My pianist friend tells me that she begins her concerts with a short piece to warm up the ears of her audience. This preface is meant to be my short piece. Readers may find a natural progression in the stories as they are arranged in this book, but some may choose to skip around. I like this arrangement of the stories because it gives me a sweeping sense of my own years in Alaska. It also roughly correlates with the order in which the stories were written, but only roughly, and a reader could with justice begin with "Of Knives and Men," which is the narrative of a tenderfoot.
The last three stories in the book are the most recent. I did them in California after I had moved from Alaska. The other stories were written over the course of the previous decade. The market for short fiction is abysmal and I am indebted to the magazine editors who saw fit to publish my work in their pages.
"A Fox in May" stands a little apart from the others in length and manner. Every story has a form and voice that emerge naturally from the author’s efforts to make something of a certain subject. This happens to be the last story I composed in longhand: I was living in the bush at the time and had nothing else to write with but a pen.
"One Less Black Bear" is one of the short stories that got me admitted to the writing program at U.C. Irvine in the 1990s. I dropped out of the program after three months and went back to Alaska. The story was published in a little magazine in Texas called Frontiers which is now defunct, a fate that isn’t unusual in the shoestring world of literary magazines.
In Tahoe I once had the pleasure of sitting in on a discussion of "Fishes and Wine." My story was attacked for being politically correct and again for being politically incorrect. I guess it had to be one or the other. A pox, an incurable pox, on both their houses.
There is always a story that kicks around for years and never gets published even though the editors keep writing you little notes saying it is unique and they are sure you will have no trouble getting it published. In this collection, "Robbie Fox" is that story.
The upside to not getting your writing easily published is that you will keep making it better. In a sense, all our words are written in water. But in another sense we should be carving our sentences in stone.
Palm Springs, California