Defense Command Turns Ten

Fast-paced, irreverent, and sometimes heart-wrenching, the Defense Command series by Kenneth Tam made its debut in 2006 at Toronto Trek –– then Canada’s largest fan-run science fiction convention. In 2016, this adventurous military science fiction series officially turns ten, and Iceberg Publishing will mark this milestone in a number of exciting ways. The anniversary celebration started on the very first day of the year, when all 20 ebooks in the series were updated with brand new cover art by graphic artist and writer, Wes Prewer. As the artist responsible for all of Defense Command’s past covers, Wes developed and refined a…


Six Months

They haven’t fixed the bullet holes. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I visited Centre Block yesterday. Indeed, I hadn’t even planned on being in the building. But I arrived at my hotel in Ottawa earlier than expected, so instead of joining a friend for a working dinner in a pub (where, admittedly, we could have better monitored the score in the Sens-Habs game), we ended up in the Parliamentary Dining Room. That was possible because the friend in question is Peter Braid, the Member of Parliament who I spent two years working for, and who I’m still…


Writers on the Town

Three writers get together to celebrate the impending marriage of one of them. This story isn’t quite a cliche, but it’s highly predictable: a lot of drinking, probably some debauchery, and an awful lot of existential talk about the future, regrets, and failed hopes. Writers are endlessly moody, and there’s no way they could pass by a life milestone without some heavy atmosphere. Unless, of course, they’re Wes Prewer, Charles Chiang, and me. A lot has changed for all three of us since we collaborated on Finding the Range. Most notable among these changes: Wes is less than two months…


The Right Ships

You know trouble is coming when Wes Prewer and I start talking about warship designs. Admittedly, things went quiet on the Black Sun front some time ago –– another false start has come and gone, but in its wake there have been some very interesting developments… developments that I suspect will lead us where we need to go. And since I’m a lapsed naval quasi-historian, with friends who are no less enthusiastic about warship-related questions, that means a lot of talk about new ships. Out of this brainstorming process has come one piece of advice that I don’t think I’ve…


The Railguns Are Coming

Well, it’s official: starting this summer, some warships of the United States Navy will be equipped with directed-energy weapons. That means that in some ocean around the world, a USN Captain may be confronted by a real-world combat situation which will require the words: “Lock laser on target.” And all of us sci-fi types will feel a meaningful chill. Soon after the USN deploys lasers, railguns are expected to follow. For those not familiar, the basic idea of a railgun is to fire a projectile not by detonating a powder charge, but by using electromagnets to accelerate it to speeds…


Sackville’s Home

By now it’s a cliche to speak of the ‘greatest generation’ –– children of the Great Depression, who emerged from a level of poverty and starvation that we can scarcely imagine, to fight the injustices being wrought in Europe. Cynics among us are rightly skeptical that any war –– no matter how apparently just its cause –– can be noble, and by extension, that the stories of this generation should be the source of hope or pride. I know better, but to understand why, you must recognize which stories to remember. Those who study military history will always be able…


Lost Tonnage

Earlier this week, I saw a confusing tweet from my good friend Mik; a battle had occurred in the massively multilayer online game EVE Online, which had resulted in an estimated $300,000 in damages. Now, I haven’t really played mulitplayer online games since Starcraft, so I wasn’t sure how such a battle could have a real price tag, but knowing that Mik doesn’t highlight such things unless they’re significant, I hit Google to figure out where the number came from. That proved quite an education. Turns out that EVE players can use real-world money to increase their buying power in…


Lunch With The Admiral

Yesterday I had lunch with none other than First Lord John Fiora –– or as we call him here at Iceberg, award-winning author John Fioravanti. It was a working lunch, as important things are afoot, but I can’t elaborate on those just now. Instead, I want to talk about John, and how he earned such an important place in the Defense Command universe. That story begins fifteen years ago, in classroom 107 at St. David C.S.S. here in Waterloo… but since this is a Defense Command-tagged note, I should go back even further, and set some context. Back in 1996, when…


