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#rurallife or Can You Hear Me Now?

Monday, August 29th, 2016 | Posted by Julie Czerneda

This guest post by Julie Czerneda is part of the #futurespasttour, taking place from Aug 22nd to Sept 6th. Enter for a chance to win one of two sets of Julie Czerneda’s books: a mass market paperback edition of A Gulf of Time and Stars plus a hardcover edition of The Gates of Futures Past. US/Canada residents only, please. Enter here for the Rafflecopter giveaway.

The Gate to Futures Past Julie Czerneda-smallAt Fantasy Café earlier in this blog tour, I regaled you with the story of how we came to move to the country in the midst of my writing The Gate to Futures Past. If you haven’t read that post yet, by all means nip over and do so, because this one?

Is about what happened next.

Pretty much immediately next, in fact. While we waited for the moving truck, next. We stood inside our new, for-the-time, home, tired but triumphant, and reached for our cell phones to let the family know we’d arrived because we’d promised.

No signal.

Many houses have low-signal spots. In our previous domicile it had been, appropriately enough, beside the shelves with the Pratchetts. Walk a step away, and you were reconnected. L-Space.

Here? In short order we discovered every room and hallway, both floors, of our new house to be a dead zone. No signal at all, anywhere.

How… odd.

Outside we went, phones held high — a little giddy, truth be told, to be doing our own LARP of Mulder and Scully. Were we not, when said and done, in the middle of no-one-knew-where? (Literally. No one else knew exactly where we were, hence the promise to call. Not even a mailing address. More on that later.)

We followed our rising little bars as ardently as if chasing a Pokémon. Up the hill. Finally!

Our phones began chirping and twiddling at us (we don’t have cool ringtones) as the many messages of concern from the aforesaid wondering family arrived en masse.

As well as from the movers, who were lost and could we provide directions?

After dealing with this flood, Roger and I looked at one another, then slowly, together, turned to stare at the house.

Black Gate tin house Julie Czerneda-small

Yup, coated in tin. Nice, thick, turn-of-the-century tin.

We’d rented a Faraday cage.

Faraday cage. An unearthed metal screen surrounding a piece of equipment in order to exclude electrostatic influences.
— The New Oxford Dictionary of English

Forget X-Files. This was The Lone Gunmen, complete with the equivalent foil hats. We went inside and our phones were again useless. (Except for Twitter. I love you, Twitter, though remain suspicious.)

With the frenzied communication of the pre-move weeks, during which we’d phones set to simul-ring — which is a truly startling feature, trust me — we told ourselves interior silence was a vacation. True #rurallife.

Besides, we’d have internet up and running soon. Our new neighbours used the web, didn’t they?

We peered out the window. Their house, even older than ours, was not coated in tin. It did, however, have a tall antenna topped with a small white square.

This was option A, Roger informed me, having done his research when we had blistering high speed fibre optic internet. In the other house. Yesterday. The square meant they had internet via microwave, aka line of sight to a cell tower, or to another square which did. Apparently one could bounce from square to square to, presumably, square.

How quaint, said I. Drawback?

Depending on the line-of-sight requirements? Having an antenna of our own could prove costly and still not work.

Option B, Roger informed me, was to ping off a satellite.

This Gulf of Time and Stars Julie Czerneda-smallI’ll admit, my ears perked up. SF folks LOVE satellite pings. And didn’t our new abode, like every building out here, have a good-sized dish on the roof aimed just above the distant tree-clad horizon? We were set!

Remember I said that.

The satellite internet company, which I persisted in calling “Exoplanet” so often that Roger started too, couldn’t come out for a week and a bit. Our nearest wireless hotspot? Thirty minutes away, but not open everyday. We had a quick education in all the important “you need internet” parts of #rurallife moving. For anything time-sensitive? We drove to the city to use our Offspring’s internet. (Tables turned!)

Postal Pause*

Meanwhile, the urgent matter of our address — urgent, because I was still on book deadline and expecting not only emailed page proofs, but physical pages — was embroiled in its own #rurallife. There’d been modernization, you see, new shiny addresses for all yet to be accepted outside the nice brick post office building, thirty minutes away. We were quietly advised to keep using the address everyone here refused to relinquish in addition to the one designated by Canada Post, to the befuddlement of places like banks who then tried to enter it into databases. Couldn’t we just do it online? (We would sigh.)

