Seattle Writing Prompts: The Hike In

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You leave Seattle at the crack of dawn. The drive isn't far, but it's far enough, and in the high summer you need to get to the trailhead early. You were up late packing and repacking. Making sure the food is smart and balanced right, the water containers are clean and full, the first-aid kit and compass and elevation map and convertible zip pants and bulletproof bear bag and floppy brim hat and walking pole and tent and sleeping bag and gortex shell and wool socks and perfectly-broken-in-boots and technical fabric shirts and everything is perfectly rolled into your pack and ready to go.

You drive for a few hours. It doesn't take long before you're off the freeway and on a highway that becomes a windy mountain road. You have a high-clearance vehicle, so you can get up where some people can't. You park, making sure your pass is visible so you don't get a ticket, then you double check everything, put your phone in airplane mode (you'll use it as a camera, still, otherwise you'd power down), and take your first step on the gravel of the trailhead.

Seattle is one the best bases in the world for back-country hiking. You could go to Alaska, of course, but here in Washington you're just hours away from scenic accessible low-traffic worlds to explore. There's a reason REI is based here, after all.

It's something to do with the culture of this city, it's in our bones the way that the rain is on our skin. We love to get away. Be it a quick trip up to the Big Four Ice Caves with some out-of-towners, a beach trail on one of the San Juans, a jaunt up to Paradise when the wildflowers are exploding, or a multi-day pack-in where you'll be clearing huge vertical miles on the way to that elusive off-trail spot you love to visit every few years.

But stepping outside leads to so many situations, so many unknowns. We like to think our lives are contained and predictable in the city — of course they're not — but we give up that illusion when we go into the mountains. We know we're on geologic scale, now, and we talk about the things that fall off of mountains by the appliance that matches their size most closely: "Did you see that refrigerator that nearly took out Gina?"

So with that surrender to the natural wonder, we find one thing that we carry with us always, even into the most remote of locations: our stories.

Now then, most stories coming from the woods are of people enjoying themselves. But writers need drama in our imaginary lives. So, just for now, things are going to have to go very, very wrong....

Today's prompts
  1. It started with a bad omen before they even left the city: hitting the bumper on the car behind them outside of the coffee shop. This uptight dude confronted them, made them stop and wait while he inspected it ("that's what they're made for, dude," Shelley said. "That's why they call them 'bumpers', right?"). Then traffic and construction over the pass, then that near wipeout backing down the logging road to let the jeep pass. "You think the crows circling above mean anything?" Hugo joked, pulling his pack on. "Those are ravens," said Shelley. "So, yeah, they mean something." Jorge laughed. "You guys are too damn superstitious," he said, hearing the crack of his sunglasses under his boot, which he didn't notice had fallen onto the gravel.

  2. Geocaches were always a fun distraction, and a good reason to get out of the house and hike a nice trail. You'd find the weirdest little things — pins, plastic figures, buttons, patches, toys. But finding the cache on the peak of the trail, it looked like it hadn't been opened in years. The latch was caught, and it took some working to get it open. Inside, some very old packets of crackers, and a note: "I'm being held a half-mile due southeast. Call the police." It was dated three years ago.

  3. "Hey, you guys better be careful," she told the college boys. "Get your food secured, you're gonna get bears coming through here." Their campsite, messy — and all the beer they packed in! — had food everywhere, and they didn't have a bear cannister. They assured her they would, and off she went. But coming back through the next day, she saw they left a mess. They also left their tents, and all their gear. Was that blood over there? Calling out, there was no response, but she knew that if they were nearby and needed help, she was all the help they were gonna get.

  4. "Oh my god, I'm so sorry!" she said, coming across the naked man sitting by the lake. "Oh crap!" he said, reaching for his shorts and pulling them on, obviously embarrassed. "I've been here an hour and hadn't seen anybody, so I figured I was safe." Putting a bit of room between them, she dropped some iodine tablets in her bottle and filled them from the stream that fed the lake. The man was packing up when she walked past. "You hiking through?" he asked. "No," she said. "I am. Doing the whole trail. Started at the Mexican border. Getting close, now. How about you?" She gestured back the way the trail led in. "No, just on a day hike." Then she added. "I just came up to get some water. My boyfriend's waiting for me just over the ridge." She waved, and walked off through the small pass, to the switchbacks down. But about half way down, looking up, she saw a glint of light off of metal, and some movement at the top.

  5. How fast things change. The day was hot, dry, blue sky. They were in shorts, and then inside of thirty minutes they were in a cloud. The trail, once as clear as a contrail in the sky, was now occluded and hard to find. How could they get so cold so fast? The cotton socks and light jackets they packed weren't enough. The compass on their phones wasn't registering at all. And when one of them put their foot through crusty ice into a water hole, they found out fast why people suggested wearing wool. "I think we're lost," one of them finally confessed. And in that, they both knew, it was going to be really hard to get found again.

Can you read a video?

For weeks now, friends have been telling me to read 17776, a longform experimental sci-fi story written and designed by Jon Bois. I was resistant because the story is, in general terms, about football. That is to say that it begins as a blog post titled "What football will look like in the future." And I cannot stand sports at all.

But just a quick glance at the beginning of 17776 will tell you that it's not really about sports. The banal football article literally disappears from view as it's swamped by repeating instances of the words "something is terribly wrong."

17776 then unfurls across a calendar, tossing the reader into the future. It's a magnificent use of the internet as a storytelling tool, in a way that I've never seen before. Football does play into the story — narrow swaths of the United States are carved out into football fields that are hundreds of miles long and which host football games that last many years — but it's a backdrop. Eventually, the narrative becomes a Vonnegut-like farce, an examination of the way we think about the future. I'd need to read it again to actually review it; the first experience of 17776 is too exploratory to really collect any meaningful critical thoughts.

But I do have one issue with the storytelling methods in 17776 that hasn't really been discussed much in the public sphere. One of the many attractive things about literature, for me, is that you can read at your own pace. Using certain rhythmic tricks, a writer or a cartoonist can slow a reader down a bit, but the reader ultimately plays the role of the conductor. We set the rhythm, we pause when we want to, we turn back or flip forward, we speed ahead eagerly or linger behind and savor.

The problem with 17776, for me, is too much of the reading experience is swamped with animations, and swaths of the story are told in scrolling text via YouTube videos. To me, that changes the form into something new. When a reader can't read at their own pace — when you can't easily turn back and re-examine lost pieces of dialogue, or when you get bored because the scrolling mechanism isn't fast enough for your tastes — you're not really reading, exactly, anymore. You're experiencing. It's more passive, more like watching TV.

