New Star Blogs

All Possible Worlds: The Missing Chapter

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In 1995, New Star Books pub­lished All Pos­si­ble Worlds by Jus­tine Brown, Num­ber 5 in our Trans­mon­tanus series.  Ms Brown’s account of half a dozen emblem­at­ic BC utopias, or inten­tion­al com­mu­ni­ties, was orig­i­nal­ly going to have a chap­ter on a mys­te­ri­ous com­mune in the remote Yalakom Val­ley, north of Lil­looet, cen­tred around a bril­liant and charis­mat­ic SFU pro­fes­sor manque, Fred Brown.

But no mat­ter how per­va­sive, and intrigu­ing, the sto­ries sur­round­ing this com­mune were, they proved impos­si­ble to track down.  Was this mys­te­ri­ous Yalakom enclave even still going?  Nobody seemed to be able to say any­thing for sure.  So the chap­ter nev­er hap­pened, and All Pos­si­ble Worlds was pub­lished with­out that sto­ry.

A gen­er­a­tion lat­er, in the present age, I encoun­tered a video on the inter­net of my mod­est, and now retir­ing, col­league Judith Plant, pub­lish­er at New Soci­ety Pub­lish­ers, accept­ing an award (I for­get which) rec­og­niz­ing some of her con­tri­bu­tions.  Judith gave a lit­tle talk that was par­tic­u­lar­ly rich for that sort of thing, and I watched, fas­ci­nat­ed.

There was lots of inter­est­ing Cana­di­an pub­lish­ing his­to­ry, a genre I can’t resist.  But more than that, it was the sto­ry of Judith’s life path (so far).  And in the mid­dle of her sto­ry, there it sud­den­ly appeared:  the lost chap­ter from All Pos­si­ble Worlds.

In the video, Judy was talk­ing about the ear­ly years of her life with Kip, a.k.a. Christo­pher Plant, her part­ner in pub­lish­ing, par­ent­ing, and life, until Parkinson’s end­ed that part in 2013.  She told the sto­ry of their meet­ing, on the com­mons at Simon Fras­er Uni­ver­si­ty; of the course they took togeth­er from the bril­liant pro­fes­sor Fred Brown, and of their adven­ture, fol­low­ing Fred away from the city and into his remote Shangri-la in the Coast Moun­tains.  That’s Judith and Kip, on the far right of the group shot above.

Cul­ture Gap: Towards a New World in the Yalakom Val­ley, Judith’s account of her family’s Yalakom Val­ley adven­ture, pub­lish­es today, May 25.  Watch this space for infor­ma­tion about launch­es in Gabri­o­la Island, Vic­to­ria, and Van­cou­ver, as these firm up.  Cul­ture Gap is avail­able from fin­er book­sellers every­where, includ­ing the People’s Co-op Book­store and our own web­site.