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I've made my first novel, Ventus, available as a free download, as well as excerpts from two of the Virga books.  I am looking forward to putting up a number of short stories in the near future.

Complete novel:  Ventus


To celebrate the August, 2007 publication of Queen of Candesce, I decided to re-release my first novel as an eBook. You can download it from this page. Ventus was first published by Tor Books in 2000, and and you can still buy it; to everyone who would just like to sample my work, I hope you enjoy this version.

I've released this book under a Creative Commons license, which means you can read it and distribute it freely, but not make derivative works or sell it.

Book Excerpts:  Sun of Suns and Pirate Sun

I've made large tracts of these two Virga books available.  If you want to find out what the Virga universe is all about, you can check it out here:

Major Foresight Project:  Crisis in Zefra

In spring 2005, the Directorate of Land Strategic Concepts of National Defense Canada (that is to say, the army) hired me to write a dramatized future military scenario.  The book-length work, Crisis in Zefra, was set in a mythical African city-state, about 20 years in the future, and concerned a group of Canadian peacekeepers who are trying to ready the city for its first democratic vote while fighting an insurgency.  The project ran to 27,000 words and was published by the army as a bound paperback book.

If you'd like to read Crisis in Zefra, you can download it in PDF form.

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What Canadian health care is really like: 2. Sword of Damocles

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Diagnosed with a potentially fatal condition, I now faced having to live with it

In examining me, the doctors found I had a heart murmur.  Checking into that meant an ultrasound.  Since there's usually nothing urgent about a murmur, the ultrasound didn't have to be done right away; I waited a couple of weeks, if I recall correctly.  What they found was that I have a bicuspid heart valve, which is pretty common; heart valves are supposed to have three flaps, but in some people they only have two.  These valves are typically a little weaker than tricuspid valves, but some people live their whole lives without any problems.

So the valve was fine; but my ascending aorta was not.  This aorta, which takes blood from your heart to the lungs and brain, is supposed to be 3 centimeters across; mine was over 4 and expanding slowly like a balloon. If it gets too big, it pops, and that can happen with absolutely no warning.  An ascending aortic aneurysm is one of the most notorious "silent killers" of cardiology, because often, the first sign that you have the condition is death.

The treatment is to replace the thing; but doing that is dangerous as well.  When I learned that I had the condition I was sent to a cardiac surgeon, and we decided together on a simple strategy:  we'd watch it carefully, and when the odds of my dying from the aneurysm became higher than the odds of my dying from the surgery, we'd do the surgery.

What followed was literally years with the sword of Damocles hanging over my head.  I would get an MRI once or twice a year, and for the first few years, there was no change between MRIs; yet every time, as the time between scans drew out, I would get more and more of a sense of dread about what might be going on inside me.  Was it expanding with unexpected speed?  That can happen.  

Here's where there may be a difference between the Canadian and health care US systems:  I suspect (though I don't know) that I would have had more frequent scans if I were living in the US.  On the other hand, more frequent scans may not make  a significant difference in the vast majority of patients, other than to provide emotional reassurance that they're being taken care of.  Hard to know.  What I do know, is that the nature of my treatment, and even whether or not to operate, was a matter strictly between me and my surgeon.  There were no other parties involved; nor, in this country, can there be for such a procedure.

We made the decision to put me on beta blockers, which can significantly reduce the risk.  Here's where traditional private health insurance comes in, because in Canada many drugs are not fully covered under the public system, so the patient has to make up the difference in cost unless they have a private drug plan.  I was covered, so my drug costs averaged about $2 a month; without that coverage, I would have paid about $15/month (the standard beta blockers are very old and very inexpensive).

In fact, there's tonnes of medical expenses here that aren't paid for by the government.  I pay my chiropractor directly, for instance, and get some of that back at tax time, but not much.  I pay for my eye exams and for my glasses. The Canadian health care system is a hybrid of public and private options--and as a consequence, Canadians are well aware of what their care actually costs, because we frequently have to pay for it directly.  We all have direct experience with both public and private health care.  Overwhelmingly, Canadians prefer the public option.