Listen: if you care about sci-fi or experiemental internet storytelling techniques or good fiction, you should read 17776. No matter how you classify it, it's worth your time. And one of the reasons why it's worth your time is that the form opens up important questions about the limitations and strengths of reading. That's an exciting conversation to have.

The Help Desk: If Cienna Madrid could force all Seattle to read one book...

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

This year, the Seattle Public Library chose Angela Flournoy’s The Turner House as the Seattle Reads selection — as in, the one book they wanted everyone in Seattle to read this year.

I’m dying to know: if you had the power to make everyone in Seattle read one book, what would that book be?

Dinah, Central District

P.S. If you ever wanted to start your own misanthropic version of Oprah’s Book Club, I’d be a charter member.

Dear Dinah,

I have been sitting on your question for months now and each week, my answer has changed. My favorite recommendations are spontaneous and personal – for instance, a conversation about my dead aunt's newly-discovered secret 70's love child sparked a recommendation to read Katha Pollitt's Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights (not because my cousin should've been aborted, but because my aunt had no safe, legal recourse other than adoption at the time).

So you can understand how encouraging an entire city of people to read just one book is daunting. The kind of people who could answer that question unblinkingly are the kind of people who have only read three books in their lifetime – for them, choosing a favorite is easy.

In past weeks, I would've recommended Amy Bloom's Lucky Us because it is so funny and beautifully written that I have actually confused lines in the book for memories of my own, or Kindred, by Octavia Butler, because Butler lived and died in Seattle and despite her powerful stories, not enough people in the region know her name or worship her writing.

But if I had to choose a book this week, it would be Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert, which is a nonfiction book about the diversion of rivers and damming of the American west. Reading about our untenable water policies is not as fun as reading Bloom or Butler would be, but it is a fascinating and necessary book for westerners. Seattle may not suffer from a water shortage, but it is the de facto democratic capital of the west and should be a leader when it comes to progressive water policy, and this book pretty clearly spells out the ecologic and economic disaster we're going to face if we don't re-evaluate how we use and think about water. Also: the only people I've found who've actually read this book are homeless-looking white men with REI budgets.

Along with a ton of other useful shit, like comprehensive sex ed and how to responsibly handle a credit card, Cadillac Desert is the kind of history lesson that should be taught in schools – or at least discussed among a wider audience than redwood-humpers with briar-patch beards and gear that costs more than my mortgage.



Portrait Gallery: Anastacia-Reneé

Each week, Christine Larsen creates a portrait of a new author for us. Have any favorites you’d love to see immortalized? Let us know

To celebrate the second release of her busy summer, Forget It from Santa Cruz publisher Black Radish, Anastacia-Reneé will be joined on Tuesday the 25th at Elliott Bay Book Company by three stellar Seattle-area authors: poet Jane Wong, memoirist Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, and poet-slash-civil-rights-attorney Shankar Narayan. She’s not only generous with the spotlight, but Anastacia-Reneé is perfectly willing to give time and exposure to other authors who complement her work. Other writers would balk at giving three dynamos some of her stagetime. Anastacia-Reneé knows that every stage is big enough to share.

Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

Why won't The Stranger pay a young writer for their work?

Yesterday, I reported that The Stranger is running a "contest" to choose a writer to serve as the Bumbershoot Correspondent for their Bumbershoot guide and website. Though the writer will win a collection of branded merchandise from contest partners, including a camera, film, and records, the position is unpaid. Just last week, Stranger publisher Tim Keck posted that the publication is "profitable" and has "been growing financially for years." If that's true, why isn't The Stranger paying a writer for their work?

The Vera Project, an all-ages nonprofit that champions youth engagement in the arts, responded to writer Lindsay Hood's questions about the lack of payment:

I want to be perfectly clear before I go any further: The Vera Project is a fantastic organization. I always donate to them for Give Big, and I have friends who work for and volunteer for the organization. They are an unalloyed good for Seattle, and they deserve your time and money. If we were talking about an unpaid volunteer position for the Vera Project, that would be a different discussion altogether. But we're not talking about that: we're talking about an unpaid position for The Stranger, which is a for-profit business.

This argument doesn't make sense. Okay, so the position is "meant for new writers w/o enough experience to get a paid gig," and "many of our ppl are looking for opportunities like this 2 get a foot in the door." You know what's really incentivizing for young workers? A paycheck in exchange for work.

Look: I get that young writers take more time than seasoned professionals to guide and edit. There's an investment there on behalf of The Stranger. But that's a standard business cost; most businesses have to train and recruit new workers. If there's a good reason why a profitable alternative weekly should be an exception to this standard, I have yet to hear it.

And the fact is that the Bumbershoot Correspondent's writing, once it's published on the site, will still make money for The Stranger. Ads will still appear next to the Correspondent's writing and photographs, and those advertisers will likely not pay lower rates because the writer has less experience than other writers on the site. The Stranger will collect the same payment.

Since we first posted on the issue yesterday, people have made the argument that since The Stranger will be choosing a young writer for the Bumbershoot Correspondent, that writer will likely not expect to be paid. This argument, likewise, is nonsense. The contest is not open to writers under the age of 18. I don't know about you, but when I was 18, I needed money. You can't eat a swag bag. Landlords won't take refurbished Polaroid cameras in lieu of rent checks. In America, we tend to agree that labor should be compensated.

Does this position amount to an unpaid internship? (The Stranger eliminated its unpaid internship program several years ago.) It's unclear whether the contest winner will be an employee of The Stranger or not. In her email to me yesterday, Stranger account executive Diana Katz said the contest winner would be "working" and doing "work" for The Stranger. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries Unpaid Internship Cheat Sheet (PDF) has this to say about the difference between unpaid internships and employees:

It seems likely to me that the Correspondent would "displace regular employees" — The Stranger typically requires multiple staffers and freelancers to cover Bumbershoot. And it also seems likely that The Stranger would gain "immediate advantage from the activities of the [Correspondent]," in the form of pageviews. At the very least, it seems as though the relationship between the contest winner and The Stranger is a nebulous one.

Look. We can spin wheels on this forever. But in the end, this just comes down to decency. Thanks to Keck's post last week, we understand that The Stranger is making money. This means that management has simply made the decision not to compensate a young worker for their time and effort. And that's wrong.

