The Count
The Count

The meeting was not going well. “I appreciate you taking the time, Sergeant Barnes,” the businessman, Travers, said kindly as he leaned forward in his chair and linked his hands on the table before him. It was the sort of earnest gesture that was undoubtedly meant to seem warm. “We have reviewed your plan most carefully, and because we will adopt some of the recommendations you’ve suggested, I will insist that we pay you a fee for your help.” As much as he wouldn’t admit it, those words actually took some of the sting out of what Edwin Barnes knew was coming next. “But for the mission itself, we have decided to go with a different provider of security.” There it was. As he heard the familiar words, the ex-Sergeant – who still wore his khaki, perhaps in defiance of some … Continue reading

The Champions of 1940
Iceberg Reaches South Africa
Iceberg Reaches South Africa

Khaki-clad soldiers spent Saturday, July 26 advancing up a dry, grassy hill called Talana, in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Some 115 years ago, this hill had been the site of the first battle of the Second Boer War; this time, the soldiers were members of the Dundee Diehard historical re-enactment team, and their foes were neither Boers or British, but savages of the new world. Their mission: to provide images for a new project from award-winning Canadian publisher, Iceberg Publishing.

“We can now say we’ve conducted an inter-continental photo shoot,” says Iceberg Senior Partner and Editor-In-Chief, Jacqui Tam, “and we’re absolutely delighted with the outcome.”

This fall, a new entry will join Kenneth Tam’s His Majesty’s New World universe, which is currently progressing with the Champions series. Set in 1896, the project will fill in some of the universe’s backstory, but its plot presented certain logistical problems when it came to covers.

“With His Majesty’s New World and Champions, we’ve built a tradition of strong, historically-authentic, photographic covers,” explains author and Iceberg Partner Kenneth Tam. “We wanted the same for this new project, but the right sort of re-enactors simply don’t exist in Canada. Our military history doesn’t include many ‘khaki soldiers’, so groups like the Canadian Military Heritage Society usually start with the War of 1812, then jump to the First World War. We needed someone in between.”

Diehards-Webstory-01Enter the Dundee Diehards. Based in Dundee, South Africa –– at the foot of Talana Hill –– the group was formed in 1991 when the Duke of Kent opened the Talana Museum, to help preserve their country’s military history. Throughout the ‘new Imperialism’, modern-day South Africa was the site of numerous British colonial wars, including the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, and the Boer Wars of 1880-81 and 1899-1902. The Diehards routinely re-enact engagements from these conflicts, while also appearing at historical events, participating in commemorative ceremonies, and taking part in media projects. Their expertise was perfect for Iceberg’s project.

“As soon as we found the Diehards, we knew we wanted to work with them,” Kenneth says. “The only problem was geography –– could we coordinate a photo shoot from the other side of the Atlantic, and the other side of the equator?”

Though a small Canadian company, Iceberg has a long history of punching above its weight; the decision was quickly taken to try. Contacting the Diehards, Kenneth outlined the project, its requirements, and Iceberg’s past experience working with the Canadian Military Heritage Society. The South African team quickly came on board –– and, most importantly, put their experience and expertise at Iceberg’s disposal.

Diehards-Webstory-02“We obviously have no infrastructure on the ground in KwaZulu-Natal,” Jacqui says. “The Diehards handled the location scouting, the equipment, the uniforms, the transportation, and the timelines. What might have taken us months to put together, they managed in a matter of weeks. We went from first conversations to camera in just six weeks. Full credit to them for making it possible.”

The Diehards also recommended South African photographer Pierre Janse van Vuuren for the project.

“We were very anxious to find the right person to go behind the lens,” Kenneth states. “We had a good team on the ground for the His Majesty’s New World shoot in 2007, and Olivia Witzke sets an extremely high standard with her work on Champions, so there was a lot of pressure. Pierre couldn’t have been a better choice.”

While the Diehards were cementing plans for the location and equipment, the Iceberg team was in regular contact with Pierre, discussing details from photo composition, to lighting, to poses, to style.

“Anything that could possibly come up, we tried to discuss in advance,” Kenneth continues. “When we’re present at a shoot, we can improvise to take advantage of things we see on the day. We needed to give Pierre an idea of what we’d be looking for, so he could keep an eye out on our behalf.”

The preparation worked. Through multiple setups across the day, Pierre and the Diehards captured images that fit perfectly with the style established in His Majesty’s New World –– and with what the project demanded. Armed with these images, Iceberg can now target a fall launch, though details about the project remain limited.

