time itself, which sent my head spinning in beautiful pirouettes.

I think some of the deeper philosophical-physics questions might go unanswered for a long time, but can make you experience some of the same existential schism Einstein does in the story. Questions like: what exactly is charge? What exactly is mass? We have equations that describe what they do but that’s different from knowing what something is. There’s a joke that if you want to drive a physicist crazy, ask him what charge is. Try it sometime.

  1. Brad OH Inc.: As a follow-up to the former question, of the myriad scientific discoveries throughout history, which would you most like to have been a part of, and why?

HF: I’ve developed an unlikely fondness for light and optics, so I think I would have loved to have been a part of Maxwell’s discoveries unifying electricity and magnetism. Any of the so-called Maxwell’s equations. Ampere, Gauss – to have been around any of those guys would have been gnarly and radical, and I’m sure my language wouldn’t drive them crazy. Gauss was a genius.

I would say quantum mechanics, but the results aren’t as easy to put your hands on or see with the eye. The laser would have been pretty amazing to discover. I got the chance to hear Charles Townes, one of the co-inventors of the laser, speak, and it was surreal to see him use a laser pointer to point at a slide of his original laser conception. He made lasers originally for astronomical purposes, and at the time of his talk (age over 90) he was still doing that. There’s a raw enthusiasm and electricity some scientists exude and I think to have been around any of those remarkable individuals would have been illuminating and inspiring outside of the discoveries themselves.

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Remember to catch the authors of ‘Between the Shelves’ at ‘Words in the Park’ this Saturday, September 26th from 10:00am-4:00pm in the Sherwood Park Community Centre!

Finally, be sure to visit Hal J. Friesen at his blog right here, and check out his story “Reading After Hours” in ‘Between the Shelves’. You can purchase it now on Amazon.

-Brad OH Inc.

Don’t Chew on the Sharp End of the Pencil

DontChewPencil_750Here at Brad OH Inc., we are excited to announce the upcoming release of a brand new, collaborative project—because at Brad OH Inc., we know that many hands make less work… yet that the bounty may remain undivided.

We know that many of the loyal Brad OH readers come to our articles, and find themselves wondering how they can be more like the contributing minds behind Brad OH Inc. Well, now is your chance! ‘Don’t Chew on the Sharp End of the Pencil’ is an anthology produced by the Edmonton Writers Group, edited by Brad OH Inc. and Hal J. Friesen, and also featuring an article by Brad OH Inc.! This book is a collection of heartwarming stories for current or aspiring writers, or any readers looking to find the writer in themselves. Look for ‘Don’t Chew on the Sharp End of the Pencil’ to release here on Brad OH Inc., as well as sites for other Edmonton Writers Group members, on March. 5th.

-Brad OH Inc.