Title: The Plotline Bomber of Innisfree
Author:Josh Massey, a journalist from Terrace, BC
Publisher Book Thug of Toronto.
Before his launch at Books & Company in Prince George, Josh Massey spoke to CNC students in English 204 (Canadian Poetry) about his writing strategies and offered advice for prospective young writers.
"When you're working on a major project, you have to write every day," he said. “Anyone wanting to write for publication has to be aware of the influence of great writers. My dad would read Jack London out loud when I was growing up."
“Also a new writer must expect criticism and be able to deal with it. A developing writer has to have a thick skin. Ultimately people admire you for it."
Good advice for young writers.
has earned a Master of Arts degree from UNBC and was introduced to the class by Graham Pearce, CNC creative writing instructor.
"Josh is a working writer," Pearce said. "To be professionally identified as writer means something. As a reporter for The Terrace Standard, he has won journalistic prizes."
'The Plotline Bomber of Innisfree' is set, with some science-fiction elements, in the future (the late 2030s) and centres on Jeffrey Inkster, a former hipster who has become an elk rancher in what is recognizably the Peace Country of British Columbia. His desire is to live quietly harvesting elk antlers is shaken by rumours of eco-terrorism and the excessive response of governments and the petroleum and pipeline industries to that terrorism.
Petroleum and pipeline companies' monitoring efforts include the use of a satellite scan called Pipewatch. But pipeline scanning isn’t enough security so the petroleum industry and allied governments hire 10,000 pipeline observers to help with the job. For the affected local population, "there are no paths, no future" and the tensions build.
A dissident young man anonymously posts leaflets that warn that even national park boundaries are not enough to stop a proposed pipeline and these leaflets draw the attention of the authorities. "Elk die of poison gas, or so it seems."
Massey said that, in the book, provinces' and cities' names were changed. B.C. became PC Columbia, Alberta became Cowberta and Vancouver, Cancougar, where everything, including wildlife, is overly processed. Even the title, Innisfree is derived from the name of a little town in Alberta, not far from the Peace River area.
"The germ of the novel came out of my forestry work experiences, but I use imagination as much as possible," Massey explained.
The book first formulated in his mind in 2010 or 2011 while he was still living in Prince George and involved with research for a thesis project. At first he thought the book "should be a super-long prose poem but it is also an idea-driven book. Although I wanted to tell about my experiences, I set it in the future….I created a fictional future."
The novel has three main strands: a traditional story in the first person, blog posts and news articles in a journalistic style, and prose poetry. "I'm a poet, too, and I wanted to use some of that." Often using satire, Massey encourages readers to imagine for themselves the lurking disasters of a collapsing environment.
Massey spoke for about 25 minutes. During a question-and-answer session, CNC instructor Dennis Schreiner said the novel, at some points seemed disconnected. Massey answered that the prose-poem segments are from the point of view of the pipeline bomber, who is an anti-hero.
"Eco-terrorism in this context is psychotic.”
Schreiner asked whether Massey had been influenced by Edward Abbey's environmental protest novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang.
"I read some of that," he replied. “And 'The Dukes of Hazzard' also influenced me.”
When asked, Massey agreed that the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century English novelist Joseph Conrad had also influenced him.
Pearce wanted to know if the novel was a warning that the seeds of destruction have been sown.
"It's a primal scream of people in a world on the verge of environmental collapse," Massey agreed.
"Was it cathartic to write?" Pearce asked.
"My dark vision is out there," Massey said. "I no longer have control over it. People can respond to it however they want."
Josh Massey's launch was held at Books and Co in Prince George and is available for $21.
Paul Strickland — in his 28 years as a full-time journalist and 6.5 years as a free lance journalist, Paul has worked for newspapers in Nevada, Medicine Hat and Prince George. Besides being an investigative reporter, he is a poet, a short story writer and an essayist. He presently resides in Prince George.