Diehards-Webstory-03“Readers of The Grasslands will probably recall the significance of the year 1896,” Kenneth deflects, “but that’s all we can say for now.”

Although the full details of the story remain under wraps, the photos are a point of pride for the Canadian company.

“We had to draw on all our experience to commission this shoot,” Jacqui Tam concludes. “If we hadn’t done the same sort of shoots numerous times before, in Canada, we couldn’t have been able to try to execute one half a world away.”

“We were also very lucky with the people on the ground. The web has made the world smaller, but finding people with the both the talent and dedication that we found in KwaZulu-Natal is rare. The Diehards and Pierre took onboard all the information we offered, then added their own expertise and passion,” Kenneth elaborates, then smiles. “The results speak for themselves –– Mike Strong would be impressed.”


More information about Iceberg’s newest project will be available on this website in the weeks ahead. Additional stories about this shoot, and other Iceberg projects, can be found here in the Author Notes of Kenneth Tam and Jacqui Tam.

Kenneth Tam: Writers On The Town
Kenneth Tam: 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 away from marrying his bride-to-be, Jamie. Given these circumstances, it seemed essential that I take a trip from Edmonton to Ottawa to celebrate the impending end to his bachelordom… and since I was making the trek east, Charles turned north from Toronto, and joined us. This was a surprise for Wes, of course –– he knew I’d be present, but the involvement of the third Seas of Sand writer was unknown, as were our plans for the day. And in defiance of all stereotypes for young men (worse, young writers) on the town, those plans included… museums. Indeed, we are that boring. The Canadian War Museum is one of my favorite destinations in Ottawa. I’m biased, because my thesis advisor from bygone days, Roger Sarty, was one of the historians behind its design. Andrew Iarocci, one of the experts who taught me First World War history, also ran its vehicle collection for some time. It’s informative, interesting, and fun… and because he lives in Ottawa, Wes had never been (you know how it is, you often never visit the ‘tourist’ sites in your own town). A morning there -- including me smelling Phosgene (yes, from The Dark Cruise), Charles running NORAD’s control center during a Cold War nuclear apocalypse, and Wes getting ideas about 'recognition models' for the DCN — was hugely enjoyable, and greatly inspiring. The afternoon was when we really got into it, though: crossing the river into Quebec, we arrived at the similarly-excellent Canadian Museum of History, where a room had been prepared for us — a room with a view. This is about as close to Defense Command’s Admiralty House as you’re going to get: a view of the Parliament buildings while you settle in around a table to decide the fate of Empires. We were working, of course, on Black Sun, a series in which characters overtly based on both Wes and Charles factor largely. It’s no secret that I’ve been working on various concepts for the series for a few years, but as with so many things, sometimes you just need to be patient, and let them soak. I don’t think there’s much soaking left to do, though. After nearly six straight hours of discussion and brainstorming, the arc of the series seems very much in hand, and the characters are coming together. Insightful feedback from fine writers –– both about what characters based on them might do, and on what their expertise suggests might come out of the plot –– is endlessly useful. I’ve said it before, but I can never say it enough: I’m privileged to have great people involved in all these stories. We also spoke of Seas of Sand –– about how the publishing world has changed since our collaborative effort in Wes’s universe. Expect to see a return to the sands of Mars someday in the future… in the meantime, we’re all rather caught up in other important things. Wes most of all, because in June he’s taking on a whole new set of responsibilities –– responsibilities of the best kind. I’ll undoubtedly share more of what we discussed about Black Sun in the near future. Wes will also be deeply involved in something coming up next year –– the year that marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of Defense Command. But for now, I’ll just thank the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of History for being such excellent hosts for our day on the town, and close simply with this: Wes and Jamie, very best wishes from all of us at Iceberg. I’ll see you in June.
Kenneth Tam: Six Months
Kenneth Tam: 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 glad to call friend. I’ve talked before about some of his good work –– the Next Einstein Initiative especially. He’s an MP who two national newspapers have commended for his non-partisan efforts, who was part of Canada’s delegation to Mandela’s funeral, and who was lately noted for not missing a single vote in the commons in 2014. I’ve known Peter since before he was elected. He takes his job seriously, and I was delighted to catch up with him at his workplace on Parliament Hill. And it just happened that the day I caught up with him was also the six-month anniversary of the attack on Canada’s National War Memorial, and on our Parliament. On October 22nd, 2014, this occurred: I won’t recount what happened. It’s been covered very well, in many different places. Like most Canadians, I saw bits and pieces on television that day. It was actually my third day of packing before our move from Waterloo to Edmonton, so my house was a mess, but the television stayed on. Even CNN was covering