[Editor’s note: It’s been a wild time in Alberta. The notorious Free Alberta Strategy was launched last September and its impacts continue apace. Tyee contributing editor Crawford Kilian, always eager to help aspiring writers, offers some collegial advice to the Strategy’s authors.]
Dear Rob Anderson, Barry Cooper and Derek Von —
Thank you for showing me your pitch for your Free Alberta Strategy. I assume it’s been around for a few months, but it didn’t get much attention until recently. I think I know why and how to fix the problem.
You’re obviously thinking big: a multi-volume series of novels and maybe a streaming series about the liberation of a suffering province. I see it as Ayn Rand fighting for Alberta in the Hunger Games.
It’s an ambitious idea for a sci-fi political thriller, and since two of you are lawyers and the third is a professor of political science, your expertise could provide many plausible details. But after opening many science fiction and fantasy novels I have to tell you that your idea needs editing.
First: Show, don’t tell. This is simple storytelling, boys. They give us words like ‘intolerable’, ‘relentingly attacked’, ‘our prosperity stifled’ and ‘plundered the resources and wealth of Alberta’s citizens’.
So show us the attacks. Demonstrate us the plunder. Demonstrate us suffocation. Let’s see the RCMP evict the cattle and burn down the ranch houses, repossess the pickup trucks and trailers. Then your readers will say, “Wow, that’s unbearable!” – and they’ll want to know how you’re getting Alberta out of this mess.
For that you need a solution – a hero who symbolizes the province, someone that readers can identify with and support. I know Danielle Smith is a huge fan of the Free Alberta strategy, but to be honest right-wing heroines (think Marjorie Taylor Greene) are hard to sell these days.
Ayn Rand’s fingerprints are all over your idea, so maybe an oilfield John Galt, a mysterious visionary individualist whose ideas and projects are consistently shot down by overpaid and underemployed Ottawa bureaucrats.
Just as he’s about to pack his bags and head off to a sane petrostate like Saudi Arabia or Russia, a handful of nearly bankrupt ranchers and truck drivers beg his help. Our John Galt is assembling a band of his old robber buddies – think the Magnificent Seven – to break Ottawa’s grip.
Before you know it, John and the old gang have put together a stunning PowerPoint covering all the key points of the Free Alberta Strategy – Alberta Police, Alberta Courts, Alberta Banks and Pension Plans and Unemployment Insurance, all based on the Alberta Sovereignty Act.
The law states that Ottawa Albertans will ignore any federal laws they do not like. If Ottawa resists, too bad—sovereign Alberta becomes the Republic of Western Canada. (The plot is genius, by the way – every utopia is based on a key document. And it’s even better that we don’t really know what’s in it.)
But nation building isn’t the walk in the park your pitch describes. You must pressure John and his buddies, putting obstacles in their way so that they can show their character, skills and natural goodness. Here are some ideas of what might be stressing her out:
Indigenous people rise in revolt. Their absence from your pitch is a big problem. Better for John and his buddies to convince them with a promise to restore all their original lands. (Just kidding – I know that would be the whole province.)
Nobody shops. Nobody wants to be an Alberta policeman, judge or accountant. Bankers hate the Free Alberta idea because other banks don’t deal with them. Workers fear they will lose what they have paid into Canada’s pension plan. Teachers and health workers are leaving the province. Businesses recognize that Canada and the US will impose heavy tariffs on Alberta oil, gas, beef and grain. How does John and his friends overcome this resistance and win the hearts and minds of Albertans? You’ll think of something, I know.
Everyone hates Alberta. BC digs up the TMX pipeline and bills Edmonton. Albertans need visas to enter Canada, let alone the US. The pro sports teams are kicked out of their leagues. A great opportunity for some creative plot twists as John and his gang blame socialist hippies in BC and international foundations funded by George Soros.
Canada rallies troops on Alberta borders, like Putin with Ukraine. Alberta Premier John Galt dons a khaki t-shirt and takes to social media to raise money for guns (he can’t really tax his people because they don’t like taxes and they’re broke). Maybe get guns and soldiers from American states like Wyoming and Idaho? Your call. But shots always solve many plot problems. As Lenin is said to have said, “What’s the point of a revolution if you can’t shoot anybody?”
Fossil fuel price drops to $10 a barrel. Her pitch is contingent on maintaining Alberta’s freedom to be a petrostate. But as I’ve learned, you never pitch an editor to just one. How about if John Galt and company invented controlled nuclear fusion and finally offered the world clean energy from Alberta? You’re in sci-fi land, after all, so fusion is as plausible as the idea that we can burn oil and gas forever. Or we bring in Danielle Steel as a feisty scientist with a formula for pumping carbon dioxide into tailings ponds and turning it into ranch dressing.
Finally: guys, get an agent. They preach to a very small congregation here and have competition like the Independence Party of Alberta. You need to reach a much larger audience if you want to monetize the Free Alberta strategy. An agent can show you how to hype it up for millions of others to join, and help you create spin-offs like the Free Saskatchewan Strategy, the Free Nova Scotia Strategy… You get the idea.
I’m just brainstorming here trying to figure out how I can help you monetize the Free Alberta Strategy. It’s such a big idea, but you have to dramatize it. As a dramatic, shoot-’em-up, wish-granting epic, it could be a viable franchise.
However, as it is, it is only a fantasy.