Craig Russell’s second novel, "Fragment," has landed him on the short list for a Manitoba Book Award.
The Brandon author describes his latest fictional work as an "ecological thriller," as the story imagines what would happen if an ice shelf the size of France were to break off into the ocean by avalanching glaciers.
"There are some scientists who work at a research station near that. Their station is destroyed and a lot of their colleagues are killed, but they survive," Russell said. "The story follows them through what happens afterwards ... It follows the fragment out into the ocean and how it then affects the world, and politics and the way in which different countries approach the disaster."
Russell’s interest in the Canadian Arctic began some 40 years ago when he was a university student. He had the opportunity to work for the Department of National Defence in the Arctic at a weather station.
"This was a summer job, and quite a fantastic experience for a young guy from Carman, Manitoba," he said. "It made a real impression on me, the environment there. When I arrived the sun was down, of course, in spring there was night 24 hours a day and the ice on the bay was 15 feet thick."
He has kept a close eye on changes in the Arctic and the Antarctic, such as the breakup of the Larsen Ice Shelf. Back in the 1990s, Larsen A broke off, followed by Larsen B in 2002.
A large section of the Larsen C shelf broke away in July 2017, which was not long after Fragment was published.
"It seemed like after we published it, it was a little too much on the money," Russell said.
"Fragment," published by Thistledown Press, is on the shortlist for the Michael Van Rooy Award for Genre Fiction. Russel joins three other nominees in this category: "The Bootlegger’s Confession" by Allan Levine, "The Mermaid’s Tale" by D.G. Valdron, and "Strangers — Book 1 of The Reckoner Series" by David A. Robertson.
The awards are organized by the Manitoba Writers’ Guild with the assistance of the Association of Manitoba Book Publishers. The awards ceremony will take place on Friday at the University of Manitoba.
Russell is a longtime Brandonite, and a recently retired lawyer. His first book, "Black Bottle Man" was also a finalist for two Manitoba Book Awards. In 2011, it won the American Moonbeam Award gold medal for Young Adult Fantasy.
Russell is already working on his third novel, which he said is a return to the fantasy world.
"‘Fragment’ in a sense is science fiction, looking into the future and seeing what could happen," he said. "The other books are looking into the past and adding a fantastical element to the lives of ordinary people."
» Twitter: @jillianaustin