Tacoma is very close to finally honoring Dune author Frank Herbert with a park

Matt Driscoll at the News Tribune says that a new 11-acre park on a peninsula in Tacoma is super-close to being named after Dune author (and Tacoma native) Frank Herbert. Tacoma is now taking suggestions to name the park. Driscoll writes:

According to Metro Parks spokesman Michael Thompson, 173 submissions were received over the weekend — and some variation of a name honoring Herbert was “the most common.” (There was at least one vote each for Parky McParkface and Breaky McWaterface.)

The park looks like it'll be gorgeous:

If you're a Tacoma resident, you can suggest a name for the park on Metro Parks Tacoma's website through August 4th.

Thursday Comics Hangover: Say something nice

A considerable portion of Seattle’s comic book talent is in San Diego this week at the corporate pop cultural orgy known as San Diego Comic Con. It makes sense to take stock of comic culture at this time of year, because it’s the closest thing to a High Holy Days in the nerd calendar year. Look anywhere on the internet right now and you’ll probably find an equal share of breathless odes to SDCC and vicious takedowns of everything having to do with the crass commercialism of nerd culture.

The thing is, I do enough whining about corporate comics in this space. And so for Comic Con, I thought I’d point out seven comics series that I’m genuinely excited to read every month. Prepare for niceness:

  • Ms. Marvel is the best comic that Marvel publishes. It’s consistently great — a deeply personal celebration of the superhero myth.

  • Paper Girls from Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang evokes a wide array of sci-fi source material — Stranger Things, Lost, Steven Spielberg and Stephen King — while still feeling completely original. It’s a time travel comic that has seemingly been planned down to the last detail, an adventure comic that places character at the forefront of the story, and a touching story about growing old while combating nostalgia.

  • Giant Days is a perfect sitcom of a book, about a group of young women trying to navigate the adult world. It’s funny, but not in a way that sacrifices the dignity of its characters. It’s sweet, but not cloyingly so. Giant Days is about as likable as a comic can be.

  • The Black Monday Murders imagines a world where money is power. Okay, but like magical power. It’s a murder mystery set in a world where America's wealthiest families have amassed dark magic along with their wealth, creating a metaphor for income inequality that is perhaps more vivid than any I’ve ever read.

  • The new comic by underrated novelist Victor LaValle, Destroyer, is a fresh take on the Frankenstein story that addresses race and police violence in a meaningful way. It’s the second-newest comic on the list, but it looks to be a work that will add to LaValle’s shelf full of novels that use genre to investigate the black experience in America.

  • I just wrote about the first issue of Calexit last week, but I’ve thought a lot about this book in the past seven days. It’s not often that a single issue of a comic lives in my head like this.

  • Kill or Be Killed is the closest thing to Taxi Driver I’ve read in comics form. It takes vigilante justice to its logical conclusion in a story narrated by a damaged man who murders people he believes to be criminals.

And here’s a bonus comic: yesterday I picked up the first issue of Generation Gone, an Image series written by Ales Kot and illustrated by André Lima Araújo. It’s very promising. The story is about three young hackers who are preparing to steal an obscene amount of money from an obscene too-big-to-fail bank. The class struggle is real: “These children are millennials,” someone exclaims in the middle of the issue. “Men like you have taken their future away from them. They are getting ready to steal it back.”

Araújo draws a diverse cast with expressive faces and he lays out the action through a wide variety of perspectives. It’s a kind of realism that draws you in and lulls you into complacency. Just when you think this is a book about normal people in normal rooms doing fairly straightforward computer-y things, the twist kicks in and you understand that Araújo has a wider range than you first expected: he’s a rare horror artist whose work is genuinely scary.

This first issue of Generation Gone is all set-up. It’ll make for a compelling first chapter in the inevitable collected volume, but readers of the first issue might be annoyed that just when the book gets started, it ends. Still, if you give it a chance you'll find a well-written and superbly illustrated high-concept first issue of a series — one that could well wind up on your list of favorite monthly comics.

Book News Roundup: Why did the robot kill itself?

  • Don't forget that the deadline to apply for a table at this year's Short Run Comix & Arts Festival is July 31st. The organizers this year are eager to include the literary arts, so even if you're "just" a writer and not an artist or cartoonist, you should consider applying.

  • This is a pretty big get: the King County Library System Foundation announced yesterday that basketball great and all-around awesome human Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will be the headliner at their 2018 Literary Lions fundraising dinner. This year's headliner, for comparison's sake, was Daniel Handler. Handler gave a spectacular speech and he's definitely a high-profile author, but Abdul-Jabbar is a household name. Expect tickets to go very fast for this one. The Literary Lions dinner will take place in Bellevue on Saturday, March 10th of next year. We'll let you know when tickets go on sale.

  • At the Seattle Times, SPL librarian David Wright wrote a great profile of local publisher Pharos Editions, which has brought some essential Northwest literary classics back from the dead.

  • While we're talking about local reviews, Seattle Mystery Bookshop bookseller Fran published a good review of Cory Doctorow's latest novel, Walkaway.

  • Tara Marie at the Polygon has written a good meditation on white cisgender privilege in the comics industry, using Howard Chaykin's atrocious Divided States of Hysteria as the launching pad for the piece. (I read the first issue of the series and decided to ignore it; Chaykin has a long history, with his best work decades behind him, and he's now become nothing more than an aggrieved-white-dude comics troll like Frank Miller. I'm happy to not give Chaykin the attention, but I'm glad that writers like Marie are around to explain what it all means to general audiences.)

  • The new Jane Austen pound notes have a quote from Pride and Prejudice — "I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” — that shall we say...not quite delivered earnestly in the novel:

As many Janeites were quick to point out, that quote wasn’t sincere. Caroline Bingley, the haughty gentlewoman who competes with Elizabeth Bennet for Mr. Darcy’s attentions, makes this announcement in hopes of impressing him. “How much sooner one tires of anything than a book!” Miss Bingley adds. Shortly after saying so, already bored by a quick dip into a book, she throws it aside and tries another gambit to grab his attention. In short, Austen wrote the line as a satirical comment on how we perform certain admirable qualities to win approval.
  • I don't really believe in guilty-pleasure reading. Every book has some value, even if it proves that value through negative means. But people like interactive lists on the internet, so maybe you might enjoy this checklist of "Books You'll Never Brag About Having Read." Don't listen to the headline; feel free to brag if you want to. Try to beat my score:

  • After you've watched Wonder Woman for the 16th time this fall, you might want to take a break by watching the biopic about the creator of Wonder Woman, titled Professor Marston & the Wonder Women. The trailer was just released yesterday:

Your Week in Readings: The best literary events from July 19th - July 25th

Wednesday July 19th: TUF Zine Release Party

TUF is “a female/nonbinary/trans collective centered on electronic music and art,” and they like to make beautiful things. They’re celebrating the release of their second anthology zine with a big party in the best pizza place on Capitol Hill and a dance party at Dino’s brand-new basement music venue, with readings and visual art.
Dino’s Tomato Pie, 1524 E Olive Way, 403-1742, Free/$13. All ages. 6 p.m.

