Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Drop the Needle #12

TITLE: Redwing
GENRE: Dieselpunk

Claire wants to be a fighter pilot and just showed them her stuff in tryouts, but was laughed off for being a woman.

“Message for C. Genaille,” said the boy at the door. In his hands was a freshly pressed uniform, with a folded paper on top. Genevieve handed it to her.

What was this? Was someone in the air corps adding insult to injury, she wondered, unfolding the paper. She read it.

C. Genaille is hereby reprimanded on the grounds of being late for combat flight training. Please report in uniform to the lecture hall B immediately.

Claire stared at it for a moment thinking it had to be a joke, or if she was just seeing things. Had Thomas changed his mind? She read it three times, trying to figure out how she’d read it wrong. She could have cried.

But there was no time for that now. She had to get to training.

“Here,” said the messenger, “There’s this too.” He handed her a small black velvet bag.

Claire thanked him and closed the door.

The uniform; they must have found the smallest size they could, but it fit fine—a little bit tight across the chest. The turtleneck stretched, so it was all right. The uniform had trousers instead of a skirt, but she didn’t mind—it made sense for a pilot, and she couldn’t expect special treatment. Under that was a fleece lined leather flight jacket with wolverine fur around the collar, like all the other pilots wore. The wolverine fur didn’t ice up in the cold up in the sky.

In the velvet bag were a set of collar devices with brass wings enameled red, denoting the rank of cadet.


  1. Ooo, Dieselpunk? That's new to me. (Though could it be a sub-genre of sci-fi rather than a full genre? I'm just quibbling here; let's move on.)

    This is a nice twist, a gift in the form of a reprimand. I suspect it represents the uphill battle she'll have to fight against sexism here. She got in, but she's already in trouble. I'm rooting for her. ;)

    One thing - I'd try to reword the sentence starting "Was someone in the air corps…" It started as a question but changed partway through, and I found it a little disorienting.

    Good luck!

  2. This is very, very small potatoes, but I was bothered by the use of the semicolon in the first sentence of the "the uniform" paragraph. Semicolons join either strings of items in a series which contain commas or join two complete sentences together. If you'd like to highlight the moment where the reader gets to see her uniform clearly, this is the right place to use a colon (which sets off a list as it's about to be given, or highlights the appearance of an explanation or definition).

    Now that I'm doing being an annoying grammarian, I must say that I, too, loved the inventiveness of this reprimand being the signal that Claire is "in" and will have her chance to become a pilot. The situation forces the reader to think and appreciate the subtlety of the social dynamic, and how even the gift-giver is trying to communicate the gift in terms that are "safe" in this context. It's very well-chosen and well-done!

  3. This seems like a fun new idea for a novel. I really like the twist of the reprimand being the good news.

    I thought the pacing got bogged down a bit at the end. You go from her closing the door to her describing how the clothes fit, without talking about her actually trying them on. Also, when it says she has to hurry I expected her to be in a rush, but then she seems to slow down and take the time to look at each item of clothing in detail.

  4. The action going on here is fine. The piece that is missing for me is any sense of her elation. The only emotion here is telling. "She could have cried." Consider describing what was going on with her. Did she hug the uniform to her chest before putting it on? Did her breathe stop at the sight of the wings in the velvet bag? Did she grip the pin in her hand and bring it to her heart or simply stare at the beauty of it? Did a tear gather at the corner of her eye when she understood what the message meant? This is a very important scene, the granting of her wishes. The emotional level should be much higher. There's lots of opportunity here between her actions.

  5. Perhaps transition to her trying on the uniform if you keep the description. But you could cut it here and put it elsewhere since she's supposed to be in a hurry, or you could cut the 'there was no time for that now' line.

    You might also give the collar devices a name. Are they pins, emblems, insignia?

    In his hands was - could be - He held.

    On the grounds of - could be - for.

    Cut 'the' before lecture hall.

    Claire stared at it for a moment thinking it had to be a joke, or if she was just seeing things. -- could be - Claire stared at it. It had to be a joke, or she was seeing things.