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The Gift of Stripes

The date was October 23rd and our house on Lake Louise Boulevard in Waterloo, Ontario was empty, the only sign of our life there a forgotten black Umbra over-the-door hanger that a real estate agent would find later.

The oversized Atlas Van Lines truck had set off mid-afternoon, likely a relief for our neighbours. Three vehicles were packed with the clothing and other items we thought we’d need until everything else arrived in Edmonton. Most of the well-wishes had been said –– I don’t believe in calling them good-byes –– but one visitor remained. In real life his name is Mark Kipper. In the world of the Champions that is Kenneth’s current alternate history series, he’s Mike Strong, and he had called earlier in the day to find out what time we were heading out since he wanted to drop by with his wife Anita and daughter Christine to see us off.

We would never have met Mark Kipper had it not been for Iceberg Publishing.  The fictional Mike Strong –– the character who truly came to life thanks to Mark’s interpretation –– may never even have existed. Indeed, there are so many people who would not have been part of our lives, so many places we would have never gone, so many experiences we would never have had, if not for the partnership that officially began on July 9, 2002. If not for the almost unthinkable decision to say no to the traditional publishing opportunity that was before me, and start our own company instead.

There’s Mik (and now Cassie), Wes (and now Jamie), Charles (and now May), Matt (and now Kyra), Peter (and now Marie Christine), Matt (and now Ellen). There’s John and Anne, Keith and Regan, and Olivia, and so many more.

Defense Command heroes — in real life.

Then there are the (technically) fictional characters with whom we’ve spent many long hours –– Setter, Elandra and Phaelan Caine, Andra Ursla, Fox Magnus, Ken Barron and Karen McMaster, Alex, Stephanie, Smith, and Mike Strong, Jimmy and Anne Devlin. There are dragons, Champions, savages, Earthers, Larosians and Kroggs, and, of course, the b’ys.

Each and every one –– those who walk the surface of this planet with us and those who inhabit their own worlds –– have made our lives immeasurably richer.

We’ve launched books in a Land Rover dealership, under the planets of the Johnson Geo Centre in St. John’s, and on a 1923 rail car like the one that brought the b’ys to the new world in the His Majesty’s New World series.

With cameras and laptops, we’ve followed the men of the Canadian Military Heritage Society: Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, through grasslands in Southern Ontario. We’ve hiked the Tablelands in Gros Morne, Newfoundland at the exact same hour that our photo shoot with the Dundee Diehards in South Africa was taking place. We’ve use props from a company that supplies movie sets and bought tall black leather boots and white coats for a Champion. And that’s just the tip of the so-called iceberg.

Iceberg convoy preparing to depart Waterloo for Edmonton on October 23, 2014.

Iceberg taught us beyond the shadow of a doubt that you can create something from nothing and do things you never thought possible, if you believe and put in the work. Iceberg taught us that dreams can become reality, and then spark more dreams and more realities.

In addition to well wishes and hugs on that warm fall evening, Mark Kipper made sure we departed with one of the most precious gifts we’ve ever received –– the stripes from the battle dress he wore when portraying Mike Strong in front of the lens. Real life meeting fiction, they are the symbol of enduring friendship. They are the symbol of honour and respect.

Fifteen years in, I could not be more grateful for the places we’ve been, the experiences we’ve had, the people we have met, and everything we’ve learned and are still learning. Fifteen years in, I could not be more grateful for the stories, fictional and real.  Fifteen years in, I could not be more grateful for Iceberg.

And the stripes from Mike Strong’s battle dress.

Familiar faces from our tenth anniversary retrospective…