(Now, personally, I don't think you can call it socialism when the government is permitted to also be a player in a commercial marketplace, while being forbidden to monopolize where the private sector can do better; call me crazy, but to me that's just a level playing field.)

Anyway, for eight years I walked around with a time bomb in my chest, not knowing on any given day whether today was the day it would go off.  I became a much more cheerful person during these years; but the experience also aged me in unexpected ways.

And then, on June 6, 2008, I had my semiannual MRI and, in the followup appointment, my surgeon said, "You have a thirty percent chance of dying at some point in the next twelve months.  I think we should operate."

I could have said no, of course.  What I did say was, "How's six weeks from now?"

He shrugged.  "No problem.  We can do it whenever you want.  ...Next friday works for me."

"Um...   No, let's make it six weeks."

I'd been expecting this for eight years, but I would still need time to prepare myself.

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Thanks and good luck!

Posted by Ian Hakes at Sep 21, 2009 11:20 PM
Karl -- I too have a cardiac arrhythmia, as well as a family history of aortic aneurysms, so it's good to know that our Canadian coverage will help me stay on top of this. My dad has gone through the surgery successfully, and you have my best wishes for a speedy recovery.
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About Me

I'm a member of the Association of Professional Futurists with my own consultancy, and am also currently Chair of the Canadian node of the Millennium Project, a private/public foresight consultancy active in 50 nations. As well, I am an award-winning author with ten published novels translated into as many languages. I write, give talks, and conduct workshops on numerous topics related to the future, including:

  • Future of government
  • Bitcoin and digital currencies
  • The workplace in 2030
  • The Internet of Things
  • Augmented cognition

For a complete bio, go here. To contact me, email karl at kschroeder dot com

Example: The Future of Governance

I use Science Fiction to communicate the results of actual futures studies. Some of my recent research relates to how we'll govern ourselves in the future. I've worked with a few clients on this and published some results.

Here are two examples--and you can read the first for free:

The Canadian army commissioned me to write Crisis in Urlia, a fictionalized study of the future of military command-and-control. You can download a PDF of the book here:

Crisis in Urlia

For the "optimistic Science Fiction" anthology Hieroglyph, I wrote "Degrees of Freedom," set in Haida Gwaii. "Degrees of Freedom" is about an attempt to develop new governing systems by Canadian First Nations people.

I'm continuing to research this exciting area and would be happy to share my findings.


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    Coming on June 18, 2019

    "Science fiction at its best."

    --Kim Stanley Robinson

    A Young Adult Scifi Saga

    "Lean and hugely engaging ... and highly recommended."

    --Open Letters Monthly, an Arts and Literature Review

    Sheer Fun: The Virga Series

    (Sun of Suns and Queen of Candesce are combined in Cities of the Air)

     β€œAn adventure-filled tale of sword fights and naval battles... the real fun of this coming-of-age tale includes a pirate treasure hunt and grand scale naval invasions set in the cold, far reaches of space. ”
    β€”Kirkus Reviews (listed in top 10 SF novels for 2006)

    "With Queen of Candesce, [Schroeder] has achieved a clockwork balance of deftly paced adventure and humour, set against an intriguing and unique vision of humanity's far future.
    --The Globe and Mail

    "[Pirate Sun] is fun in the same league as the best SF ever has had to offer, fully as exciting and full of cool science as work from the golden age of SF, but with characterization and plot layering equal to the scrutiny of critical appraisers."

    "...A rollicking good read... fun, bookish, and full of insane air battles"

    "A grand flying-pirate-ship-chases-and-escapes-and-meetings-with-monsters adventure, and it ends not with a debate or a seminar but with a gigantic zero-gee battle around Candesce, a climactic unmasking and showdown, just desserts, and other satisfying stuff."