Arctic Smoke

By Randy Nikkel Schroeder

Arctic Smoke
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Shortlistedfor Best Cover Design at the 2020 Alberta Book Publishing Awards!

Onthe eve of his thirtieth birthday, ageing punk Lor Kowalski is unsure of hissanity. He is haunted by hallucinogens and harbingers, strung out on brokenstories that he cannot piece together into a lucid ... Read more


Overview

Shortlistedfor Best Cover Design at the 2020 Alberta Book Publishing Awards!

Onthe eve of his thirtieth birthday, ageing punk Lor Kowalski is unsure of hissanity. He is haunted by hallucinogens and harbingers, strung out on brokenstories that he cannot piece together into a lucid whole. Forced to join hisold band from a life he’d rather forget, he is dragged north under the spell ofa mysterious ad for an Arctic festival tour. As the band members unspool acrossthe surreal snowscapes and frozen wastelands, rogue CSIS agents are hot ontheir increasingly iced-over heels. But what are ageing punks to rogue agents?Subversive and irredeemable, spectres from a past that must be erasedwith extreme prejudice.  Randy Nikkel Schroeder’s ArcticSmoke combines coked-up magic realism with a wound-upcyberpunk style.

Randy Nikkel Schroeder

Randy Nikkel Schroeder grew up Mennonite in Alberta’s deep south. As a young man he fled for the High Arctic and, psychologically, never came back. He currently lives with his family in Calgary, where he snowshoes in the woods, watches birds, and plays guitar and mandolin for his band, Uncle Zugg. In his spare time, he is Professor of English, Cultures, and Languages at Mount Royal University.

Excerpt

BlackMetal

Lethbridge,Alberta, Canada. The late 1990s—

Black Metal. DeathMetal. Nu¨-metal. Hardcore.

Lance Armstrong in, Wayne Gretzkyout.

Economic psychosis. Terrorism.

Grungeout, rave in.

Hoodies, chinos,bombers.

Quiffs and buzz cuts.

PaulBernardo.

Whitepeople.

Modems.

Suicide.

Drugs.

Joy.

Snow.

Afreak autumn blizzard blowing off a frozen moon. North winds rattlingstreetlights, howling glassy streets, air cold enough to crack its ownmolecules.

Kenneth “Lor” Kowalski sat wreathed with chill inan otherwise warm Marquis Hotel room, head tilted forward, eyes wide andunblinking, breath delicate. Snow crystals wove up the window at his elbow, iceknitting itself against glass, collecting shadow and spinning out twinklingpatterns of light.

He shivered.

His guitarbegan to ring with overtones, light strumming its harmonics. Lor sat, saltstinging tonsils, tears on his lip and tongue. He let them sting. Just sat bythe window in the darkened room, a universe pocked with a thousandstars.

“Damn freezing out there,” a whisper from the shadowsin the corner, the clink of ice cubes in a glass. “Supposed to be El Niño thisyear. Get you a drink, sir, something to chase thecold?”

“No. ” Lor wiped a tear. “Thank you. ”

“Justclear away the dishes then?”

Lor paused a moment. He scrapeda fingernail across the window, shaving off curls of frost, squinted at theshapes melting on his knuckle.

“Something troubling you, sir?Maybe a woman, lost love, lost time? An unwanted birthday,perhaps?”

Lor started, but ignored thequestion.

“Birthdays are the time for communion andcommunity. Family, sir. ”

Lor touched the frosted glass. “Didyou hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“Theovertones. The music. Do you see the stars?”

A sniff from theshadows. “I don’t hear anything. And I can’t see the stars fromhere. ”

“Not … thosestars. The ones in this room. ”

“No, sir. Sure about thatdrink?”

Lor sighed.

From the shadows a manemerged, cloaked in baggy black uniform and brimmed hat, like a priest orcunning witch hunter. He stopped his cart near the window and bent forward,eyes hidden beneath the brim, remaining features speckled withmoonlight.

“Sometimes a birthday is a dangerous thing,” hesaid.

Awards

  • Best Cover Design at the Alberta Book Publishing Awards 2020,

Reviews

"One: Schroeder hasauthored a novel that is undeniably Albertan. Two: Schroeder has authored anovel that is undeniably punk. "
~ Vincent Potter,FreeFall Magazine

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