The Great Land, the historical moniker of the state of Alaska, is a place of majestic beauty and vast wilderness teeming with wildlife where people still lead subsistence lifestyles. It is also a modern American state where its mainly urban citizenry busy themselves with trips to the supermarket, dinners with friends, and children’s play dates. The stories and poems in Building Fires in the Snow: A Collection of Alaskan LGBTQ Short Fiction and Poetry offer a window into these diverse lives from the viewpoint of the state’s dynamic Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning people.
A central theme of the anthology is the deep connection between LGBTQ Alaskans and the wilderness that surrounds them. Rugged nature has long been thought to be the domain of white heterosexual men who pit themselves against it in order to prove their (hetero) manhood. The stories and poems in Building Fires in the Snow tell a different narrative, not of conquering, but of finding one’s true identity through an intimacy with nature. While some works in the collection tell of wilderness survival, most relate day-to-day urban experiences lived in proximity with wild lands.
Although there have been other regional collections of LGBTQ literature, Building Fires in the Snow is the first from the unique perspective of Alaskan LGBTQ voices. Ours is a time of great change in the United States and Alaska regarding civil rights. These stories and poems capture what it is to live through such times—from the heyday boom of the 1970s oil pipeline to the more recent decisions granting marriage equality and equal rights protections.
Within the context of this social change, Building Fires in the Snow celebrates the diverse LGBTQ communities thriving in the cities and rural areas at the edge of Alaska’s rugged wilderness.