Nina Allan, ‘Flying in the Face of God’ (2010)

I’ve heard great things about Nina Allan’s fiction, but (as far as I’m aware) this is the first of her stories that I’ve read — and all those great things I’ve heard were correct.

In the world of this story, a process has been developed called the ‘Kushnev drain’ which alters human physiology to allow those who undergo it to travel through space, though they are changed fundamentaly as a result. Anita Schleif is making a film about female ‘fliers’, and in particular her friend Rachel Alvin. That’s the background, but the tale is less concerned with space travel than about the difficulties of dealing with profound personal change.

Anita is very fond of Rachel, and secretly distressed at the prospect of losing her friend, even though Rachel is fulfilling her ambition; the film is at least as much an attempt by Anita to hold on to her friend as it is a product of genuine interest in the subject. Allan also sets up some neat parallels that give the story a satisfying cohesion: Rachel’s single-minded determination to become a flier is not so different from Anita’s desire to keep Rachel in her life however she can;  and the transformation through which Rachel is going is analogous to the mental decline of Anita’s grandmother — both involve the loss of a human self as conventionally understood; so Anita is effectively seeing the two most important people in her life disappear before her eyes, albeit in very different ways.

‘Flying in the Face of God’ is a superb piece of fiction, and you can be sure that I’ll be looking out for more of Nina Allan’s stories in the future.

This story appears in issue 227 of Interzone. Read all my blog posts about that issue here.

1 Comment

  1. Truly fine story. With this quality of writing, the story would move and grip the reader even if it were a more mundane separation. The sciencefictional element legitimately ups the ante, making Anita’s loss even more bleak and dramatic.

    Look forward to teaching this tomorrow night.

    Joe Haldeman

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