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David James is an Alaskan author and literary critic whose work has been published by the Anchorage Daily News, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Anchorage Press, Alaska Dispatch News, and Ester Republic. He is editing a forthcoming anthology of Alaska writing.


Recent posts
Monica Devine, a retired speech therapist whose work took her to the far corners of Last Frontier, reflects on her travels and the many lessons learned in Water Mask, a new essay collection that explores "the varied landscapes and cultures found across Alaska, [with] an almost zen-like focus on tiny details, all of it delivered with a sense of linguistic imagery that at time evokes visual artworks, placed on exhibit in the minds of readers."

Learn more about it here.

To mark the close of their summer-long special showing of of the traveling exhibit Death in the Ice: The Mystery of the Franklin Expedition, the Anchorage Museum held a symposium featuring five speakers who shed light on what is presently known, and what new questions have arisen regarding the largest disaster in the history of Arctic exploration. The role of Inuit oral history in helping to unravel key parts of the still mysterious disappearance and demise of 129 men was the primary topic, while the increasingly apparent likelihood that some survivors returned to the abandoned vessels and made one last attempt at escape was also discussed at length. A summary of the day's events can be found here.

"Then, in 2014, the wreck of the command vessel, the Erebus, was found in Queen Maud Gulf, far to the south of where the note said the ships were abandoned. Two years later, the Terror was found, ironically enough, in Terror Bay, on King William Island’s southwestern flank. For …
Fairbanks artist Todd Sherman creates life-size animal cutouts that he carefully paints with realistic images, lending viewers a sense that they are directly meeting the depicted creatures. Sherman talks about his work, his life in Fairbanks, and his university days in New York City here.

“My first exhibit where they were all cutouts was 10 years ago,” he said. “I had it at the Annex. I filled that whole space with cutouts. On the wall, hanging from the ceiling, on pedestals and stands throughout the room. The viewer would have to walk among all these animals. That’s kind of what I wanted.
“People think of it as artwork. But I want people to realize that these are symbols for creatures that used to be much more readily seen by our own species. But not so much now.”
Russell Potter is one of the best known experts on the Franklin Expedition, the failed 1845 attempt at finding the Northwest Passage, which left both ships lost for a century-and-a-half and all the men dead, the last stragglers resorting to cannibalism. Potter coined the term "Franklin Fever" to describe how the story obsesses certain people, leaving them unable to quit thinking and reading about it. As a fellow sufferer of the condition, I've found his writings on the topic to be the best around. He and several other experts will take part in a day-long symposium at the Anchorage Museum this Saturday, September 21. 


I'll be there, and in advance I got to interview Potter. He told me, "It's one of those stories that is fairly simple to relate, and yet which has numerous unresolved aspects which can easily lead people down the rabbit holes. And some people love going down them. It also has pretty powerful historical significance. And there is always more …
The fate of the Erebus – and its sister ship the Terror – has captivated and confounded nations and individuals alike for over a century-and-a-half. And then in short order both wrecks were discovered in Arctic waters during this decade. A new book follows the Erebus from the shipyard onward, touring the Mediterranean, heading southward for its years-long triumphant tour of the Antarctic coastal regions, then off in search of the Northwest Passage, where it vanished along with all of its crew in the late 1840s. The author is someone who has entertained and enlightened us for decades.

"One of the more prominent victims of Franklin Fever is Michael Palin, and for this we should be grateful. The author, television host, Monty Python alum, and all-around polymath has turned his attention to the story of the lead ship, turning out one of the most enjoyably readable books about 19th century British maritime excursions and the Royal Navy’s most famous nonmilitary failure to be ha…
I've launched a new periodic column with the Anchorage Press called Essential Alaska Reads, where I will be revisiting older books about Alaska that still hold up well and are worth rereading, or, if you haven't read them, picking up now. First out the gate, "The Grizzly Maze" by well-known Alaska writer Nick Jans. It follows the troubled life of bear activist Timothy Treadwell, documents the circumstances that led up to the fatal bear mauling of him and Amie Huguenard in Katmai National Park in 2003, and explores the aftermath, revealing along the way that more can be learned from the tragedy than might initially appear.

"Following the attack he was savaged in the state’s newspapers, and his chances of faring well with any Alaska writer seemed even more remote than Kaflia Bay, where he died. Thus Treadwell was fortunate that the Alaskan who did chronicle his life and examine his death was the well-established author Nick Jans. In his 2005 book, “The Grizzl…
Shayla Sackinger grew up in Fairbanks. From childhood she was drawn to the avian world congregating on her family's property, as well as the fantasy world of online gaming. Then she started drawing. In her final year at University of Alaska Fairbanks where she's double majoring in art and Japanese studies, she combines those growing influences (as well as a hint of cartooning) in the lively pieces she creates. She tells her story in the latest installment of the Creating Alaska series.


“Birds have always been a constant. I live out in the middle of Goldstream, we’re in the middle of a swamp. We’ve got lots of ducks. We also get sandhill cranes. But I’m also a huge gamer. In high school it was half art, half games. I would draw during my classes, then at home I would game. Rinse and repeat.”