Girl Fights

I’ve written my share of fights between female characters. The most celebrated (or infamous) is perhaps the scrap between Commodore Karen McMaster and Josie, the leader of the Pions, back in The Canary Wars. There are no excerpts online from that particular encounter, but here’s a quick overview: Karen was one of the heroes of Defense Command –– the best combat officer in the DCN, as far as the author is concerned –– and Josie was the matriarch of a society of feral humans that evolved in the remnants of an abandoned mining colony. The Pions and the Canaries ––…


The Greater Gifts

I’ve never denied being a sentimentalist. I suppose readers know this by now –– Defense Command was secretly a love story, Smith and Waller shared a name, and if you think the Earthers don’t have heart, or that Alex and Stephanie are not truly the closest of friends, you’re mistaken. Last year, the Iceberg team touched on this sentimentality when they conceived of an incredible gift: a photo book commemorating our Tenth Anniversary Gala. I wrote about that present here –– I prize it deeply, as a reminder of how fortunate we are to have the chance to write at…


Daragh Hates You

I won’t be commenting on any of this week’s political scandals in Canada, because frankly, I’m tired of it all. Government is something I think can be a sacred calling –– a noble and vital undertaking, that gives us all the chance to do great things. This week hasn’t shaken my resolve, because apparently my optimism isn’t as lapsed as I like to pretend it is… but I just can’t be bothered to take a position on senators or mayors, because my hot air won’t improve things –– at least not now. Alas, my perspective is probably too old fashioned….

Sixteen German Shepherds? I designed Wolf? I didn’t know my own XO the morning before liftoff? This must be the sort of draft that hack Ken Barron turned over to his editors.


Well, it’s November, which means some people are getting fired up to grow mustaches, and others are hitting the keyboard –– hard. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is entering its fifteenth edition, so once again my Facebook and Twitter feeds are alive with pledges from writers who are hell-bent on getting a book done before December. I’ve never participated in NaNoWriMo –– in my calendar, November typically just isn’t a great month for writing. That said, drafting a novel (defined by NaNoWriMo as being more than 50,000 words) within a month is something I’ve done quite a few times….


I Know Your Dad

Last Friday was a big day for Iceberg author and longtime graphic artist Wes Prewer; he had the privilege of welcoming his first daughter, Elizabeth. Clearly, this is the most important creative project Wes has ever been a part of, and all of us here at Iceberg would like to take a moment to congratulate Wes and Jamie. Personally, I’d also like to say hello to Ellie… Ellie, I’ve known your dad for just shy of fourteen years. It started back in the early days of the internet; we were both teenaged residents of Ontario at the time, but we…


Steed and Emma

As a duo, they were simply incomparable: a nineteenth century gentleman and a twenty-first century woman who came together in the campy 1960s to fight Soviet spies, evil geniuses, and one time, even carnivorous plants, in order to save Britain from certain destruction. Before “The Avengers“ meant a God, a guy in armor, a man with rage issues, and a time-shifted Second World War hero, it meant John Steed and Emma Peel. And for me, Steed and Emma will always be the The Avengers. Even though that title never made a whole lot of sense. The Avengers was a British…


The Real Jupiteer

If the Defense Command novels of 2232 taught us anything scientific (aside from the dangers of both radiation and Phosgene), it must be that Jupiter is far, far away. Even for fictional ships with artificial gravity and the ability to cruise at 190 kilometers per second, the largest planet of our solar system is terrifyingly far into the black –– weeks away from help, so you better bring what you need, and leave when the orbital seasons favor your voyage. The Belt Squadron made that hike in The Jupiter Patrol, then came back home in The Dark Cruise, and it…

The M29 Class.