Meanwhile, our mail accumulated on a desk at the post office, having no physical destination. Yet. We couldn’t get it until it did. #rurallife, you see. Modernization meant the lovely large box at our driveway’s end was out of the question. We were to put a lock on any vacancy in the not-nearest-to-us elderly green multi-mailbox, in the next town, and await our mail’s arrival. There was an empty one!

At last we were negotiating #rurallife like pros. Alas, when we returned the next day, we found our mailbox taped shut beneath a firm, but polite note (in purple) telling us to remove our lock at once because this was NOT a vacant slot and had never been vacant.

We hastily removed our offending equipment and drove back to the post office.

The person in charge admitted they’d been trying to convince “Daisy” to put a lock on via the “her box would be given to someone else” tactic for years. They’d hoped this time, with us, it might work. We declined the offer to engage in this bit of #rurallife, particularly with an irate someone who wrote in purple. The person in charge thought that wise and offered to send her husband to our new home, to discuss options. Her husband, it turned out, was our postal carrier. He’d call to arrange a time.

We then had to explain why that was a bad idea.

I’ll skip to the happy ending, in which Roger spotted a postal carrier on our way home and we pursued him to the nearby town and its mail boxes. He — Paul — smiled cheerfully when accosted, saying, “You must be the Czernedas.” (There are pluses to #rurallife.) Being possessed of the Magic Key, Paul promptly gave us a slot of our very own in the ultra-modern superbox beside the old green one. Along with advice to leave a note for whomever had seemingly abandoned that slot these past months, presumably in case they knew Daisy.

Mail did appear, quite a bit of it advertising for internet service, businesses with URLs, etc. None of which we could access.

We needed internet.

Black Gate Rogers office Julie Czerneda-small

Exoplanet to the Rescue Part 1

Trust me. Arranging an appointment to get internet, without reliable internet — let alone a telephone — involved more #rurallife. Those who install persist in the belief you already have what they’re coming to install. (Meanwhile, a relevant postal digression added more urgency. Yes, we could change an address for an online service over the phone, if we were outside, but the next step was to respond with a certain timeframe to a confirmation email which you, cough, need internet to do, right?)

But in #rurallife, if you relax, things sometimes just work. Like Paul. We don’t live where anyone appeared able to find us, except our offspring, yet on the same day, within the same ten minutes, an animal control person drove up to ask if we’d lost a dog (no), a courier dropped off my pages for Gate, and the nice young man from Exoplanet arrived. He eyed the house with a reassuring “take charge” expression, then went off and began drilling into the walls. From the outside. The existing dish being a) old tech and no longer useful and b) no one removes old dishes. It’s a thing. There are homes out here festooned with old dishes. #rurallife.

And we would have two new ones. Why, you ask? Because the second would bring in tv.

TV No? TV Maybe?

Allow me to digress regarding in-home entertainment, aka television. We’d known we were leaving cable-land and boldly resolved to leave regular telly-watching behind us too. I kept DVDs we’d otherwise have re-homed for the upcoming winter nights. It would be a grand adventure. Besides, we’d have Netflix.

Which needs internet. Right.

Little did we realize that the package for internet included this second satellite for tv — which turned out to be in high-def, faster, and better than anything we’d had with cable. (Fortunately for our resolve, unfortunately for entertainment, there’s not a great deal on from May – August.) As fate would have it, the installer did a much better job with the tv satellite and we’ve never lost the signal we didn’t really want. ::cue X-Files theme::

Back to satellite internet. The installer, having not fully grasped the meaning of a Faraday cage, came inside to call headquarters for the final setup stage. Didn’t laugh. Honest. Frustrated, out he went to his truck, dashing back inside to do whatever was instructed. This went on quite a while.

But by at the end, he left and we had internet.

Sort of. Roger set up a wireless system that gave me a signal in my office. Cell phones could access that, at least. If not be used as phones. To talk to my editor-dear et al? Progress meant they could email me to step outside and take a call.

Then, nothing. Again. Roger went out to see why. Lo and behold, leaves had unfurled, as leaves do, even in cities, and it turned out our internet dish was a) inside a now-bushy maple and b) aimed at another, larger maple. (Do they not teach botany at installer-school?)

#rurallife means you don’t move the dish. Our neighbour has a chainsaw. Down came the trees and the modem lit! We’d internet.

Just not useful internet.

Exoplanet to the Rescue Part 2

Our VOIP (a phone system that uses the internet, which we’d had over a decade) would ring urgently, but you couldn’t talk over it. The tv worked, staving off the total #rurallife hermitage, except that we couldn’t find a local newscast. Admittedly, life was peaceful. We’d mail, and a courier package, and my electronic page proofs actually arrived via my cell phone, while I stood on the hill between showers. I could tweet.

