Where in Canada: Mountains meet Prairie in The Plotline Bomber of Innisfree
November 16, 2015
by Josh Massey
Read how the "mojo of the mountains" of northern BC inspired and informed Josh Massey's reluctantly radical protagonist, Jeffrey Inkster, in his new novel
The Plotline Bomber of Innisfree (BookThug). Moreover, how it serves as inspiration for a host of CanLit greats, from Sina Queyras to George Stanley, to, of course, Massey himself.
Northern B.C. can really take hold of a creative person. I immediately became fond of the area when I attended a weekend writers’ retreat on a lake near Tumbler Ridge in 2007, and there met other scribes whose names I recognized only from back-east anthologies, and with whom I felt an immediate kinship. The term Northern B.C. is challenging, because it’s such a huge place and as much psychologically as geographically defined, and yet when you live here you kind of fit in the trousers of North and know what that is intuitively.
My novel, The Plotline Bomber of Innisfree(BookThug), follows ex-hipster turned elk farmer Jeffery Inkster through his challenges in a Northeastern B.C. of the near future, where mountainous terrain intersects with undulating prairie lands usually associated more with Alberta. The influence of proposed industrial megaprojects, especially those of the pipeline and energy extraction kind that span huge distances, has the effect of creating a common consciousness between the different regions—for example The Peace Country and the Skeena region. All of a sudden the energy field workers of the Peace have to answer to the anglers of Skeena (and vice versa), and both regional populations force companies to answer to their needs, which in many cases is the protection of a lifestyle and livelihood tied to healthy ocean and land. However, speculation on future “prosperity” of mineral and energy riches becomes so pervasive that the resident inhabits a sort of future-in-the-present where the big projects are so talked about in the media and promoted through PR that they exist sort of holographically even though they are still going through the permitting stages. Which I think influenced the futurism of my novel.
So this is my fictional Northern B.C. book born out of very real tensions and communions. It was inspired by my movements through various pocketed communities, from the artistic enclave of Rolla outside Dawson Creek, to dust and blood areas in Prince George as well as alpine refinement from Prince down Highway 16 through Smithers and Terrace, to the rainforested coast where the super-expressed marine ecosystem unfolds into what is known as the Edge of the World.
It’s within these environs that many writers share a sort of communal solitude spaced by distance and time. For example, in Terrace where I live currently, American-born poet
George Stanley also lived for 15 years through the 80’s. At the same time, or maybe slightly before Stanley,
Sina Queyras lived here and worked for a local newspaper when she was teenager. Just south of me about 50 kilometres, lives Haisla novelist Eden Robinson. I suppose being immersed in a local writing tradition isn’t very unusual, but from the point of view of a remote, rural place these connections seem highlighted.
The mojo of the mountains, the hiddenness of cloudscapes, the goat hoof freedom of copper-singed alpine—there is an inherent health, there is a necessary understanding of the sacred, there is a self-exclusion from the megalopolis norms, and a seeking after the melting truth of wilderness outside of human illusion—that draws writers like a magnet to these parts and gets in the blood.
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Josh Massey is also the author of We Will All Be Trees (2009). He has won a 2014 Canadian Community Newspaper Award for his journalism and the 2015 Lelu Island Poetry Prize. He holds a BA in Cultural Studies from McGill and a Masters in Literature from UNBC and currently works as a reporter in Terrace, B.C.
Thanks so much to Josh, as well as Hazel and Malcolm from BookThug, for writing this article.
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