Thursday July 20th: Arabella and the Battle of Venus Reading

The sequel to Portland author David Levine’s swashbuckling adventure novel Arabella of Mars sails through space to the “swampy” planet of Venus. It also features a wedding, bribery, and a space war. If you’re looking for a fun summer sci-fi series to read, this is the one for you. University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

Friday July 21st: Thinks Out Loud Reading

Seattle author Martin Perlman’s debut novel is about a group of bloggers who travel the world having adventures involving shipwreck and princesses and some light time travel. The book is written in the form of the main characters’ blogs. What’s the blog equivalent of an epistolary novel? A bloggiad? University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

Saturday, July 22nd: Queer Geek Board Gaming

Capitol Hill’s biggest nerd emporium welcomes all to a free afternoon of “GLBTQ-flavored gaming and socializing.” Available games include DC superhero and Adventure Time-themed games, Relic Runners, and Small World, though you’re invited to bring your own game to share. Meet some new people in a safe and welcoming environment. Phoenix Comics & Games, 113 Broadway E, 328-4552, Free. All ages. 1 p.m.

Sunday July 23rd: Waterways Reading

Seattle is a city that has repeatedly changed its own geography, from building Pioneer Square out of mud flats to the Denny Regrade. Local historians Jennifer Ott and David B. Williams discuss their new book, which follows the history of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and examines its impact on the Seattle Public Library, 1000 4th Ave., 386-4636, Free. All ages. 3 p.m.

Monday July 24th: African-American Writers’ Alliance

The African-American Writers' Alliance (AAWA) is a Seattle-area writing collective. What this means is they put new and published authors together in forums and provide opportunities like published anthologies for members to show off their writing. Another way the AAWA honors its members is by hosting readings like this one. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, . Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

Tuesday July 25th: Forget It Reading

See our Event of the Week column for more details. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, . Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

Is the Stranger running a contest where winners cover Bumbershoot as unpaid marketers?

“Ever wanted to write for The Stranger? Now’s your chance,” chirps the copy on an ad shared by the Vera Project on Twitter yesterday afternoon. It continues:

The Stranger is partnering up with Bumbershoot and The Vera Project to bring you an exclusive opportunity to go behind-the-scenes at Bumbershoot! Calling all budding journalists for: The Stranger’s Official Bumbershoot Correspondent Contest 2017.

As you can see above, the ad features The Stranger’s official logo and a Stranger email address for contestants to contact. It promises that “an associate editor at The Stranger will select the best entry and the lucky winner will receive” an array of prizes including a refurbished Polaroid camera, film for the camera, and a prize pack from Freakout Records. Perhaps more importantly, the winner’s “photo gallery and experience reviews” will be “featured in The Official Stranger’s Bumbershoot Guide and”

I have an email out to The Stranger to confirm, but the ad doesn’t mention any compensation besides the aforementioned prizes. If this position is unpaid, it marks a departure for editorial content in The Stranger. When I worked at the paper — I started there as an intern and freelancer in 2005, went full-time in 2008, and resigned in 2015 — Bumbershoot coverage was provided by salaried staffers and paid freelancers. If The Stranger is now enticing a “lucky winner” to provide free Bumbershoot-related content in exchange for an armload of swag, that represents a significant shift in the paper’s arts coverage.

Could you imagine a distribution firm throwing a contest to select one “lucky” person to work as an accountant during tax season, with the “winner” to be paid in free donuts? Or a convenience store offering to pay a temporary cashier in coupons and branded merch? Then why would it possibly be okay for a newspaper to do this with writers?

Here’s the thing: writers deserve to be paid, and not just paid in amorphous “exposure.” When an organization like The Stranger — a publication which publisher Tim Keck assured readers as recently as last week is “profitable” and has “been growing financially for years” — reduces its arts coverage to a contest for some eager young dupe to win, it devalues the rest of the paper’s arts coverage. Seattle’s vibrant arts community deserves the attention (and, yes, the criticism) of professional, paid writers, and The Stranger — a newspaper which made its name on intelligent, opinionated arts criticism — should prioritize its arts writing as more than just an add-on to a swag pack.

But there’s more than just the question of payment. The ad promises that the Official Stranger Correspondent at Bumbershoot 2017 will “Join the Bumbershoot Marketing Team with [sic] telling the Bumbershoot story with an insider’s perspective.” Though the ad claims to appeal to “budding journalists,” it sounds more like a co-branded marketing opportunity.

How closely will the “contest winner” work with the Bumbershoot Marketing Team? If Bumbershoot has some control over the direction of the pieces, will the published work be clearly marked as sponsored content? Will The Stranger’s “partnering up” with the Vera Project and Bumbershoot to provide this coverage be clearly disclosed in the Bumbershoot guide and in coverage on the site? If not, how can we trust The Stranger’s Bumbershoot arts coverage to be anything more than a glorified advertisement? Where does the line between editorial content and advertising content begin and end?

Back in 2014, Keck famously told the Capitol Hill Seattle blog that “Loud, brash opinions are a dime a dozen.” Many Stranger staffers at the time took that quote as a sign that Keck was moving the paper away from its fiercely independent arts coverage and toward something less opinionated and more advertiser-friendly. If The Stranger is in fact enlisting free labor to cover the city’s largest arts festival, and if that coverage is closely coordinated with the festival’s marketing team, it looks like our worst fears have been vindicated.

I sent an email to the address in the above advertisement asking if the paper will pay the Bumbershoot Correspondent, and asking them to clarify the position’s relationship with Bumbershoot’s marketing team. They haven’t gotten back to me. If they do respond, I’ll let you know.

UPDATE 11:14 AM: Just got an email back from Diana Katz, an Account Executive at The Stranger Here it is, in its entirety:

Hi Paul,

Thanks for reaching out. Happy to help clarify as best as possible -

1. The position is unpaid. The winner receives a high value swag bag (valued at over $1,700) along with promotion of the winner’s work on

2. The winner will be working independently at the festival in regards to conducting interviews, taking press photos, etc. The Stranger team and the Bumbershoot Marketing team will be assisting the winner with an introduction to music artists to conduct this work as well as providing an access pass to go behind-the-scenes at the festival. Any write-ups/editorial reviews by the correspondent winner will be reviewed by a Stranger Associate Writer before this work is published on This work will be presented on our site’s page along with the winner’s full name and title as Stranger’s official Bumbershoot Correspondent 2017.



Literary Event of the Week: Forget It reading at Elliott Bay Book Company

Every so often in Seattle, a writer pops into the popular consciousness. You’ll find them everywhere at once: in every Seattle-centric magazine, newspaper, and website that covers the literary scene. (Yes, and there aren’t so many of those these days, but that’s a complaint for another time.)

When these kinds of writers appear — a Robert Lashley, say, or a Sarah Galvin, to use two recent-ish examples — it must be easy for aspiring authors to fall prey to jealousy. You toil at the open mics and publishing for free in the hand-printed literary magazines, and then all of a sudden there’s the it-lit figure of the moment staring out at you from free boxes around the city. This doesn’t happen very often, and it probably feels as though they’re taking up some of the spotlight that by rights ought to belong to you.

In my experience, though, these overnight success stories happen because the writers in question work. Their. Asses. Off. They read everywhere, they write all the time, and they put in the hours to gain the respect they deserve. Case in point? Anastacia-Reneé, the poet who has received glowing profiles in a number of local publications including a fantastic City Arts cover story by Galvin that’s on the stands right now.

The reason Anastacia-Reneé is getting so much attention is that she’s publishing three books of poetry with three different publishers this summer: (v.), Forget It, and Answer(Me). This confluence of publication dates wasn’t just handed to her on a platter; the truth is that Anastacia-Reneé is relentless. She reads all over town and advocates for other writers. She experiments in plays and visual art and non-fiction. Until recently, she was the Poet-in-Residence at the Hugo House, making her expertise available to aspiring authors with regular office hours and special appointments.

Anastacia-Reneé’s restlessness shows up on the page, too. She has written under a number of different aliases over the years, and her work investigates the question of identity — race, sexuality, community — in nearly every poem. She is fragmented, and she is mighty, and she is a force of nature. She’s exactly the kind of writer we need to see posted on every corner of the city right now.

To celebrate the second release of her busy summer, Forget It from Santa Cruz publisher Black Radish, Anastacia-Reneé will be joined on Tuesday the 25th at Elliott Bay Book Company by three stellar Seattle-area authors: poet Jane Wong, memoirist Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, and poet-slash-civil-rights-attorney Shankar Narayan. She’s not only generous with the spotlight, but Anastacia-Reneé is perfectly willing to give time and exposure to other authors who complement her work. Other writers would balk at giving three dynamos some of her stagetime. Anastacia-Reneé knows that every stage is big enough to share.

Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, . Free. All ages. 7 p.m.

To boldly go where someone else has gone before

Ever since Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy first wooed me into reading adult fiction, I’ve always had a soft spot for the mixture of sci-fi and comedy. So the none-too-serious title of Becky Chambers’s first novel, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, caught my attention from the shelves at University Book Store. And the cover blurb by Ancillary Justice author Ann Leckie — it just reads “Great fun!” — promised exactly what I was looking for in a sci-fi novel.

Long Way doesn’t seem to be interested in breaking any new ground. It’s playing with familiar tropes: a spaceship staffed by misfits and outcasts bumbles into the middle of an interstellar conflict. And that’s okay: Chambers is a deft enough storyteller that she knows when to get out of the way and let the characters lead. Much of the book consists of the reader getting to know and enjoy the crew of the Wayfarer. By the time the central plot is in action, you likely won’t care too much about the stakes — you’ll just be eager to spend more time with these aliens and space-sailors.

That said, some of the tropes in this book hew a little too close to archetypes. Some of these characters — one in particular — feel lifted directly from other space travel stories. Specifically, there’s a character in Long Way who feels hijacked out of Joss Whedon’s cowboy space opera Firefly. At first, it’s a similarity, but after a while it feels too close to be comfortable.

Ultimately, Long Way doesn’t go far enough to distance itself from those who have gone before. Archetypes and tropes are fine to use as shorthand in genre fiction, but you have to do something with those tropes — upturn them, deepen them, blend them together in interesting ways — or else your story just feels like a cover of a cover of a cover, leaving the reader to wonder where they’ve heard this song before. I breezed through Long Way, but I don’t know if I’m going to be back for the just-released sequel unless I’m assured that Chambers finally takes her crew somewhere new for a change.

Summer Sponsorship deals!

We just released our Sept 2017 - January 2018 sponorship openings, and they've sold faster then ever. Of that block, only three two dates remain available, in November and December. Thank you, sponsors!

But we still have a few dates left this Summer — one next week, and also a few in August. We've just marked those down, so if you're looking for a sponsorship deal, head over to our booking page and snap up the date you'd like before someone else does.

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Joe Biden is coming to Benaroya Hall on December 3rd to read from his upcoming book Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose. Elliott Bay Book Company is selling advance tickets. You can get all the information you need from their Facebook page. (But be warned that you will experience sticker-shock; tickets are in the three figures, for the most part. It costs a lot to bring these bigwigs to town in a venue large enough to support them. I assure you no greedy booksellers are getting rich off your ticket sales.)

Poem Where We Apologize For Being Human

There is a part of me that doesn’t understand longing.
And yet, with my hands full of daisies, forget-me-nots,

I walk into a field of wildflowers and ask for more.
This is how I feel when you touch my shoulder.

There are nights of only so much moonshine
and I want to bathe in more than my share.

Saltwater, you’ve said. The oceans calms. Sometimes
I lose myself and want to go under. Part mermaid.

Part riptide. There was a time when every beach
was a room I would undress in. Now, I forget to live

that openly. Now, I hold back what I want to say.
There’s a belief we each have to live flawlessly.

I rip off the roots of flowers and place them in a vase.
Forget the fields where you could kiss me hard

and instead, call the florist, close the door.
Because we can’t say what we want, we write

a confessional poem where every sentence is true,
except one. Tell me again how often you think about me.

