Long Distance Running

Well, as prom­ised, the Saturday post will be less of a navel-gaz­ing enter­prise than usu­al. Below I include the usu­al word gauge for pro­gress on cur­rent nov­el Flashback, and it appears that I’ve only writ­ten four thou­sand words in the past week. This is a poor show quant­ity wise (for­tu­nately, I don’t have a dead­line). I can trace the prob­lem to a com­plete lack of research.

OK; not a com­plete lack. I spent most of last sum­mer read­ing about avi­ation, and now my know­ledge of air­craft safety and the prin­ciples of lift are second to none (I’m using ‘none’ in the spe­cial sense that means ‘Practically every­body’). Regrettably, not much of a nov­el com­prises tech­nic­al asides on power-to-mass ratios. Everything is seen through the lens of char­ac­ter. This means lengthy diver­sions into, for example, the size of an Avro Lancastrian cock­pit; how much a pas­sen­ger might see and hear if he stood at the rear of the flight deck. Halfway through a sen­tence I real­ize I’m talk­ing bol­locks and, grabbing my surf­board, run into the cool water of the Information Superhighway and come across a site like this — sol­id gold! This guy will cer­tainly get a big thank-you in the acknow­ledg­ments when Flashback sees the light of day. It inhib­its the word count some­what but res­ults in some excel­lent mater­i­al that will place the read­er pre­cisely inside my ima­gin­a­tion.

Here’s anoth­er first-draft­ish snip­pet, writ­ten yes­ter­day (it might be easi­er to under­stand if you remem­ber that the view­point char­ac­ter, Kirby, has some tech­no­lo­gic­al enhance­ments that allow him to induct elec­tro­mag­net­ic inform­a­tion, such as the leaky com­mu­nic­a­tion on the closed-cir­cuit loop used by the Lancastrian’s flight crew):

The cock­pit was not, as Kirby had anti­cip­ated, bright with sun­light. He crouched along­side Miss Evans in a gloomy pit behind the radio oper­at­or, who was squashed against a bulk­head par­ti­tion that stretched halfway across the flight deck. Bulb light glowed behind the dials of the radio equip­ment, which was painted matte-black in con­trast to the mil­it­ar­ist­ic dun of the fusel­age. A glass dome in the ceil­ing offered some indir­ect light. The radio oper­at­or leaned on his little table in a slump that marked him as a young man. His gloved hand sup­por­ted his chin. Beyond the par­ti­tion, Kirby could just see the throne-like seat of Commander Cook. His boots, bruise-grey in the sun­light, res­ted in the curves of the yoke. To his right was the first officer, Hilton Cook. His seat was lower but, as he reached towards the cap­tain to strike a gauge with his knuckle, their eyes met at the same height. Both wore oxy­gen masks with rub­ber pipes that led beneath their seats. Behind the com­mand­er was the fourth crew­man. He faced left and leaned over a map table, which he kept steady with an ungloved hand. The only space on the flight deck was to the right of the par­ti­tion, behind the nav­ig­at­or. Miss Evans stepped into the space and reached for the elbow of Commander Cook. He turned and blinked with sur­prise. Then he noticed Kirby and raised a hand. Cook’s pan­ache – fly­ing this prim­it­ive air­craft with his boots on the yoke – almost defeated the gate of Kirby’s indif­fer­ence, but it held.

Miss Evans unhooked a spare mask and pressed it to her face. Kirby noticed her hair for the first time. It was severely plaited and the fringe was pinned aside. With her free hand, she pinched her throat. Kirby let his fin­gers rest on the fusel­age to aid the induc­tion of their con­ver­sa­tion.

It’s Mrs Limpert, Skipper.”

Go on.”

The second officer, Hilton Cook, turned in his seat. His eyes quickly moved from Miss Evans to Kirby. The air­man frowned at Kirby’s fin­gers against the fusel­age. Soon the nav­ig­at­or and the radio oper­at­or noticed the pas­sen­ger on their flight deck.

Hello,” said one of them, but Kirby could not tell which, “we’ve got some cargo on the deck.”

Quiet, Don,” said Commander Cook. “Iris?”

She’s con­vulsing,” said Miss Evans. “Has been for the past few minutes.”

Commander Cook looked at the first officer. “Since we climbed to twenty-four thou­sand.”

She might,” sug­ges­ted the first officer, “have burst some­thing.”

Reggie,” said Miss Evans, “we have to drop below twenty thou­sand.”

What hap­pens next? Answers on a post­card.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meterZokutou word meter
98,113 / 120,000

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

One thought on “Long Distance Running”

  1. Very, very inter­est­ing, well paced and full of fresh inform­a­tion for the read­er, who just loves ‘to be there’ and learn this kind of stuff. Situation, set­ting and char­ac­ters all clear.
    Just one sen­tence over­writ­ten, or in oth­er words a little (read: jolly) awk­ward to get the hang of in one go, mak­ing it off-put­ting, I think:
    Bulb light glowed behind the dials of the radio equip­ment, which was painted matte-black in con­trast to the mil­it­ar­ist­ic dun of the fusel­age.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *