In the novel Faultline 49, 24-year-old author Joseph MacKinnon artfully blends a gritty tale of war-torn Canada from the perspective of a journalist. The story is a fictional recasting of the events of 9/11 and it’s a premise that has a few people disjointed.
“It’s an alternate history and I wanted to explore that with this fictional author,” MacKinnon says of his decision to use a pen name. “We all know that books sell better posthumously and I wanted to blur that line between reality and fiction just a little further.”
MacKinnon is speaking of David Danson, a character in his novel who also gets the byline credit for this publishing debut. MacKinnon, who is based in Ontario, went so far as to create LinkedIn and Tumblr accounts for his alter ego.
Danson (the character) is a journalist of the life-coming-apart-at-the-seams variety. He becomes entwined with a group of rebel fighters called the Yukon Sprites after the bombing of the World Trade Centre in the oil capital of the country — Edmonton, Alberta.
“What resonates with people when you talk about National sovereignty is Arctic Sovereignty,” says MacKinnon of why Yukon features so prominently in his novel.
His preoccupation with the Yukon grew when MacKinnon’s brother visited our territory.
“After his visit, I wanted to travel the Yukon and I did, in a way, through visual mediums like Google Maps and reams and reams of both historical and pictures of the present.”
Faultline 49 features Danson’s dispatches as he spins into the war-torn nether regions in the North. Tundra and desolation pepper the narrative, while the Sprites leader’s self-immolation drives the desperation of life during war into our periphery.
“As Canadians, we can go the street to buy X, Y, and Z but when an occupying force and curfews come into play all of these things we take for granted become far more valuable,” MacKinnon explains.
By bringing the conflict closer to home he hopes that we might reflect a little more on our consumption of war and how we interact with the media that gathers information for us.
“The ways in which these wars are depicted, the flashy intros and how they are presented, furthers the culture and rhetoric of fear,” MacKinnon says. “This feedback loop of the media perpetuates the war instead of criticizes it so it’s certainly a preoccupation of mine to bring that to people’s attention.”
For inspiration, he looked to other writers based in war-torn regions, specifically Joe Sacco, a graphic novelist and journalist from Oregon. In the dearth of sensationalist coverage he saw Sacco as a ray of hope from which to birth Danson.
“Insofar as war is concerned, he’s aware that it’s not just State against State,” MacKinnon says. “He looks at the ramifications for people. He looks at the personal impact on the micro level. That’s something that’s lacking in most reportage.”
The novel Faultline 49 is available in digital versions and as a paperback through www.Faultline49.com and Amazon.ca and the publisher anticipates having hard copies in Yukon stores by May. The price is $14.50 for paperbacks and $9.99 for e-readers.