Monitor Reborn

When the Defense Command Fleet moved against Mercury, Wolf, Lion and Cyclops were tasked with a special job. Depending on whether you asked Wes Pellew, Mik Mikaelsen, or Ken Barron himself, you’d get different historical comparisons for their task: it was either sinking the Belgrano, or challenging the Graf Spee. The latter was my favorite analogy, but either way, the problem was simple: the Martians had built monitors –– warships that weren’t terribly mobile, but were heavily-gunned for their size –– which needed to be isolated and destroyed, so that they couldn’t attack the landing fleet. Now, I don’t think…


Coercive Gifts

Iceberg has been very fortunate to find thoughtful and dedicated readers over the years, and these fine people never fail to surprise us. This week, perhaps the ultimate Defense Command fan Keith Pine Sine –– who may have read every DC novel more times than I have, and I wrote the damned things –– presented us with something very cool indeed: laser-etched wood plates of each of the five Defense Command omnibi… omnibuses… whatever, they’re awesome! Apparently, the initial intention was to make them coaster-sized, but they worked out much better at near-full size, because the laser-etching process really does…


More Than Polygons

Earlier this week, Iceberg author and longtime freelance CGI artist Wesley Prewer decided to make his services available not just to Iceberg, but to the wider world of independent authors and publishers. This, I must say, is partly my fault; since Defense Command wrapped up last summer, I haven’t kept him nearly as busy as he’s accustomed to. Wes is doubly cursed: he’s an able writer, but one of his greatest passions is CG art, and he enjoys his CG work most when it is part of (or indeed, helping shape) a rich plot line. Absent of context, a model…

Congrats, Keith and Regan! (Photo stolen from Facebook, since catching a DCI veteran on camera is beyond my abilities)

Ministry of Agriculture Nuptials

It’s widely known that a number of characters from Defense Command are based on real-life people whose souls I’ve stolen who’ve allowed me to borrow aspects of their personality. These people are some of the best I know, and it’s a privilege to have them join the Belt Squadron on its adventures. Now, some of these people are already married with families, while others are –– like me –– perpetually single. Occasionally, though, one of the Defense Command characters makes the big transition from not wed, to wed… and this happened to a certain veteran of the Ministry of Agriculture…

Cal was the commanding officer of our flagship. It wasn’t easy going five days without doing any Captain Picard jokes.

Validation – Part 2

A number of fast-moving small craft are approaching your ship, and frankly, you don’t know what they’re up to. Your squadron has never really operated in this zone before, so distinguishing between civilian traders and a swarm of attackers is difficult. If you overreact in defense of your force, you might end up firing on innocents –– even kicking off a war. What do you do? Well, if your name is Wes Pellew, you’re going to launch a screen of F-194 Starlights, go to standby action stations and make sure your mags have a firing solution on the small craft…


Validation – Part 1

I was having beers with lunch. For me, you must understand, this was a very rare thing –– as I’ve previously stated, I only drink beer on special occasions, and to do so with lunch was literally unheard of. More shocking still: I was the only one drinking. Two other people were in the room, and I was the only one touching alcohol. Remarkable. Why? Because the other two were on duty, or within four hours of their duty shifts, and while the Royal Canadian Navy allows its personnel two beers a day aboard ship, good officers don’t abuse that…


Corvette Mischief

Yesterday we were at last able to announce that my mother, Jacqui Tam, has been awarded an IPPY Silver Medal for the Tenth Anniversary Edition of her masterful work, A Daughter’s Gift. It only took a decade for the world to recognize what I’ve been saying since 2002: that hers is Iceberg’s finest book. It is my grandfather’s story, told by my mother, and it has already made a difference for countless families confronting Alzheimer’s disease. My grandfather, Richard Joseph Barron, would be –– undoubtedly is –– most proud. Now, in honor of the recognition of his story, I must tell…



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…


Seeing A Lady in Halifax

It’s an exciting couple of weeks for Iceberg Publishing. I can’t get into all the details of why –– certain announcements won’t be official until next week –– but by way of a hint, the beginning of May is usually when certain book awards are announced. It’s a time for publishers like us to crowd around monitors together to anxiously read lists, then either shrug… or do happy dances. Fortunately, I’m not crowding anyone, so there is zero chance of others being subjected to the trauma of my happy dance. Why? Because I’m in Halifax, to see a particular lady….

