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.