it; Ottawa was on lockdown, and I was madly emailing friends (including Peter) to see who was okay. Everyone I knew was, of course, unscathed. Only Corporal Nathan Cirillo died at his post, guarding the monument to servicemen and women who fell before him. I cannot comment rationally on how unspeakable his death was, so I will set the subject aside and remark instead on the gunman's other target. Watching the coverage that day, I could only imagine the terror on Parliament Hill. After dinner last night, imagining became a lot easier. In the Hall of Honour, Peter showed me the bullet hole in the doorway of the Official Opposition’s caucus room. A neat-and-tidy hole left by a .30-30 rifle round, mercifully at a high enough angle that it didn’t hit anyone inside –– because, of course, the caucuses were meeting when the attack occurred. It was fortunate the gunman didn’t realize how close he was to all of our elected representatives… though obviously, no one inside those caucus rooms was aware of what he did or didn’t know. They had no idea what was in store for them. [caption id="attachment_8080" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Peter running through the events in the Hall of Honour. Sorry for the low quality -- it was dark and he didn't know I was snapping photos.[/caption] Peter told me what went through his head, when the cacophony of shots rang through the building. He talked about not knowing who was shooting –– how many, or how well armed. He spoke of barricading the doors, and preparing for what could have been a desperate last stand (my words –– he wasn't so dramatic, though he should have been). He pointed out that, twenty minutes before the shooter stormed in, he’d been in the very same corridor, crossing from the Parliamentary Library to his caucus room after collecting some clippings. Like every other MP on the Hill that day, Peter had been close to death. Like every other MP on the Hill that day, he survived, and got on with his job. [caption id="attachment_8081" align="alignright" width="350"] In case my bad photography doesn't make it obvious: those chips in the door frame of the Parliamentary Library weren't caused by casual wear.[/caption] But like many other Canadians, I still can’t quite get over it –– and not just because Peter, and some other dear friends, were within sound of the shots. The point of attacks like these is their symbolism… they are launched to make a statement against a nation, its policies, its values. So yes, this was an attack on our democracy. But these days, holding up the word ‘democracy’ as a self-evident good thing seems cliché at best, and wantonly naïve at worst. What did this attack really mean? The way I see it, the gunman was trying to kill the idea that you can really loathe someone whose politics you disagree with… and exercise that distaste without violence. That’s democracy. You can stand ardently against any party, any policy, any philosophy… and do so without needing to kill, or to face the possibility of being killed. In the history of human civilization, this liberty from fear of death is rare. As much as we all tire of politics and spin, remember that the alternatives are so much worse. A government that can only be changed through violence? A government that can’t be changed at all? A government that can silence its opponents, instead of facing them every day in the media? These are the realities in many parts of the world, but here in Canada, we take for granted that elections do change the people who run our government. We have so much faith in our process that, no matter how passionate we might be about our causes, we don’t try to circumvent votes with violence. Fundraising, organizing, protesting, even civil disobedience… yes. But we never put a gun to someone’s head and tell them to change the law. Canada has a long and proud tradition of that civilized approach to governance. In all our history, only one MP has ever been assassinated: in 1868, Thomas D’Arcy McGee was killed… though the case can be made that he died as a result of a bar fight, not an agenda. Either way, this is a country that doesn't seek to win political battles with live ammunition. Except on October 22nd, 2014, when one twisted bastard decided to try. Granted, he probably didn’t expect to directly change specific policy, but his symbolic attack sought to undermine the fundamental civility of our system. Fortunately, he failed. If you doubt that, just read the latest talking points from whatever party you support (or whatever party you hate). Check the polls. Read the pundits. We can always improve our system of government, but let’s not overlook the fact that in every election, we can exercise real change –– without gunshots. Now, to be clear: I don’t like nasty partisan politics. I’d rather we all got along in a civilized fashion, exchanging ideas and giving credit where due. I strive for this. It’s why Peter and I are friends. But I vastly prefer attack ads, nonsensical spin, and giant novelty cheques… to bullet holes. This country’s pluralistic society succeeds because even when we don’t all come from the same place, we find common ground, and put violence behind us. The need to move forward together, despite our differences, is ingrained in my DNA. The fact that it’s realized in our system of government is an incredible gift of history, and one we can’t take for granted. This trip to Ottawa is going to be fun, and productive. I’m just glad it began with a reminder. Thanks Peter. [caption id="attachment_8082" align="aligncenter" width="700"] My friend Peter Braid, MP for Kitchener–Waterloo, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.[/caption]  
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