Kris Ide (left) signs a copy of his book for a visitor at the Skaguay News Depot. JB

Kris Ide’s Skagway Stories a celebration of life in town

Known to the outside world as a gold rush mecca turned tourism capital, Skagway is not mentioned in the guidebooks as a hotbed of literary activity. But local author Kris Ide is doing what he can to change that.
With Skagway Stories, his recently published collection of short fiction, Ide has produced a work firmly rooted in local tradition – a work that will establish the young writer as a significant voice in contemporary Alaskan literature.
A native of Buffalo, New York, Ide showed up on the banks of town four years ago with a backpack, a pocketknife and $20 after a spell wandering the lower 48. But his stories display an intimate knowledge of Skagway and a reverence for the community readers would expect from a longtime veteran of the town.
The nine stories in this slim volume are quite varied. They range from a piece of historical fiction about the demise of Soapy Smith, to fantastical visions of the town’s future, to a wonderful meditation on the trials and travails of meeting women in Skagway bars.
But the stories all share a common thread and a common inspiration: the people of Skagway itself.
“From the first day I came here I was inspired and amazed, and this book is a fraction of what I could write about this place. It’s the history, it’s the architecture, but mostly it’s the people,” said Ide.
Most of the stories set in modern times contain autobiographical elements. “One of the cardinal rules of writing is to write what you know, and I spend a lot of time getting to know myself,” he said.
But Ide weaves his autobiographical musings into a patchwork of fiction. “A lot of the details are true, but there’s also a lot of embellishment. If there wasn’t, they wouldn’t be good stories,” said Ide.
He writes in a loose stream-of-consciousness style, a style that invites readers deep into his characters’ psyches. And those characters are forged with a realism that any local reader should recognize – they’re straight from the mountainsides, streets and barrooms of Skagway.
Ide wrote the stories over a period of about four months this winter, and the book was made available to the public at a June 4 release party at the Red Onion, a day before Ide’s birthday.
“I signed over a hundred books that night. It filled me with so much wonderment that people care that much,” he said.
Though Skagway Stories is Ide’s first published piece of work, it’s far from his only literary endeavor. This winter he has plans to expand one of the stories, “The Battle of Haven Rift,” into a longer piece, as well as produce a third draft of a novel he’s been working on. – GREY HUDDLESTON