Back in mid-August, a buddy and I took off on an adventure. The original plan was to visit a site someone had told us about up near Wiseman, Alaska. The scenery was supposed to be stunning, the gold and semi-precious stones easy to find, and –best of all– the mining claim was lapsed so we wouldn’t technically be doing anything illegal.

I’m a skeptical person and this all sounded a bit too good to be true, but I went along with it anyway. Even if it didn’t pan out– pun intended– it’d still be a great adventure, right?

A little bit of history: Wiseman is roughly 300 miles north of Fairbanks on the Dalton Highway, the so-called Haul Road that connects Alaska’s farthest north transportation hub with the North Slope. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 14 people. The nearest community is Coldfoot, population 10.

The history of these two communities has been entwined since gold was first discovered in the area in 1899. While the initial goldrush didn’t last long, mining has continued off and on in the area since. Which brings us to today, and the now-abandoned industrial-scale Nolan Mine.

Continue reading “Wiseman, Nolan Mine, And Marion Creek”
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This is the sequel to my last blog post, Dry Cabins, Futility, and General Darkness. It’s late, but that’s probably on-brand for me at this point. (How long does it take to establish a brand, anyway? How many years do I have to struggle to get things out on time before I’m just “that guy whose content is always late?”) Anyway, on to the uplifting content you’ve been waiting for!

Continue reading “Recent Adventures”
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I’ve been somewhat absent online for the last several months. First it was the move, and the frantic last week or so of packing, trucking, and cleaning. Then it was viciously thinning out my stuff to fit comfortably into a place with less than one third of the space of the old one. Since then I’ve just been trying to regain my equilibrium.

I’m still working on that last part. It’s always fun hunting for some tool or spare part you know you have, but which you now can’t find. Usually because it wound up buried at the bottom of some tote behind five other totes of tools and gear in the storage space under the stairs.

But I digress. Things have been less than great in a lot of ways. Moving back into a dry cabin (in Alaska, ‘dry’ means no running water) after having the unbelievable luxury (sarcasm intended) of an indoor toilet, shower, and on-site laundry really drove home the point that poverty is inescapable.

Continue reading “Post Move Update: Dry Cabins, Futility, and General Darkness”
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Wind, Ice, and Willows

Mud squelched under his boots as he made his way up the dirt road. Willows waved in a frigid wind on either side of the track, their windward surfaces coated in a half-inch-thick layer of ice. The man zipped his jacket and pulled his collar up instinctively, before it occurred to him that he didn’t feel cold.

The mountain pass was enshrouded in clouds, obscuring the peaks on either side as well as the road ahead. Ragged streamers of water vapor raced past, chased by the razor-edged wind. The man paused and turned in a circle, taking stock of his surroundings. Alpine tundra stretched away into the mist on either side of him, dotted with lichen-covered boulders, scrub willows, and the occasional stunted spruce.

Back the way he had come, lights glowed weakly through the fog. A black SUV rested half off the road, its hood impaled on the end of a guard rail. There had been a sharp corner. Icy mud. A loss of traction.

Continue reading “Wind, Ice, and Willows”

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It’s hard to believe that yet another summer is nearly over. The leaves are turning yellow in my corner of the world, and the infamous low-lying areas experienced their first frost a few weeks ago. Where does the time go?

In my case, time flies when you’re screaming busy. I’ve been invited back for Part II of a superb speculative fiction anthology, Trumpland 2020: Divided We Stand, and am currently working on my entry.

Hel’s Fury, my submission for the first Trumpland collection, was extremely dark. It was kind of a worst case scenario, a hodgepodge of national news and the worst of my state’s own tendencies.

I’m happy to announce that my as-yet-untitled submission to 2020 will be much brighter. My goal is to highlight some of the good in Alaska and Alaskans, the spirit of community and resistance that I grew up with and still see occasionally in Alaska’s remote corners.

I’m also exploring Patreon as an avenue to get my short fiction in front of more readers and support myself while doing it. The first wave of September tier rewards are now live and I’m particularly excited about this month’s story, which digs into the origins of my cyborg OC Frank the Tank.

As some of you who’ve been with me the longest may know, Frank started out as a bit character in a piece of flash fiction.

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Storm and rocks in the North Pacific by Nocturnal Lynx Photography

When the body of an influential visitor washes up on a remote Alaskan beach, Danny, Ava, and Cam find themselves in a storm of trouble.
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Warning: this episode contains imagery that may be disturbing for those who have experienced violence at the hands of law enforcement.

