from the fourth Kate Shugak novel


“One more thing,” King said. “Can you pass a drug screen?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You’ll have to pass a drug screen. And you’ll be required to sign a loyalty oath.”

“Am I going to work on the North Slope or am I joining the American Nazi Party?”

Childress flushed a dark red. “It’s standard procedure for all prospective employees to sign a loyalty oath.”

Kate looked at Jack. “I drove fifty miles on a snow machine and spent eight hours on a train that stopped for moose every two feet so I could pee in a bottle, pledge allegiance to the corporate flag and freeze my ass off on the edge of the Arctic Ocean?”

Fun fact: I worked on the TransAlaska Pipeline for Alyeska Pipeline at Galbraith Lake Pipeline Camp in 1975 and for BP in the oil field at Prudhoe Bay from 1976 to 1982. It was an amazing experience, especially watching operations and personnel shift from exploration and development to production. I started as an innkeeper checking workers into rooms, moved up to communications technician answering phones, telexing drilling reports, and fielding emergency calls and dispatching, and was then elevated to tour guide, because everyone in the world wanted to come see how you build an oil field in the Arctic and the people who had real jobs didn’t have time to tour them around.

I had to learn the oil field from bottomhole up if I wanted anyone to believe what I was telling them, and that experience, mastering just enough knowledge of oil field tech to be credible, gave me the confidence later on to write science fiction. Some of the scenes in the Asteroid Belt in A Handful of Stars come directly from things I saw and stories I heard during my time on the Slope.

And you better believe it informed Kate’s experiences there.

Chatter Kate Shugak

Dana View All →

Author and founder of

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. You know how much I adore “A Handful of Stars”, and because I read those three long before Kate was introduced to me (nice lady in the Gift Shop off the lobby in the Hotel Captain Cook), Kate and crew intrigued me.

  2. Did you ever find the real purpose for Slick Um? :). I was at the pipeline exhibition outside of Fairbanks a month ago and was thinking about that 😂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: