Selected Books and Essays

Fire - a biography
A thumbnail history of fire on Earth and the role of fire's keystone species
The two fires of Fort McMurray
Interpreting the Fort McMurray fire through the two grand realms of planetary combustion
What should we do with Smokey Bear?
Fire on Earth - talks and texts
Some images as the audience saw me at TED. A companion text for Aeon.
A sideways observation
Sketch of Buzz Aldrin from watching his performance at MIT+150 on the future of exploration.
Writing manual
Art and craft of writing nonfiction books, especially history.
Centennial fire
Historical survey of the Great Fires, their context and consequences.
Geographic exploration
A group of books organized around the concept of three great ages of discovery
Fire on Earth
Includes fire histories for Earth, America, Canada, Australia, and Europe including Russia. Other books on fire management.
Grand Canyon Suite
The Grand Canyon provides a setting, at least in part, for several books.

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Smokechaser Steve

It all began when, a few days after high school, 18 years old, I joined the forest fire crew at the North Rim of Grand Canyon. I returned for 15 seasons. Everything Iíve written, even the fact I write at all, dates from those years on the Rim.

Meanwhile I went to Stanford University (1967-71) and then to graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin (1972-1976). I took the training I had in historical scholarship and applied it to themes that emerged out of my Canyon years. I wrote a biography of G.K. Gilbert, a geologist and explorer in the region; then about wildland fire, its history and management; then about the Canyon and comparable Earth features. The roster expands like a chambered nautilus, but always with its origin on the Rim. The stories of exploration now include not only the Canyon but Antarctica and the planets (see Great Ages of Discovery). The survey of fire now includes all the continents, at least in parts, with separate histories for the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Europe including Russia (Cycle of Fire). The Rim organizes its own cluster (Grand Canyon suite). My interest in writing has even led to a book about nonfiction writing (Voice and Vision).

My current projects continue to elaborate on these topics. Voyager is the latest in my series on the three great ages of discovery. My early work on earth science and the humanities morphed into a project with my daughter Lydia V. Pyne, a book-length interpretive essay that we have called The Last Lost World: Ice Ages, Human Origins, and the Invention of the Pleistocene. I continue to take small steps toward a fire history of Mexico.

But the big news is a multi-book endeavor that will survey the past 50 years of American fire history. Between Two Fires will provide the play by play narrative, and To the Last Smoke, the color commentary. Check out the project website.

More on the author. I have been at Arizona State University since 1985. I spent 10 years at ASU West, three in the History Department at the Tempe, and have since been in the School of Life Sciences. For courses I teach and other university business, see my ASU webpage.

If you want to know more, I was asked to write an intellectual autobiography, now posted at "Making History from Fighting Fire".

For a tribute to my graduate adviser, William H. Goetzmann, see "A Beautiful Mind".

For a video of a public lecture at Oregon State University in November, 2012," click "Words on Fire from a Scholar on Fire".


and now