Halfway between the Old Village docks and the new airport, the rain turned from heavy to torrential. Water flooded the muddy road, falling faster than it could run away. Cam swore under his breath; his old raincoat was less than waterproof, and now he could add being soaked to the skin to his list of problems.

A collection of weathered metal buildings marked the edge of the airport. The largest was the airport manager’s office, the de facto entry and exit point those arriving and departing the village. Cam could just make out the shadow of a Cessna Grand Caravan on the gravel apron beyond the row of buildings.

He squared his shoulders and pushed open the door that led into the terminal. To his disappointment, the battered wooden benches were empty. A pot of stale coffee simmered on an ancient hot plate at the back of the room, under yellow florescent lights that had probably been manufactured before Cam’s parents were born.

He made a beeline for the coffee. It smelled like death and was just on the liquid side of sludge, but it was free. Cam poured himself a cup and used it to warm away the chill in his hands as he took in the cramped passenger lobby. Someone had left their backpack on a chair; it was bright blue, like the murdered outsider’s jacket. He wandered over to look at it. North Face brand. Expensive.

“Hey, stay away from that!” the airport manager snapped.

Continue reading “Between A Rock & A Storm Part V: Cam Goes Down”

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Storm and rocks in the North Pacific by Nocturnal Lynx Photography

When the body of an influential visitor washes up on a remote Alaskan beach, Danny, Ava, and Cam find themselves in a storm of trouble.
Part I
Part II
Part III

“Is he gone?” Ava asked, her voice barely audible above the falling rain and the rush and splash of the tide.

Danny scanned the network of docks and the rainy gray ocean beyond as he lifted the last crab pot onto the pier. He nodded.

Neither of them mentioned what had just happened as they finished unloading the skiff, but the image of the Village Public Safety Officer pulling his weapon and pointing it at her remained frozen in Ava’s mind. All because she’d been hungry and picked the wrong moment to pull a meal bar out of her pocket.

Continue reading “Between A Rock & A Storm Part IV: Ava”

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Lightning has a strange smell. For me, it’s a combination of burned ozone and chlorine, as if I’ve been transported back to some crowded gym pool in my distant past. There is screaming, raucous and unintelligible, but after a moment I realize it’s just the gulls shrieking in alarm.

“–shelter!” Lynx is yelling. “Move! We need to head for shelter!” She bangs the nose of my kayak with her paddle for emphasis, then turns toward the hill that rises along the northwest side of Summit Lake.

The water is steaming. Thunder heads pelt us with fat, icy raindrops as lightning flashes overhead. I grit my teeth and count while paddling for all I’m worth. One thousand and one, one thousand and– The crash comes before I’ve finished the second beat.

Continue reading “A Meeting With Nature”

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Corrupt GVEA Logo

One of the hallmarks of my writing is an unflinching appraisal of the problems within our society, and what it says about where we’re headed. This commentary is heavily influenced by my own experiences. Enraging, traumatic, frustrating or humorous, in the end it’s all story fuel one way or another. What follows is a humorous look at some recent battles with my electric company.

Inspiration struck last night when I noticed that my ISP hadn’t charged my credit card when they should have.
GCI rep: We’d be happy to look into that for you. What’s your passcode?
Me: Heck if I know. I only have to call you guys once every couple of years. I’m really surprised your new e-bill system lost my payment– you guys are usually the opposite of GVEA.

For reference, Golden Valley Electric Association is my electric company and the gold standard of suck. Shortly after that conversation with my ISP’s billing department, my neighborhood was struck by a blackout.

GVEA: THAT’S for having the gall to criticize our broken payment system and lousy service.
Me: For freak’s sake, it’s barely even windy!
GVEA: I’m sorry, our outage line is currently out of service.

Continue reading “Commonplace Corruption”

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A huge wasp nest in a birch tree.

This has been a week full of unfortunate events and unpleasant discoveries.

The company I work for is having a rough time and there have been rumblings of internal upheaval, yet somehow the gears of corruption and good-ol’-boy favors keep turning. On the home front, I discovered a basketball-sized wasp nest hidden in the woods west of my house.

As you might imagine, both situations involve unpleasantness I’d rather stay far removed from. But when you discover a hive of scum and villainy right in your own back yard, what do you do?

Continue reading “Unpleasant Revelations”

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