The Signal Birds

signal-birds-tracy-durnellI’ve a new story out!

The Signal Birds” can be found in the inaugural issue of Liminal Stories. It’s about women and war and constraint, and how conflict can change bodies for better or worse. “The Signal Birds” has been illustrated by Tracy Durnell.

Shift change was always marked by the same roster call. “Sugar-plum, feather-plum, come get your coats on! Fall in, ducklings all!”

There were minor variations. We weren’t always ducklings. It was “goslings” when the raids were high, with night-time Spitfires over the Channel, and “little magpie twits” when room inspections had seen too many rinsed out panties hanging in the dormitory bathrooms.

I don’t know what else she expected. The south coast in winter was not a place we could hang out our washing and reliably expect it to dry. It was knickers strung round the bath like bunting or nothing.

“I’d rather nothing than damp,” said Polly. We’d both taken shifts in front of the radar with underwear that hadn’t fully dried before, and it had been an unpleasant, squirming experience.

“Not what I imagined when I got my wings,” she said. “Somehow I thought there’d be more glamour with it.”

The rest of the story is free to read at the above link.

It’s a great first issue for Liminal, though I do say so myself. Also included are fantastic stories by A.C. Wise, David Tallerman, Trevor Shikaze, Joseph Allen Hill and Nazifa Islam. Check it out!

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3 comments

  1. I much enjoyed reading “The Signal Birds”. Was the artwork inspired by an actual recruitment poster? Did it inspire the story or vice versa?
    Curiously I’ve read a couple of novels recently which partly, but quite significantly, feature WWII airplanes and crews. One was Kate Atkinson’s “A God in Ruins”, her amazingly good companion novel to the equally amazing “Life After Life”, set partly on a Halifax bomber base. The other was Christopher Priest’s “The Adjacent” featuring both Lancaster bombers and Spitfires (unless I’m getting confused with his “The Separation”, which is quite possible).
    Also curiously I read your “The Signal Birds” immediately after hearing (and softening the blow) that the wonderful TV show “Agent Carter” has been cancelled by ABC. Grrr. Women still not getting their due credit for their roles in WWII.
    Steve (that guy who wrote that Amazon review for “The August Birds”. Btw, looking forward to reading it again this August!).

    1. Hi! I didn’t know the story was even getting its own artwork, actually – not until it came out, anyway! I haven’t asked Tracy but I suspect her illustration was inspired by real life recruitment posters… it’s got that sort of vibe to it, doesn’t it? I’m just grateful for all the effort she put in to do it, and I like it very much.

      I’ll have to look up the Atkinson novels! One story that I do recall being about WW2 planes and speculative fiction was actually a short by Roald Dahl, who of course was a pilot in the war. “They Shall Not Grow Old”, I think it was called. He was such a good short writer!

      I’ve been grumbling about Agent Carter too. Hearing that it got cancelled yesterday was very disappointing. I LOVED that show! Could never understand why the ratings were so bad… it was far more original and entertaining than a lot of other things on telly.

      Thank you for remembering The August Birds kindly! Oddly enough I’ve had a small trickle of scientists contacting me about it (I think you were the first) and they’ve all had complimentary things to say which is very rewarding, because you and they were kind of my target audience. Feel free to file-share if you’ve colleagues you think would enjoy it! Part of science communication is spreading it all about, and of course the thing’s free online anyway so it doesn’t bother me.

      1. “Life After Life” and “A God In Ruins”, if taken together are one of my favorite ever works of fiction. Since I read them both quite recently perhaps this view is a little biased, but, still, they are both wonderful. Although LAL has a science fictional premise – similar to that used in the highly enjoyable “First Fifteen Lives of Harry August” by Claire North (the premise is revealed in the first few pages of LAL, so no spoiler there) – neither novel is really science fiction or speculative fiction. Instead, each novel describes the lives of a single family during and after WWII told from the perspectives of two different siblings. While LAL is a novel of endless possibilities, AGIR reflects and reinforces the immutability of the passage of time. In a quantum sense LAL is the Many Worlds Interpretation, while AGIR is the Copenhagen Interpretation. (Okay, thats kind of a stupid comparison, but whatever). Anyway, highly recommended if you get a chance and if you’re interested in life on the ground and in the air during WWII.

        Yes, Agent Carter’s cancellation was very disappointing. Seems ABC are determined to suck the joy out of TV (telly!) since they also cancelled Galavant, which was the most fun on TV for ages.

        I’ll be sure to recommend The August Birds to others whenever I get a chance. And, btw, I also liked the artwork for The Signal Birds.

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