Alaskan praise

I finished the page proofs on Wednesday afternoon, somewhere over southern Oregon, a thousand niggling typos and errors caught, who knows how many slipping through the net? Which by the way is something to keep in mind if you’re tempted to buy an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of Touchstone on eBay when they begin to appear in a few weeks: the goofs are highly distracting to the reading experience, occasionally even misleading—there’s a reason the ARC always says on the front that passages need to be compared with the final version before they’re quoted in a review. I know I wouldn’t wish the ARC on a friend, although there are always friends who talk me out of the ban.

But with Anchorage fading in the distance, I thought I would say a word of thanks to Alaska, for existing. It’s a place whose terrain and sparse population discourages pretension. Alaskans are often blunt, generally friendly, and with veins of honesty and earthy humor that run through them like veins of gold through stone. Maybe it’s something about living in a place where the things that want to eat you come in several forms and outnumber you as soon as you step off the paved roads.

I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to fly around Valdez (which by the way is pronounced Valdeez, not as a Spanish Valdezz.) in a small plane, although the flight between the town and Anchorage in a Dash 8 (DeHavilland) was worth the price of the ticket even disregarding the element of transportation (there are roads that connect the two places, six hours of roads). Small planes are the real thing—you can feel the air you’re riding on, the texture and occasional thinness of it, and the prop going around near your head reminds you that it’s a machine, not a small enclosed city in the air. (Raise your hands, everyone who WON’T be riding in one of those new 800-seat planes they’ll be bringing in just any day now.)

Valdez is a small city that was taken down to the ground in the 1964 earthquake. Can you imagine a powerful shaking of the earth, so violent you can’t stand upright, that goes on for five minutes? Five minutes is an eternity. Five minutes of that must feel like a descent of utter madness, a permanent state of uproar and confusion. And Valdez looked at the rubble and decided to rebuild.

It’s a nice town, small enough that literally everyone is known. There is no doubt which of the passengers on the incoming flight are coming home and which are visiting. And yet, most of the people there are short-term residents who have lived in various distant parts of the state. Partly this is because Valdez is the end of the Alaska pipeline, and a lot of the workers come and go, but I have found this true of most people I met in the state. There are natives, of course, whose people have lived in Alaska for two or twenty generations, but the number of accents you hear in the course of a brief stroll through Anchorage is amazing.

There isn’t any place quite like it. Put Alaska on your list of places to see, up near the top.

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  1. Carlina on October 6, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    We’re already thinking of returning soon. We both loved the beauty of it, but prefer the summer temperatures. We happened to have been watching Insomnia the other night, filmed in Alaska, and hubby said, “I do think we should return to Alaska. It is…lovely.” I guess in a couple of years we’ll head out that way for summer. Do some fishing, some writing, revel in the white nights….

    There is a large migrant population in Alaska. There are Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Canadians, Californians, New Yorkers, and the list goes on. No tax…I’d live there too if it wasn’t so cold.

    A curious thought…Any possibilities of Holmes and Russell appearing in Alaska? Just a thought. Their time period would have been an interesting time to be out yonder….

  2. Carlina on October 6, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Oh and…*pops the wine bottle* Yay! for finishing proofs!!!

  3. Sara on October 6, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    So will there be a stand-alone set in Alaska sometime in the near future?

    Very dear friends of mine just moved up to Anchorage with their three girls, whom I sat for five years. The distance is hard (the plane ride being a mere 9 hours from Ohio to Alaska) but they are incredibly happy, the photos they send are unbelievably gorgeous, and the fauna they encounter has the girls roaring with laughter. Where else can you have a moose try to walk into your school building?

    Where is the next BoucherCon?

  4. Teresa on October 9, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    This is the first response to a visit to Alaska that I’ve heard/read that has made me actually want to go there. The comments about the people themselves, and their migratory spirit (or, restlessness). Sounds like a good place for me. At least, for awhile.


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