This is the first in a series of four posts honoring Alaska Quarterly Review‘s 35th Anniversary. ~ 49 Writers, Inc.
It took Alaska Quarterly Review (AQR) 37 years to reach this 35th season. If that math seems strange, we’re counting the time between the founding in 1980 and the first published edition in 1982. Nonetheless, the irrevocable passage of time has brought us to this moment that may be no different from any other. But it sure seems otherwise.
In the past we counted on artists, scholars, scientists, and journalists as reliable firewalls against ignorance. But increasingly there are powerful efforts to silence or marginalize these agents of understanding and change. Amazing advances in communication technologies that have connected us and bridged great distances around the globe in an instant have also, paradoxically, created a democratization of information that delegitimizes expertise and scholarship. In the freewheeling world of the Internet, social media, and 24/7 cable news, well-developed ideas and evidence-based presentations are often indistinguishable from mere opinion or outright lies. In the long term, the very survival of the planet as we know it may be at stake. And in the present, right now, we face strong nativist, misogynist, racist, and homophobic currents at home that threaten to tear apart the promise of our nation.
Silence is not an option. As The New Yorker’s David Remnick wrote in response to the 2016 presidential election, “despair is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals – that is what is left to do.” We at Alaska Quarterly Review agree. We also believe that as writers, poets, editors, and publishers, we must redouble our efforts to seek truth in all of its parts while creating every possible opportunity for compassion and empathy. In our view, the role of the arts has simply never been more crucial.
Alaska Quarterly Review has been and is of Alaska but not Alaskan. We have a global perspective, and, although we have published primarily American authors, our writers hail from a wide range of nations. On social media, AQR has links to people in more than 40 countries.
In this issue, the stories and the poems have been selected mostly from our large reservoir of unsolicited submissions from new and emerging writers. The issue’s special feature focuses on a land of extremes on the Pacific Rim: mountains, volcanoes, rainforest, and diverse peoples grappling with their past and future. This could describe our state. But it is Papua New Guinea, some 6,000 miles directly across the Pacific Ocean to Alaska’s southwest. “In the Footprint of the Crocodile Man: Memories, Myths and Contemporary Art of the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea” reminds us of the deceptively delicate strands that unite us all and weave the fabric of our shared human experience.
We mark this milestone edition with gratitude.
Ronald Spatz is Professor of English and founding dean of the Honors College at UAA. A former National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, Professor Spatz is a nationally recognized and influential literary editor. He is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Alaska Quarterly Review and the founder of LitSite Alaska. In addition to his published prose, Professor Spatz has also produced a number of short films that have aired on public television. His latest short film, SHAAWATKE’É’S BIRTH, is based on a poem in Tlingit and English by two UAS professors and poets, Emily Wall and X’unei Lance Twitchell. The film is airing this fall on public television statewide in Alaska and at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention. Professor Spatz has received two Alaska Governor’s Awards–one in the Arts and the other in the Humanities.
Listen to Ron Spatz on a recent episode of KNBA’s Morning Line discussing Alaska Quarterly Review.