Tell me again how the drowning man finds himself
dreaming how one day walk he’ll walk on land.

Seattle Arts & Lectures is saving a place for you

Seattle is alive with great readings and lectures, and this week's sponsor is a standout. Each year Seattle Arts & Lectures presents one of the most carefully curated programs in the city, bringing in big-name speakers and showcasing up-and-comers across a wide range of genres and themes. It's the kind of mix only a long-running series with a loyal audience can pull off.

SAL is celebrating three decades — no small achievement for an arts organization, even in a city like this one — and their 2017–2018 season lineup reflects that spirit of celebration. Single-event tickets go on sale on July 24; grab a subscription this week or be first in line on Monday, before headliners like Colson Whitehead and Viet Thanh Nguyen sell out.

Sponsors like Seattle Arts & Lectures make the Seattle Review of Books possible. Did you know you could sponsor us, as well? Get your stories, or novel, or event in front of our passionate audience. Take a glance at our sponsorship information page for dates and details.

The shop around the corner

The last few times I’ve gone into Barnes & Noble stores, I’ve come away depressed. The shelves are sparse more often than not, and the lack of customers means the store is overcome with an eerie silence. The only thing more depressing than an empty bookstore is an empty chain bookstore, with its weirdly atonal corporate signage and full bins of untouched fidget spinners.

On Saturday morning, during a short visit to Bellevue, I stopped in the downtown Bellevue Barnes & Noble for the first time. I was expecting the same depressing atmosphere I’ve found in all the other Barnes & Nobles lately. Instead, I happened upon what might be the best Barnes & Noble in the nation. The building, with its high wooden beams and large stage back in the children’s section, is enormous, but the shelves were well-stocked.

Better still, the staff was on their A-game. I saw booksellers greeting a few customers by name. The shelves were alphabetized and sections were generally cared for. Usually when a bookstore hits a period of decline, the first sacrifice is the alphabet; low-morale employees don’t have time to fix their sections, which makes books impossible to find, which drives customers away. I saw none of that here. It felt like a real bookstore, which is more than I can say for every other Barnes & Noble I've been in over the last year.

Back in the late 1990s, independent booksellers hated chain bookstores with a passion that sometimes scared friends and family. Now, though, the bookselling business has changed. I’ve talked with more than a few booksellers who hope Barnes & Noble manages to figure out a way to succeed, in part because if the chain fails many cities in the United States will not have a single bookstore. Those failing Barnes & Noble stores I visited could learn a lot from the downtown Bellevue store: good customer service and well-tended sections go a long way.

But not even a half-mile away, in the Bellevue Square Mall, a large mural promises that an Amazon Books store is opening in the autumn. The mural displays snippets of Amazon’s cheerful data-forward information, including a list of “Bellevue’s Most-Wished-For Fiction of All Time.” My eyes went straight to number six on the list: Atlas Shrugged. At that moment, it occurred to me how much Ayn Rand would love the America of 2017. So many people forced to fend for themselves, so many public figures fighting on behalf of corporate interest, such little empathy and understanding. She’d probably have to pinch herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming.

We’ve reached a point when Barnes & Noble, once the mighty Goliath that crushed so many foes, is now the David. I am rooting for them to survive the onslaught of Amazon Books. If they do survive, it will be on the strength of their staff, not through any corporate ingenuity or clever discounting scheme. In the end, it always has to do with people.

No pastors or pews: talking with Anastacia-Reneé

Anastacia-Reneé is a poet who knows how to read her work — she takes control of an audience by refusing to conform to standardized modes of delivery. She reads about eating pussy in a roomful of straight people and indicts structural racism in white-dominated spaces. She throws her voice out into the room, but also pulls you in with a whisper or an aside. There is a fusion to her performance style that has obviously taken years to perfect — a commingling of spoken word, black radical oration, theatrical exposition, intergenerational storytelling, queer gossip, and academic training.

So perhaps it is surprising that Anastacia-Reneé’s first two full-length collections of poetry arrive now, at age 45 (a third, smaller volume — Answer(Me) — will follow later this year). But this is emblematic of how the barriers to publishing often function to keep out writers who don’t follow the rules.

Reading Anastacia-Reneé’s two major collections at once offers a rare syncretism. The books are stylistically different and yet thematically interlocked. The first, (v.), just out from local publisher Gramma Poetry, captures the impact of white supremacy on black women and girls — the fracturing of the psyche, the invasion of the spirit, and the plundering of the soul. Using a variety of forms, including alphabetical lists, free-verse, fairy tales, and narrative footnotes, Anastacia-Reneé moves through the contemporary and historical terrain of anti-black, anti-woman, and anti-child violence to unwind the damage.

On the surface, Forget It, just out from Black Radish Press, is a more narrative work, but it is a narrative that shows how narrative fails. Part dreamscape, part surrealist horror story, and part letter to self, Forget It shows how legacies of abuse break bodies and texts. Written in the internalized language of trauma — of sound, speech, error, and dismembered remembrance — Forget It shows how the pain of fitting a life together winds its way through the shock of everyday experience.

I’ll be joining Anastacia-Reneé for the Forget It book launch at Elliott Bay Book Company on July 25 (alongside Jane Wong and Shankar Narayan). In advance of the reading, I sat down with Anastacia-Reneé to talk about her two new poetry collections and the terrain they create together.

It was fun to read your work on the page for the first time — of course I’ve seen you read many times, but there’s a whole new level of textual depth that opens up when I see the ways you’ve arranged the words on the page. I wonder if you could talk about the texts that are inside and around and underneath other texts.

I grew up with reference books — the kind you could actually lug around, hold, flip pages and stare at — medical dictionaries, regular dictionaries, encyclopedias and maps. In my writing I like to mimic reference books and get the reader’s attention while talking about more than one thing or topic or subtopic — or, better still, a thing the reader isn't supposed to know but now knows. Or a thing I feel like the reader should infer but might not.

I was told a lot when I was younger to be quiet, or it was implied in the ‘70s and ‘80s that girls should not use their voices. The texts and subtexts are also a way for me to say fuck that, and use so many different mediums and modes of communicating that it takes the reader a long time to process it.

One thing that strikes me throughout both books is your insistence on indicting not just white supremacy, but its constituent parts — how histories of violence interact in everyday experience, from police brutality to internalized oppression, pop culture to intimate relationships.

