The 2nd Human - Desmond Reddick of Port Alberni, British Columbia - Teacher, Writer, Podcast Host

His microphone is sleek and professional--clearly a necessary component from hosting the Dread Media podcast for the last nine years--and I can almost sense my dysfunctional Snowball iCE mic shaking with inferiority.

We're speaking via Skype video call in late September of this year, and Des has informed me that he's recording our call, "just in case." With all the podcast recording he does, this just comes with the territory.

Des and I first met in an English class at Simon Fraser University back in 1999. We haven't seen a lot of each other these past 17 years, but we keep in touch through social media.

He's pleased when I let him know his profile will be online around October 15th, saying that it's his "favourite time of the year."

"It started with my love of horror as a genre and how many horror movies would be on television in the days and weeks leading up to Halloween," Des says in a follow-up email. "Then, it really blanketed out to the fall in general. The colours, the crunch of leaves, the stark beauty of barren trees in the dark. That kind of thing. It all comforts me."

Happy Here, For Now

Desmond was born in 1980 and grew up in South Surrey, British Columbia, in what he calls a "close-knit, suburban, hmm, pretty white-bread" community. For the past 11 years he and his wife, Megan, have lived in Port Alberni, on Vancouver Island. Though Port Alberni is a bit isolated for Des's liking, "It's affordable, and there's a lot of stuff for kids to do." Des and Megan's sons are 10 and nine, and they participate in several activities, like guitar lessons, hockey, and karate.

When I ask if they plan to stay in Port Alberni, Des says, "We're happy here," but "we're not gonna hunker down and stay in Port Alberni for the rest of our lives, 'cause that would probably drive Megan and I mad." They want to travel.

Luckily, precarious travel experiences haven't hampered their desire to see the world.

A Honeymoon at Gunpoint

When I ask Des to share one of his most cherished memories, he recounts the time he and his wife were on their honeymoon in Europe. The trip was a gift from Des's parents and had been arranged by a travel agent.

After spending a couple nights in Berlin, they boarded a train headed to Prague. "We got to the second to last station in Germany, and Czech Republic soldiers got on the train, and started asking everybody for their visas, and they didn't speak English, and we didn't have visas because our travel agent said that no visas were required."

This, he says, was before the Czech Republic was officially a full member of the EU. The Czech Republic soldiers approached Des and Megan and said, "Visa, visa!" Des chuckles, "And we're just like, 'We don't have one,' and they said, 'Okay, off, off!'"

The soldiers then lead Des and Megan off the train--at gunpoint--and dump them "in this Podunk, tiny, like 300-person town on the outskirts of Germany." 

Everything worked out in the end, they got to spend extra time in Austria, and "it made for an exciting trip." Indeed.

The moral of the story? Never "put blind faith in people who might not be the best at their jobs, or just investigate things for yourself."

The Joy: Those on the Margins

Des's kindness and strong sense of empathy are qualities I've always admired about him. It comes as no surprise that these traits fit well with his job as a teacher at an alternate school.

"An alternate school would service students who--there's a huge spectrum," he explains. "Whether it be behaviour issues or mental health issues or autism, or very regular students or advanced students who, you know, really wanna take English 12, but can't fit it into their school schedule ... so they'll come to our school and do an extra course."

"We deal with poverty issues," he adds, "fetal alcohol syndrome, and kids who haven't been given a fair shot elsewhere, and probably don't feel like they belong."

Most of his teaching takes place one-on-one with students, in an independent learning style that is more suitable for Des than "in a regular school with bells, and ducks all in a row."

Fringe Genre Writer

Des is wearing a long-sleeved, white and grey checked Oxford shirt, and behind him and to his right are several bookshelves, overflowing with books.

His own debut novel came out in December 2015 and is titled Mother of Abominations. I'm halfway through the book myself, and am enjoying it. Though normally a fan of literary fiction and science-y non-fiction, I'm digging the main female character, Bree, and loving the symbolism of gigantic monsters controlled by corrupt, power-hungry governments. Des's writing style is elegant and minimalist, with some passages reminding me of Cormac McCarthy's more recent work.

Though he refers to himself as a fringe genre writer, I'm convinced that his work would appeal to a wide audience.

The Sorrow: Polarization

When I ask for his message to the world, he says, "Listen and try to understand people that have different beliefs than you, because we've gotten to this point where it's not just left versus right--it's degrees of people on the left end of the spectrum attacking each other."

To illustrate, he continues, "I see someone like Patton Oswalt, who's very outspoken on social media, who is very much a left-leaning person and very much an ally of minorities--clearly not a minority, he's a pretty privileged white guy, and then you have people who are on the further left who will attack him because he doesn't have the exact same views as they do, which I just find so counterproductive and so toxic."

This isn't just about the political left, he adds, since he sees this on the right as well. "Look at this election" in the US, he says. "It's either we vote for this person, or it's civil war."

Have empathy for everyone, Des advises, but also for yourself and "your own mental health." If our anger is always "at nine and ready to switch to 10 every day, all day, what is that doing to your head? What is that doing to the world?"

