How Dystopian Can Alaska Get?To celebrate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's nomination as vice president, the Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction has posted its 2004 story, "Nine Whispered Opinions Regarding the Alaskan Secession" by George Guthridge. It's a collection of nine vignettes about a future Alaska where genetically modified fish and environmental devastation have combined with politics to make an already unforgiving landscape even bleaker than ever. More details below. "Nine Whispered Opinions," according to the note at the bottom, is the result of a bet Guthridge made with Bruce Holland Rogers, a challenge having to do with creating nine vignettes with a set number of words and various other attributes. But it's actually better to think of it, not as the short fiction equivalent of a sonnet, but more just as an ambitious exploration of future political and environmental dystopia. The mini-stories explore the impact of depleted numbers of moose in Alaska, and then the introduction of a new super-strain of Frankenfish, geneticaly augmented with a growth hormone from the Pacific chinook. Even though the environment is totally trashed, environmentalists come in for their own measure of scorn, as they seek to keep people from shooting wolves and restoring the balance with the dwindling moose. Meanwhile, a native Alaskan artist creates a "traditional" image, with federal money, that turns out to celebrate pizza and beer. As the stories come along, you learn more about Alaska's vague plans -not quite to secede from the United States, but simply to "decline to participate" in the federal government. The final straw: the federal government puts price controls on oil after the U.S. invades Iran. It's a weirdly sardonic story, with some lovely turns of phrase:
The wind rises, snow needling her cheeks. When the leader calls a halt and tells everyone they have to move fast or risk being blown off the ridge, fear gives her new clarity. Stooped, her weight upon the axe, she adjusts the weight of her pack, takes what deep breath she can manage and mentally prepares herself, glancing around at what peaks she can still see. Her ex's ancestor, Hudson Stuck, was right, she tells herself. Denali is the window of Heaven.
If the word "vignettes" doesn't terrify you, it's well worth checking out, not least because it shows why the Alaska Independence Party (which Sarah Palin allegedly supported at one point) has swung to the mainstream of the state's politics, and explores a future where that party actually wields power. [F&SF]