I seek to indict, interrogate, and insert feelings of injustice. Sometimes I just want the reader to feel something — but the possibility that one could walk away from some of the pieces and feel ambivalent or apathetic is a hard coffee drink to swallow. My ultimate goal is not to sit the folks down in a chair and say “Look what you did”; I would, rather, like them to be walking down a journey and say, “Hmm, perhaps I need to change some things and take a look at a bigger picture.”

The texts are always fractured, and this allows us to see into both the ways creative expression forms and the mechanisms of the structural violence that you explore. When you play with words, it seems to me that you’re taking apart language to reveal the structures of feeling that produce meaning, but also setting them free to create new meanings. One poem that does this in particular is “DE[COLONIZE],” from (v.), where you reveal the colon inside colonization, which, if functioning properly, could release toxins instead of poisoning us all, right?

Yes! I wondered, though, if the readers would get it, or if they would put together more toxins. There were so many versions of this poem, and I almost didn’t put it in the book for fear of not executing it in the way I wanted it to read, be, and feel on the page.

I think it’s one of the clearest poems in the book — and, by never letting go of the ways that misogyny and sexual violence are tools of white supremacy, you offer an intersectional analysis in a deeply embodied way, especially in the poems about rape, where the feeling of dissociation is palpable.

This is important for me to talk about, but not in a preachy kind of way. I tried my best to talk about it in a creative way. Less academic essay, but with academic nuances. Also, some days there’s just no nice way to say, “Black women are dying, daily. Black people are dying, daily.”

In many of the poems you explore intergenerational trauma. In “MASTER TALE,” you show how the legacy of slavery plays out in the contemporary workplace.

“MASTER TALE” is actually part of a series that I first began working on when my art installation "The fabric of our lives" debuted at the Northwest African American Museum. The installation talked about the dirty laundry of systemic racism and oppression and the DNA legacy of the feeling of this oppression, which is sometimes felt but not seen right away by the naked eye — especially by white people. In one part of the installation I asked participants to write modern-day letters to current-day masters, at work or in the larger world. “MASTER TALE” is my take on that, and my letter.

I love your confessions: “I’m the creepy girl in all the scary movies.” Even though these are in a smaller font at the bottom of the pages, they are the movement that propels (v.) forward — and, set apart by the same (v.) of the title — they are the action, the verbs, but also, if we look at your constructed alphabet, we see words like ventricle, voice, vortex, void, vampire — and, nine times, vagina. Tell us about the (v.) of the title.

The (v.) is for whatever the reader wants it to mean. For me it means verb or vagina or both. I wanted to give the reader agency.

In both books, it seems to me like you are deliberately resisting closure — you’re making the reader face all the brutality and possibilities head-on. Was this your intention?

I don't think I was intentionally trying not to let the reader get closure, but I did want the reader to be faced with real shit. I wanted the readers to feel as trapped as some people do in the real world where presentation or privilege — or point of view, even — is not a choice.

It seems to me that black authors who are canonized within the white gaze are often required to offer redemption as a strategy for hope. Would you say that you are refusing this type of hope?

Yes, the kind of hope I am offering is "I hope you learn something." "I hope you become a better ally." "I hope you feel something."

I was wondering if Seattle would come up directly in these books, and when it does, in Forget It, it’s as a city of dog-walking and urban gardens and liberal amnesia, where “we begin to think people on drugs don’t need food & shelter & water.” Talk about this city.

Ah, this city. For me it truly is like a lover I love but at times am so ready to break up with. I want to tell Seattle do better, be better, and sometimes I want to say you are not better. On the days when I say you are not better, it's usually because someone who comes off as "progressive" or "fair" or "diversity-trained" ends up being a racist or sexist or just a complete idiot and not even admitting it because they are a "change-maker." I get frustrated with this city because we still have one of the highest rates of homelessness, and youth homelessness. I get frustrated with this city because it feels like it wants to be LA, with less meat and less sun. I want Seattle to be herself but better.

I have moved a lot, and Seattle is the longest place where I have lived as an adult. There are mountains and water, and I do like the rain — I am teased often because I do not celebrate when the sun comes out and I don't cry during winter about there being rain. And once I moved back here in 2012, Seattle was my sanctuary. My church with no pastors or pews.

The Sunday Post for July 16, 2017

Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles good for slow consumption over a cup of coffee (or tea, if that's your pleasure). Settle in for a while; we saved you a seat. You can also look through the archives.

Real Men Might Get Made Fun Of

Lindy West isn’t a social justice warrior, she’s a social justice apocalypse. Unsurprisingly, she’s already taking heat for her new weekly column in the New York Times — the Internet’s creepiest denizens have very little sense of irony. Keep publishing petty insults in Reddit forums with unprintable names, trolls; Lindy’s in the NYT.

What we could really use, my guys, is some loud, unequivocal backup. And not just in public, when the tide of opinion has already turned and a little “woke”-ness might benefit you — but in private, when it can hurt.

One of my podcasting friends told me that he does stick up for women in challenging situations, like testosterone-soaked comedy green rooms, for instance, but complained, “I get mocked for it!”

Yes, I know you do. Welcome.

A disappearing pile of sand

In the wake of the debate over David Wallace-Wells’ New York magazine piece, which describes a catastrophically uninhabitable planet within a matter of decades, revisit this quiet, lyrical essay from last month’s Oxford American. It’s a telescope-to-microscope shift: Wallace-Wells imagines a worst-case outcome on a global scale; Molly McArdle brings it back to the coast of North Carolina and a family with generations of investment in, almost literally, a castle built on sand.

These days — as the weather everywhere grows steadily stranger, storms stronger, seas higher — I worry about the Outer Banks, surrounded by water and just barely above the waves. What does it mean to be from, and of, one of the most vulnerable places on Earth? The Midgetts felt like a key. Six years after I first took note of them, I started the nine-hour drive down the coast to find what I could unlock with it.
A blueprint for coexistence with artificial intelligence

Is it utopian or dystopian to posit a world in which humanity’s unique value proposition — against a growing force of AI workers — is providing a compassionate interface while machines do the real thinking? AI researcher Kai-Fu Lee’s experience with lymphoma gave him a new perspective on his life’s work.

The answer I propose would never have come to me when I was myself somewhat of an automaton, living to work rather than the other way around. It was only my cancer diagnosis, and the sudden realization of what my own stupidity had made me miss, that led me to my suggestion. Our coexistence with artificial intelligence hinges on combining what is humanly unattainable—the hugely scaled narrow AI intelligence that will only get better at any given domain—with what we humans can uniquely offer to one another. And that is love. What makes us human is that we can love.