Part of the solution? "Create relationships and you'll be a better person if you actually know people of more than one little tiny slot politically and socially."

Desmond, Word for Word

Q: If you were to do another profession, what would you attempt?

A: "My dream would be to be a full-time writer, but I think that's maybe the end goal. Something besides that? I'd like to be a screenwriter maybe. It all comes back to writer for me."

Q: If you ended up being a full-time writer, would you be okay with leaving your job as a teacher?

A: "I'd probably still do a little bit of it, 'cause I do really love it, and I feel like in some aspect I was an alternate kid in high school. I just didn't have that outlet. I was bored sitting in a room for 50 minutes. ... I like those kids. I feel like people who have been pushed to the margins are far more interesting, 'cause in some way I was like that, too."

Q: Are you a fast or slow writer?

A: "I write in bursts. I know that the advice is to write every day. I don't, and I don't see myself ever regularly writing every day, but I try and get 1,000 to 2,000 words down every time I sit down to write, and more often than not I'm successful with that. I try not to impose deadlines and goals on myself that I know are unrealistic, because I'll feel like shit when I don't meet them."

Q: What has been your theme for 2016?

A: "Trying to be healthier. Working out, trying to get back in shape. And trying to write more. I'm at the beginning of what I hope is a professional writing career, so that's at the forefront. ... I'm actually doing karate lessons with my son. We just started, but it's a crazy workout. It's fun."

Q: Are there any political events that you're focused on right now?

A: "Yes. (laughs) It's hard not to get caught up in the American election, 'cause it's so crazy. We had our crazy election here [in Canada] last year, but we had an 11-week election season, and then essentially the first year of a new government in the time that it took for America to get to a first debate. Our 11-week election season exhausted me. I just hated it, I wanted it to be over with. I would probably be a basket case if I was an American."

Q: What are little things in life that give you the most joy?

A: "My kids, the quiet time I have with my wife. My sons and I have been watching The Simpsons together. We've gone from season one, and we're on season 25 now, and just seeing them laugh--because a lot of people our age had their sense of humour crafted by The Simpsons a little bit, because of how popular it was when we were really little, and then it started to get subversive in the later seasons. So I think it contributed a lot to our generation's sense of humour, and to see my kids react to that, by laughing or getting a three or four-layered joke, is really fun."

Q: What are some of your recent favourite movies?

A: "Movies, I'm always watching movies. There's a group of filmmakers called Bandit Motion Pictures. I'm a huge horror and cult movie fan. So these guys and ladies ... take these trashy exploitation genres and really sort of make art films out of them, but they're also really entertaining. They have heavy entertainment value for being such an art film, so it's not a challenging watch, it's just a really beautiful piece of exploitation, which I totally appreciate. (laughs)"

Q: What is your favourite book?

A: "Oh man. Can I say a couple? I just finished re-reading, for the fifth or sixth time, Boy's Life by Robert McCammon, and it's just perfect. It's amazing. I love it. It so perfectly captures the idea of being a 10, 11, 12-year-old kid in the days of summer being fleeting, and you know that you're gonna have to go back to school, and you're wanting to go and have adventures with friends. But also the darkness of the world starts creeping in. You start noticing that a little bit more, as a kid. So there's that. Clive Barker is a huge hero of mine, and his novel, The Great and Secret Show, totally blew my mind. I think I read it when I was maybe 14 or 15, and like mind-expanding. You always read about the rock stars of the 60s reading Baudelaire and Rimbaud and stuff like that, and I think I had the same sort of, I don't wanna call it a 'spiritual awakening', but I felt like my mind was opened--like I perceived reality a little bit differently."

Q: You create podcasts and listen to podcasts. Has that taken away from your reading time at all?

A: "No. I'm a bit of a weirdo in that I've never been diagnosed, but I'm probably ADHD, so I actually find it easier to listen to something, like podcasts, while I'm reading. Or music. And even while I'm writing at the same time, too, and I think a lot of people would think I'm crazy, but there's just something about it. I think I need something else going on in order to focus on the thing that I'm trying to focus on, otherwise I do tend to, 'Oh, let's check out Facebook,' or 'Oh, what's that noise? Oh, maybe I should go walk the dog.' (laughs)"

Random Desmond Facts

His current favourite TV shows are The Americans, which he refers to as "probably the best one out there right now," Veep, and "Game of Thrones is cool, but everyone says that."

One of his all-time favourite short stories is "Night They Missed the Horror Show" by Joe R. Lansdale, which is about racism in the South. It's a "super visceral and vivid" story, Des says, and "When I read it, I wanna be a writer."

His most prized possession is a guitar. "I'm not really good at guitar," he says, but "It helps me relax in a way that nothing else can." Des has had guitars since he was 12, but one of his favourites is "a really nice, beat-up acoustic classical guitar" that he picked up at a garage sale for $10, about 20 years ago.

Follow Desmond:


The Official Site of Desmond Reddick

Amazon author page

(image 1: Des and his now-deceased duck, Howard by Darryll Doucette; image 2: Des and his dog, Kirby by Megan Reddick)