Wednesday, May 31, 2017

"The Guns Above"

Robyn Bennis is a scientist living in Mountain View, California, where she works in biotech but dreams of airships. She has done research and development involving human gene expression, neural connectomics, cancer diagnostics, rapid flu testing, gene synthesis, genome sequencing, being so preoccupied with whether she could that she never stopped to think if she should, and systems integration.

Her apartment is within sight of Hangar One at Moffett Airfield, which was once the West Coast home to one of America's largest airships, the USS Macon.

Bennis applied the Page 69 Test to The Guns Above, her debut novel. and reported the following:
From page 69:
The little ensign nodded. “If you’re sleepy, Sergeant Jutes will see you home, my lord.”

Bernat had never said he was sleepy. “Oh, that isn’t necessary.”

“It’s no trouble at all,” Kember said.

It seemed to Bernat that the ensign could not possibly know how much or how little trouble it would be to Sergeant Jutes, but Jutes dutifully accompanied Bernat without complaint or apparent displeasure. When they were out of the hanger, Bernat said to him, “She’s awfully bossy toward you for a little girl, isn’t she?”

Jutes showed no sign of agreement. “She’s a commissioned officer and I ain’t,” he said. “If she ain’t being bossy, she’s doing it wrong.”

“It seems odd though, doesn’t it, that she’s ordering you around, when you’ve been in the army longer than she’s been alive?”

“That’s the way of the world, my lord.”
Although this moment doesn't feature the humor or action for which The Guns Above has become known, it's a surprisingly good encapsulation of one of the book's running themes: absurd but unquestioned power dynamics. Ensign Kember, despite being a spotty-faced teenager with no combat experience, gives commands to Sergeant Jutes without a second thought, and he obeys without a second thought, because that's how their world works.

Bernat, being the son of a Marquis, is the oblivious epitome of these strange power arrangements. Jutes and Kember both defer to him, though he's done nothing in his entire life that could possibly merit their respect and servility.

Josette, unseen here but recently appointed captain of the Mistral, is the polar opposite of Bernat. She had to earn her rank a dozen times over before finally receiving it. Whereas Bernat has never given a thought to his own authority over people, Josette has to consider it constantly, not only because she's had to climb and claw her way to where she is, but because so many of her comrades still don't believe she deserves to be there.
Visit Robyn Bennis's website.

--Marshal Zeringue