Flin Flon and the book that gave the town its name has garnered the attention of one of America’s best-known authors.
J.E. Preston Muddock’s 1905 dimestore novel The Sunless City was a topic of discussion for a recent video by author John Green, posted on the Vlogbrothers Youtube account shared by John and his brother, fellow author Hank Green.
Green is known for a body of work that includes eight full-length books, including the 2012 novel The Fault in Our Stars, which was adapted to the big screen in 2014. Several of Green’s books have debuted at the top of the New York Times’ Best Seller list and Green has appeared on Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World list.
Online, the Greens have massive followings on social media sites, including Youtube - where almost 3.5 million people are subscribed to the Vlogbrothers account - and Twitter, where Green has 4.6 million followers. The video featuring Flin Flon's namesake was shared on both. The video, as of press time, has been seen over 100,000 times on Youtube.
A film based on one of Green’s novels, his 2017 book Turtles All The Way Down, is in the works - it is through production on that film that Green was introduced to Flin Flon and Muddock’s work. In the video, Green said he had been alerted to the existence of the book by Tracey Poirier, a second assistant director on the film. Poirier is originally from Flin Flon and spoke about the book that provided her hometown with its name, eventually mailing Green a copy. When Green ended up with COVID-19 earlier this month and was stuck at home, the book arrived, almost as if on cue, to provide the author with some bizarre bygone reading material.
“As the grandson of somebody from Skullbone, Tennessee, I have long been fascinated by unusual place names and Tracey explained to me that Flin Flon got its name from a novel, The Sunless City, published in 1905,” said Green in the video.
“Now, I have a longstanding rule that if a friend gives me a strange, out-of-print book, I read it, because you never know when you're going to discover one last literary treasure and I told Tracey about this. Then, just as COVID-19 was settling upon my house, what should arrive in my mailbox but The Sunless City.”
In the video, Green discusses the plot points of the book itself, which sees the character whose name lends itself to the town, Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin, take on a journey into the centre of the earth to find a society almost completely opposite of that on the planet’s surface. Most of Green’s analysis focuses on the survival of the book, one of around 50 written by Muddock, against all odds. The book itself, Green argues, would have likely been lost to time, like other works of its age. Instead, the story has lived on through its protagonist's name and its link to Tom Creighton, who along with guide David Collins found the ore body that gave rise to the city we call home.
“The book hasn't survived because of its story - it's survived because of its protagonist’s incredible name,” Green said.
“When a Canadian prospector named Tom Creighton came across a large and deep vein of copper, he decided to name his mine the Flin Flon mine because he just read The Sunless City. The town that grew up around that mine came to be called Flin Flon as well. Flin Flon is going through a hard time - the biggest mine in the town is closing this year, but it continues on, and as long as it does, the best of J.E.P Muddock’s work will also survive. I find that kind of lovely.”