Novelist Fred Stenson’s new book is “Who By Fire”. the main character engages in a real life battle that causes strife in his community, his family and is the source of his son’s constant guilt throughout his career in the oil patch.
“It’s hard to talk about this novel without lapsing off into the issue of oil sands development,” Stenson says. The author acknowledges writing about Alberta’s oil industry, is controversial in a province where there seems little room for negotiation on the issue.
On top of that, Stenson’s family history involves a lawsuit against Big Oil that resulted in a landmark, out-of-court settlement in the early 1970s. So he knew casting a literary gaze on the oil patch would lead to assumptions from some readers. Is it autobiographical? Is it merely a vessel for Stenson to deliver an anti-oil message?
“Someone asked me ‘Does the novel have a bias?’” says Stenson. “There’s this idea afoot that balance means you always come out in the middle. I think, well, if the truth is not in the middle, you have no business being in the middle. You should let the truth land where it lands. If that happens to be towards one end or the other, is that bias? I don’t think so. The thing is, my affection is not for any particular industry. I’m very fond of this province — it’s my home, it’s what I write about it, it’s probably what I will probably always write about. You try and reflect that world. The selection of the issue means that I have to deal with the issues. So I went into that with my eyes wide open.”
It’s not a stretch Stenson would write about what many believe to be the province’s life blood. The author, who ran unsuccessfully as a Liberal during the 2012 provincial election, admits there are elements of Who By Fire that oil industry proponents “will not agree with.” Still, Stenson laments the increasingly intolerant us-vs-them mentality.
“It’s Team Oil,” Stenson says, “versus Team Environment” and there is no middle ground.
(S0urce: The Calgary Herald)