This is the actual image Wes transferred to me over MSN. Obviously I was sold.

Farewell to Messenger

On Monday it became official: MSN Messenger Service (or whatever it was called in its final iterations) has been shut down. This shouldn’t be a particularly poignant moment for me –– I haven’t used MSN in years. But upon hearing of the chat system’s end, I was immediately reminded of how much we used to rely on it, and what it made possible. Back in the old days, say before 2009, I’d log into MSN every morning and leave the system on throughout the day. When I needed to connect with Mikael Christensen about some event, or Peter Caron about…

Kevin MacLeod, the outgoing Usher of the Black Rod, does look tough enough to have kept Daragh Ryan in check. But will his successor be up to the task of reining in a fictional Irish Lord from the future? That better be one of the interview questions.

The Black Rod

The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod. In Defense Command lore, this is the reaper-like figure who turns up in The Articles of Empire, to lead Daragh Ryan to his fate. After years of misdeeds, the Irish Lord would finally pay his penance –– and ‘the Rod’ was the only one with enough incontestable power to take him into custody. It’s telling that even Gerald and Betty, the eternal Admiralty House receptionists, were shocked by the event. Generally speaking, nothing surprised those two, because as Ken Barron explains: …Gerald and Betty have been running that reception desk since the beginning…


The Frigates

By now most Defense Command readers will be familiar with my blatant thievery when it comes to building the fleet that protects Earth in the 2230s. Aside from invoking Second World War veteran HMCS Sackville, and borrowing battle ideas from the likes of Admiral the Lord Howe, I’ve also consistently ripped off the modern Royal Canadian Navy. Indeed, I’ve always felt (perhaps hoped) that the Belt Squadron draws upon much of the best of our real RCN today. It’s rich source material. Back in 2008, Commander Steven Virgin (CO) and Lieutenant Commander Angus Topshee (XO) of the Canadian frigate HMCS…


Glorious February

Good military historians say that understanding the literature can’t compare with knowing the ground upon which a battle was fought. They’re right; terrain almost inevitably influences military events –– as does the weather –– so if you’re writing about any sort of land battle (real or fictional) it’s a good idea to form a clear picture of the landscape before you get started. In space, things often seem less complex. Like the open seas, the void appears to be a blank canvas, making it tougher to find reasons for battles to take place. Sure, you might have centers of gravity…


It Can Be Frustrating

This week, I got my groove back. I know, that’s a horrifying expression, and it gets even worse if you try to picture how it looks if I ‘groove’ to anything… but it’s true. I’ve been hammering Black Sun since the holidays, knowing there’s a story there, but not quite able to break it out. Finally, though, the story located the key (since we’re apparently using the metaphor of it being in a cell), and opened the door. Now, I think –– I hope –– it’s working. The characters have landed in the right places, the plot is crystallizing, and…

Helm and Navigation section to the left, Sensors and Communications section to the right, and Operations section to the rear (note the disapproving air around Matt Baxter). Confusingly, Beckett Lupus seems to be the face of WolfNet… crossover? Nah, surely just coincidence.

The Quarterdeck

Anyone who has worked with me knows that, given the choice between sitting and standing, I often prefer to stand. I’m effectively a bipedal horse –– though far less handsome than an equine, obviously. I’m not sure how my strange habit came about, but wherever it began, it clearly influenced the bridges of Defense Command warships. I’m still digging through old files as background work for Black Sun, and I just came across this magnificent mock-up produced by Wes Prewer in 2007. If you’ve ever wondered what a DC bridge looks like –– its open space, three banks of consoles,…