Unfortunately, the internet we had was too slow to satisfy the security requirements of any webpage other than Environment Canada. I couldn’t send back my page corrections but at least we could check if it was about to rain before going outside to try and call for help.

Which we did.

Another, more senior installer made it out, a week plus later. (Who entertained himself by checking how his cell bars dropped when he came in and out a few times.) Lo and behold, the first receiver was faulty. Swapped that out and Hurray! We could surf again. Email. Communicate! Netflix!

Sometimes.

At the Turn Of Light

With the irony we’d come to expect of #rurallife, we had internet, albeit occasionally slow (we’d make dial up noises while waiting), except while the sun set. The purported time in my fantasy series when the magical and non-magical realms blurred together is an issue, you see, whenever the sun (being a STRONG signal source) aligns perfectly with our dish, swamping whatever the satellite tries to relay. Think of trying to spot the beam from a pathetic flashlight (remember those?) on a sunny sidewalk.

On the plus side, who wants to email during the final hours of the workday? And there is, I’ll admit, SF glee to being so intimately aware of solar transit times.

There you have it. Visiting? Just know the house rules. The hill or front porch for cell phones. Indoors for internet. Telly is fine, but if you really want to watch a hour on Netflix?

Check the weather. Didn’t I mention that if it rains?

We’re back to #rurallife again.

*No, not the looming strike/lockout thing, but I’d use the rumoured stoppage to dissuade people from trying to mail us anything too soon.


Julie Czerneda-smallSince 1997, Canadian author/former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her boundless curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Recently, she began her first fantasy series: Night’s Edge with A Turn of Light, winner of the 2014 Aurora Award for Best English Novel. A Play of Shadow followed, winning the 2015 Aurora. While there’ll be more fantasy, Julie’s back in science fiction to complete her Clan Chronicles series. Reunification #1: This Gulf of Time and Stars, came out in 2015. #2: The Gate to Futures Past will be released this September. Volume #3: To Guard Against the Dark, follows October 2017. An award-winning editor as well, Julie’s latest project is editing the 2017 Nebula Awards Showcase, a singular honor. Meet Julie at Acadia’s Dark Sky Festival, Bar Harbor, Maine this September and at Hal-Con, Halifax, this November. For more, please visit www.czerneda.com.

The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future where a mutual Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, himself a talented telepath, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification will conclude the series and answer, at last, #whoaretheclan.

And what will be the fate of all.

Cover art by Matt Stawicki www.mattstawicki.com

Author photo by Roger Czerneda Photography www.photo.czerneda.com

3 Comments »

  1. Hahahahah, a knee-slapping good time appears to be had by all. We have had similar #rurallife difficulties in the past, caused by the limestone walls of the original farm house, which also act as a Faraday cage. Paul has been seen in various parts of the house aiming his phone where a signal ought to be. Even now, my phone works well in the kitchen, his doesn’t. They are the same phones, with the same carrier. Paul still gets up and walks outside with his phone, even though he no longer has to.

    This is why we still have a land line.

    We also use the services of extraplanet, or extrapolanet, for internet and TV. We had to stop calling it that, however, when we started to give that as the email address, with predictable results.

    Chin up!

    Comment by Violette Malan - August 29, 2016 1:57 pm

  2. We live in a modern timber-frame bungalow, but lined with aluminium-backed plaster board, and internal stud-partition of the same.

    Phone reception is only good by the windows.

    When we first moved in, I was still working for a software house, running a major banking system from the middle of nowhere. I had a bluetooth headset permanently in my ear but tended to leave the phone on the window cill in the ‘office’. Often, when someone rang, I would go and put the kettle on, and the bluetooth signal would steadily degrade as I got more sheets of aluminium between the headset and phone.

    Of course, we have the land-line and broadband as a fallback… unless it’s raining, or the sun shines too much, or fog seems to upset it.

    All part of the #RuralLife!

    Comment by Mark HJ - August 29, 2016 4:06 pm

  3. Thus the desire to live in rural areas is diminished by the need for “modern” amenities. I’m most amazed that the Post Office couldn’t manage to just deliver mail to your box, right there in front of your house.

    Obviously, there are a lot of questions you may not have thought of before which will be asked when you’re looking for the house to buy. Suddenly being on the woodsy outskirts of a largish (Portland) city) seems just the right solution.

    Comment by R.K. Robinson - August 30, 2016 4:47 pm


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