Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Hero’s Journey in Darwin's Paradox: The Iroquios Locks

Toulouse and I recently embarked on another road trip from Nova Scotia west through Toronto and beyond. Somewhere between Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, New Brunswick, and Montreal, I had a eureka moment: why not follow Julie’s momentous trek across the future Ontario heath toward Icaria-5 (Toronto), as she follows her “hero’s journey” toward redemption and securing safety for her threatened family.

Julie Crane is the hero in my SF thriller Darwin’s Paradox. She’s a uniquely gifted veemeld (someone able to communicate directly with the AIs of the city through a device), and was the first recipient (at age 5) of the artificial virus, Proteus (before it mutated), which allowed her, alone of all veemelds, to talk to her AI “in her head” whenever and wherever she pleased. She could also “hear” and eventually “speak” to the sentient virus through her mind-link with SAM, her AI.

Exiled to the wilderness by the enclosed city (Toronto) for a murder she didn’t commit and a plague she didn’t spread, Julie forges a life near present-day Cornwall with her mate, Daniel, and bears a child, Angel. Serendipitously, Aard, a scruffy hermit, joins them and teaches them how to survive and make a good life in the heath. Julie never loses her inexplicable longing to return to Icaria-5 and twelve years later, when assassins (government subversives) threaten her family, she journeys to the city to lure her attackers from her family and to purchase their safety. Meanwhile Icaria-5’s current mayor, Gaia, has orchestrated Julie’s abduction. She plans to exploit Julie’s unique talent for hearing machines in her head through the artificial intelligent virus (Proteus) inside her. Violent dissidents (the assassins after her) fear Julie as the carrier of the once-deadly version of the virus, Darwin Disease, and simply want her dead. With both parties chasing her, Julie embarks on a perilous quest and full-throttle collision course with her past (see the prequel, Angel of Chaos, scheduled for release later this year with Dragon Moon Press).

On the second day she reached the great Saint Lawrence River at the remnants of the small village of Iroquois. Julie made out the seaway locks and the dam as she waded through the hummocky wetland of sedges and purple loosestrife. Overgrown and crumbling from disuse, the locks used to control the river’s fluctuating levels and linked the northern shore, once a part of Ontario, Canada, to the south shore that used to belong to New York State in the United States of America. Now it was all simply Icaria’s North Am.

The Iroquois Locks formed part of an extensive navigation system of dams, powerhouses, locks, channels and dikes that made up the St. Lawrence Seaway, linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Julie imagined the deep-voiced grinding of those locks a hundred years ago, serving the constant traffic of heavy cargo ships and pleasure boats. Now these monoliths languished under a thick mantle of moss and scrub in a quiet breeze, ghosts of a bygone age.
Toulouse and I reached Iroquois just ahead of a looming thunderstorm. We watched a large freighter pass through the lock in the brief sunshine to a dark charcoal colored sky. Lightning blazed and thundered behind us as the ship lumbered along, barely competing with Nature’s power. It was nonetheless impressive. I thought of Julie standing there in the awesome quiet of the place, hearing ghosts…

The Iroquios lock, operated round the clock seven days a week, allows ships to bypass the dam, which controls the level of Lake Ontario. The Iroquios lock is just one part of the extensive Saint Lawrence Seaway system of locks, canals and channels that let ocean-going vessels travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes (as far as Lake Superior) and jointly managed by Canada and the U.S. Started as early as 1783, this series of navigation aids consists of a Montréal to Lake Ontario section, which includes the 33 km South Shore Canal that bypasses the Lachine Rapids (providing a lift of 13.7 m to the level of Lake St. Louis; the 25.9 km Beauharnois Canal with two locks that provide a 25 m lift around the Beauharnois hydroelectric power dam. Another 46.7 km of canal stretches to Cornwall. This is followed by a 70+ km of canals from Cornwall to Prescott and then on to the Iroquios lock on Lake St. Lawrence, which joins to Lake Ontario. Together all the locks between Montréal and Lake Ontario and lift a westbound vessel about 69 m.

The Welland Canal diverts vessels around Niagara Falls, joining Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The St. Mary’s Canal links Lake Huron to Lake Superior, four parallel locks on the US side that lift westbound vessels 6.4 m to bypass the St. Mary’s rapids.

Next in Julie's journey, the bridge to the United States…

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.


Jean-Luc Picard said...

What a good idea for you two to follow Julie's trail. It must give a goos insight into what she would have seen.

SF Girl said...

Thanks, Jean-Luc! Yes, I hope so... It was fun visiting the places that Julie actually travelled through on her journey to Icaria (Toronto)...

Anonymous said...

Your fans are awaiting with abated breath for Angel of Chaos. I understand that it will be launched at a science fiction convention in Halifax in October!!
And another one of your books will be launched at the Writer's Conference in Surrey in November!
Very exciting.

Baby Brie

SF Girl said...

Yes, thanks, Baby Brie! I'm very excited about it! I'll be giving a writing workshop on The Hero's Journey and doing readings and a launch of the book at Hal-Con end of October (October 29-31, 2010). Here's the link: And guess what???? Boba Fett will be there! WOOHEE! I met him at Vcon a few years ago and we had some cool drinks together. Walter Koenig (from the original Star Trek), Denise Crosby (Star Trek: Next Generation) and Aaron Douglas (Battlestar Galactica) will also be there.