The son of a geologist, Rick Bass seemed in the process of following in his father’s footsteps, graduating with a degree in geology from Utah State University in 1979 and subsequently moving to Mississippi to work as a petroleum geologist in charge of prospecting for new wells. But shortly after finishing college he began to write magazine articles about hunting and fishing, work that led to the publication of his first two books of essays, The Deer Pasture (1985) and Wild to the Heart (1987). Bass has subsequently published more than a dozen works of fiction and nonfiction, including the recent short story collection For a Little While (2017).
In 1987 Bass moved with his family to the Yaak Valley in the northwest corner of Montana to dedicate himself to writing full time. Two years later he published a memoir of his time as a geologist in Mississippi, Oil Notes, and his first collection of stories, The Watch, which won the 1988 PEN/Nelson Algren Award. The title story, set in the piney woods and swamps of central Mississippi, also won a 1989 O. Henry Award. The central theme of the collection is the passage of time and people’s relation to it. Concerns regarding humans and their temporal, physical, and spiritual connections to the natural world have become the defining characteristic of Bass’s work. Bass has called Montana the state of his “rebirth,” and in his writings the wilderness is often the source of a revitalizing power. In works such as Winter: Notes from Montana (1991), In the Loyal Mountains (1995), The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness (1997), The Hermit’s Story, The Diezmo (2005), and Why I Came West: A Memoir (2008), Bass explores the nature and potential of this power, and he has earned a reputation as significant writer and activist.
A founding member of the Yaak Valley Forest Council, which works for conservation and restoration in the area, Bass continues to live and work in northwestern Montana.
- Bonnie Lyons and Bill Oliver, eds., Passion and Craft (1998)
- O. Alan Weltzien, ed., Literary Art and Activism of Rick Bass (2001)