Last week I was in Halifax, to join in the commemoration of the Battle of Atlantic. As my note last Thursday probably conveyed, I hugely enjoyed this visit –– it was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken, and considering some of the things we’ve been able to do at Iceberg, that’s saying a lot.
There are too many stories to recount in a single note, so this will be just the first –– and perhaps the most business-like, because after teasing last week, I can now elaborate on Defense Command‘s connection to the Royal Canadian Navy.
The story begins a few months back, when we were sorting what remains of Iceberg’s pre-2010 inventory –– the Canadian editions of titles that are now available only in international editions, or as ebooks. We discovered we had more than we thought, especially when it came to Defense Command. The Belt Squadron’s antics had always been in demand, so we’d kept the original editions in print right up to 2010, when (with The Mars Convention) we migrated to the international editions, and ultimately, the omnibus system.
Changing formats boosted Defense Command sales, but due to our post-2010 print and ebook distribution models, there’s been no practical way to get these older editions into the hands of readers. They’ve simply been sitting in sealed boxes, doing no one any good. Typically, publishers with overrun inventory might remainder such books –– sell them at a loss –– or even strip them (tear off their covers) and trash them. But those solutions didn’t seem right, so we endeavored to come up with something better.
And fortunately, better was easier to find.
I’ve talked already about how the Belt Squadron corvette DCNS Sackville is the fictional descendant of HMCS Sackville. The latter veteran ship continues on in her Second World War configuration, but maintaining her is not an inexpensive proposition. Behind the ship is Canada’s Naval Memorial Trust, whose members raise funds by various means… including, by selling items in the ship’s gift shop.
After putting two and two together, we touched base with the trustees and offered them our remaining stock of the original Defense Command novels, as Sackville-related inventory that might appeal to a new demographic of visitors to their store. They graciously accepted, so with the generous help of Challenger Motor Freight, we got the books to Halifax (at no cost to Sackville, I should add).
As a result, this summer will see the individual print editions of the first twelve Defense Command novels again be available for purchase… but from only one place in the world: the Sackville gift shop. And every penny spent there goes directly to the ship.
Clearly, this is a great fate for these books –– they, and the Belt Squadron they speak of, have the chance to do some good for an excellent cause. In itself, this would have been more than enough reason for me to be in Halifax last week… but there’s a second RCN-related development.
At one point during our conversations with Sackville’s team, I must have mentioned one of my longtime ambitions: to donate books to the ships of our fleet. In the United States, Baen Books has done something similar –– dispatching titles to ships of the USN –– and I’d always thought that worthy. It’s not just in Defense Command where crews have to fight boredom during long voyages.
We’d inquired about doing this before, but frankly had asked the wrong people, and were informed it wasn’t possible. I was most surprised, then, when I got a voicemail from Sackville’s Pat Jessup, who informed me it had all been arranged: a set of the first twelve Defense Command novels would be provided to every at sea library in the fleet, as well as bases and family support centers. On behalf of both Iceberg and Sackville, I’d also present a set to the commanding officer of CFB Halifax, Captain Angus Topshee (who I’d met once before).
And so it was: last Friday, Captain Topshee set aside time for us to do the requisite photo op, and the books are now being dispatched to the ships of the fleet. Soon, the Belt Squadron will be traveling with the RCN wherever it goes. And honestly, that’s just brilliant.
I’ve said this many times, to all sorts of people: if there’s any chance that our fictional fleet from the future can do a small amount of good for the real navy, it will mean more to me than I can properly articulate. I simply hope that, as well-meaning stowaways, the men and women of the Belt Squadron can provide some entertainment for the men and women of the Canadian Fleet.
And if any of those navy types happen to get hooked on the series, and want their own set, they need only visit the white-and-blue corvette that winters in the Halifax dockyard. In so doing, they’ll help protect a venerable little vessel –– a lady to whom both our fleets owe a great deal.
Good hunting, RCN; the DCN is honored to sail with you.