The new Alaska apocalypse and its authors

When I wrote my novel “The Raven’s Gift,” I envisioned a pandemic of sorts sweeping across Alaska and sending us into the kind of apocalypse the original inhabitants of Alaska endured when outside forces first set foot here to reap the benefits of our rich state. That was a work of fiction, with the antagonist not Alaskan, at best meant to entertain and be a bit of a cautionary tale. Not in my wildest dreams, did I imagine the threat to Alaska would come from within, our own people actively seeking to send Alaska into the Dark Ages with claims of a balanced budget as their justification.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and his administration are a nightmare worse than anything I envisioned for Alaska, because they are real and pose an imminent threat to the health and well-being of our economy, our children, our elders and the future of our state. We’re being told that we’re running out of money, that the sky is falling, and that the only option on the table is cutting. Cutting vital services. Cutting health care. Cutting education. Cutting programs that feed and house the elderly and homeless. Cutting funding to humanities and public radio and television. This sounds like a bloodletting, an apocalyptic vision to save us. Dunleavy is stealing my plot line here, except that my vision was a story meant to be about Alaskans banding together to save culture, the elderly and the children. His plan is something darker and more sinister. Education and the kids no longer matter. And the lessons from Velma Wallis’ classic novel “Two Old Women” are being ignored: Who needs the elders? Let them fend for themselves, while we fight over the scraps.

But this story has a few plot holes.

Gov. Dunleavy isn’t the sole author in this horror story. He’s brought in a ghost writer, Donna Arduin, a conflicted author with some sordid stories of her own, who doesn’t know how Alaska operates. She’s like all the other non-Alaskans who come here and try to write a story set in Alaska. She got us all wrong. What Arduin and the others penning this plan don’t seem to get is that Alaska is different. The setting is unlike anywhere else. We have needs and a history that doesn’t fit their simplistic plan to break out a sharp ax to solve problems. The old trope of “small government” doesn’t work in a massive state with Third World living conditions and populations across the expanse still suffering from the last apocalypse it survived. They don’t understand that a “balanced budget” can’t be balanced on the back of our most vulnerable, and that balance also means being fair and equitable.

If I could be so bold, I’d like to offer these amateur authors of our future despair one little bit of advice: Quit relying on a contrived and weak plot with no hope and no vision for a brighter tomorrow. There are some twists and turns in this story coming, but nothing Dunleavy can be prepared for. Even the characters involved in the resource industry side of the story, at least the Alaskans with kids in school or who want to grow old here themselves, aren’t going to want to be cast as the bad guys. What Dunleavy, Arduin and the others who support this gutting of our state don’t realize is that Democrats, Republicans and independents are coming together to change this narrative. We’re seeing through the thinly crafted plot to line to pockets of a few characters at the expense of the rest of us in this story. We’re not going to sit back and let them author a story of our doom. Alaska has already endured its fair share of apocalyptic epidemics, earthquakes, recessions and bad end of the world novels. We’ve heard this story, and we’re closing this horrible book.

Don Rearden grew up in Bethel and is an alumnus of UAF and UAA, a former rural high school teacher and now a professor at UAA. His latest work, “Warrior’s Creed,” comes out in July.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Don Rearden

Don Rearden, author of the novel "The Raven's Gift," lives and writes in Anchorage, but often pretends he's still back somewhere on the tundra outside of Bethel.