Short Story Squee & Snark
An SF&F short story club. Fantastic reading makes for fantastic discussions.
“Flightcraft” by Iona Sharma [Short story]
Read the story:
Excuse me for not commenting much lately. I’ve been distracted by preparing to move.
Another magazine I don’t know! Awesomeness. 🙂
I don’t have a ton to comment on this one. I enjoyed it; it was light but not without gravity; it had some interesting paper-and-symbol magic that I liked.
I don’t feel like it went for a major conflict or intriguing stakes, but on the other hand I don’t feel like it was trying to, in particular. It’s showing an interesting corner of activity, hope, and concern; no more and no less.
I was a bit unimpressed by this one. I chose it because I’d liked the author’s "Quarter Days", which was likewise set in an alternate post-World-War-I with magic (a different magic system). That had good characters and a sense of their place in the social changes going on, but this one is seriously underdeveloped. Might have been good at novella length, but badly needed more defined characters and a stronger sense of the setting. For most of the story there’s not much focus, and by the time Cat and Talitha have their conversation about the dubious morality of war work we still don’t know them well enough for it to have much impact, I thought. (Also, minor quibble, I see no reason for it to be in present tense. I’m old-fashioned enough to see that as a new fad that’s too common now; it’s meant to draw the reader into the immediacy of the tight-third-person point of view, but I don’t think it is any better than past tense at that.)
One thing that does interest me is that it coincidentally was published almost the same time as the novel "Rag and Bone" by K. J. Charles, which involves a very similar magic, done by writing, which can be (but is strictly forbidden to be) powered by the vital energies of the practitioner, or someone else in which case it’s usually fatal. Charles’s novel is part of a series set in a sort of Victorian England in which magic, which only some people can do, is regarded with unease and not part of everyday life; practitioners regulate themselves with a professional organization, tolerated by police and government, which hunts down and eliminates anyone committing the serious crime of blood magic. So Iona Sharma got me thinking, maybe her story is a development a few decades along in which the government decided to no.longer ignore magic but to use it, and to do so without scruples? Maybe it is an apt metaphor for the runaway arms development in the early 20th century, tanks and machine guns and gas and more, that made World War I seem different from other wars? I’m not sure that there was any shift in the willingness to use weapons though, only advances in invention. So maybe Charles’s 19th century situation never existed.