Seattle Writing Prompts: The Dystopian Emotionalist Future of Our Ruined Commie-Red City

Seattle Writing Prompts are intended to spark ideas for your writing, based on locations and stories of Seattle. Write something inspired by a prompt? Send it to us! We're looking to publish writing sparked by prompts.

Also, how are we doing? Are writing prompts useful to you? Could we be doing better? Reach out if you have ideas or feedback. We'd love to hear.

We interrupt this writing prompts to call your attention to:

We're running a short story contest based on Seattle Writing Prompts, judged by Matt Ruff! Come and join the party, we can't wait to read your stories.

My god. It's true. We're ruined.

I first heard the news on the Fox Business Network. I know, comrades, I know I'm not allowed to watch such agitprop without proper dispensation from the thought-police station in my government-issued apartment block, but I hope none of you will report me. For I have heard the news, and the news must be shared!

Kennedy — no, not that one. Or that one. No, not that one either — remember Kennedy from MTV? Where mass media co-opted the idea of "alternative" to sell flannel, shampoo, and carefully packaged toothless "dissent"? Yes, that Kennedy — she has a show on Fox where apparently they let her speak freely of anything her heart desires, and this time her heart desired to return, at least in spirit, to her once-home, Seattle.

And hearing her sneering patter, her fist-clenching truth via the megaphone of her pure, uninfected, uninfluenced, and completely neutral broadcasting partner, brought me around to seeing just how fucked we are.

FACT: Kennedy has found out we increased the minimum wage to $15, and she is pissed. She sees right through our ruse of pretending to help poor people just to punish important business leaders. She has quoted an "ideologically diverse" study from the University of Washington (Hah! You and I both know we purged our city of ideological diversity on the same ballot we voted for the monorail!) that shows that low-wage workers are getting fewer hours under the new business-killing regime. And we're not even at $15 an hour yet! I'm sure there is no article that anyone has written that can dismantle the conservative framing of a higher wage for workers being actually negative for them.

FACT: The pinko-commie-redists on the city counsel enacted an income tax for Seattle richie-riches, and, as Kennedy wisely points out, Bill Gates doesn't live in Seattle, therefore this is a terrible idea! I'm confused how I'm supposed to feel about his support of a state income tax a few years ago. Does that mean he has to move to a tax-haven state? Is a state tax okay but a city one bad? And, since she's a constitutional scholar, she pointed out it's not even legal, so nobody should ever try to do such a thing to her. Who doesn't live in Seattle. And will never pay the tax. But oh my god how much she wants the rich people of Seattle to not move to Bellevue. She is so worried about us losing our tax base that she thinks we shouldn't tax it.

FACT: Gun violence is up in the city. Police say that increased gang violence is to blame, but don't listen to local "experts," listen to Kennedy, who clearly lays out her unimpeachable chain of factual events that made this happen: a $25 fee on guns sold in the city. Yes, that fee went into effect in 2016, which is the year that this one is so bad compared to, but, you know, some of these things take a while to really show their effects. It's good that Kennedy doesn't want us to have people who use guns pay for the damage they do with those guns, because she's for personal responsibility and also unintended consequences that never happen to point out that she's an ideologically driven fool.

No! She's a deep mind. A satirist of such high order that the problem is you can't understand her. Your grandpa understands her — just ask him. You can trust her because she donates her entire paycheck from her television show on Fox Business to the Cato Institute (I need to fact check that, so don't quote me). But anyway, I'm sure she's not another convenient conservative mouthpiece whose paycheck just happens to reinforce their narrow world view.

It got to me thinking about what a terrible place we live in, and how we need to come to grips with it. What better way than by some writing prompts.

Today's prompts
  1. They were at the door, clawing. She didn't know how long the lock would hold. She was doing what they wanted, those monsters. She was writing their paychecks. But didn't they understand? No business could afford $5,000 an hour as a wage. The checks were going to bounce. She was going to have to close the business her father built with his immigrant fingers, after coming here with nothing. The business that had put two hundred orphans through college thanks to their charitable program. Now she would have nothing to pass along to her own children. The wood gave, and there they were, coming through the door, pushing each other aside, chanting: "pay us what you owe us!" And in the front — no! it couldn't be! — was her son. Right next to her city council member.

  2. "We call it gun sanity," said the police chief. "Police won't carry guns anymore since they're outlawed by unconstitutional, but heavily enforced, local ordinances." The reporters were stunned. "But what if criminals try to shoot at your police officers?" one spat. "How can they enforce the law?" The police chief leaned into the microphone. "We have also done away with the laws."

  3. "Seattle Freeze! Come out to play!" the voice echoed down the block. Their rival gang, the Montlake Nirvanas, walked past the deserted guard stations of Broadmoor. Dressed in flannel and ripped jeans, with Ace Frehly face makeup, the Montlake Nirvanas were the fastest-growing gang in Seattle. All the Seattle Freeze wanted was to hold their ground. It wasn't their fault their millionaire parents moved away, abandoning them to the streets. All they had was Broadmoor, and they were gonna hold it. The massive speakers they lined the roads with amplified the needle drop by 300 watts. It was Bobby Sherman: The bluest skies you've ever seen are in Seattle, he sang as the Seattle Freeze appeared on the roofs of the houses surrounding the Montlake Nirvanas. Each one of them holding a bat.

  4. I was at the council meeting where it all happened. They voted, 9-0, to suspend all city government activity, and hand power over to the communist party. Immediately, I was held at illegally obtained gunpoint and asked to show my hands. And because I had a soft job — covering the city council for a local blog funded by a multi-national corporation with ties to coal interests — I was cast as educated class and put to work in the strawberry fields outside the city. Forced into manual labor to support the revolution.

  5. The billboard was a riff on the classic Seattle "Will the last person to leave Seattle please turn out the lights?" Given that there was no electricity in the city anymore, they had to replace the "turn out the lights" part with "blow out the candles." But great industries had risen here in the city. Industries of craft. Sometimes, if you had a good enough song, you could sing for a scarf. A night of entertainment for a meal and a place to sleep. And this young musician named Kurt might have, in another age, made millions of dollars and influenced culture. But today, all he cared about was finding someone who would trade him something good to eat for a few tunes. And his grumbling belly insisted that he find them right quick.