Alberta trilogy

The third western trip in as many months is soon, so soon. After the launch party for Flight of the Griffons this past weekend, the next urgent five-alarm fire (the burningly optimistic and productive kind) is to set up readings, workshops, and media, if we can hustle it, in Alberta.

What's with this book and the prairies, people keep asking. It's a big ship. A big ship needs a big sky. And the tall grasses are an ocean. There's a foreign sort of familiarity there. Towns are islands and the distant wall of mountain peaks is the shore.

If you're writing an environmental revenge fantasy, the big story, for now, is under that big sky. Or one of the big stories. All that black gold. In a restaurant in Banff I sat next to a guy who'd grown up in Fort McMurray, where the oil sands are, and he told me he doesn't recognize a single street from his youth. He had this persistent confusion about it. He doesn't know what happened. He said over and over again I don't know what happened. Everything's gone. That could have been partly the Jäger shots but I think it's also just too big to grasp. Even when you've got a cheque in your pocket. He worked on a rig. He told me the story of how his leg got shattered last year. A heavy piece of metal swung from out of nowhere and smashed him. He went to the hospital and stayed there for a long time, and was in physical therapy for a long time. Somebody took his place. Something similar happened, a big piece of something falling, and the replacement guy died.

That's only one story. There are plenty of others, many not nearly as extraordinary, many fine, I guess, and plenty of shiny one-ton trucks bought with cash, and plenty of black gold by-product in this laptop computer.

'Revenge' is too strong. I'm still thinking on the right words. What you say when people say Oh, yeah? What's it about? You need a tidy elevator phrase. That's the hardest part.

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Next month I'll hit bookstores, libraries, schools, and CBC stations in Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, and in Stand Off, the homebase of the Blood Tribe of the Blackfoot Nation not far from the Montana border. That's the most tender part for me. I haven't quite got words for it yet—especially after Labrador.

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The whole trip will be a delicate thing, really, in so many ways. I'm cannonballing into oil sands central. Not necessarily as a provocateur—I'm haven't got the proportions or associations to be one of those, and if there's one thing I'm fully and transparently humble about it's the vastness of all that I don't know. The story just happened this way, and it's still unfolding, and on a scale that's persistently too big to grasp.

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We saw the first review for Flight of the Griffons yesterday. It was so thoughtful and thorough. She's probably the first person to have finished it, and she had so much to say. I'm grateful to the point of giddy. It was the Monday morning gift after the Saturday launch party, which was such an excellent day.

Thanks to everyone for the cheers here and there, but mostly for bearing with me as all the news and reviews of the Griffons comes out. God, the release of this book is such a thrill, but it ushers in the beginning of an open space that should be occupied, if I want to be any form of legitimate. It's long past time to get moving on the urgent task of creating what's next. After Alberta, that is—after one last adventure to that golden ocean, to bring these pirates to their big sky home.