Thursday, November 22, 2018

"The Arrival of Missives"

Aliya Whiteley writes novels, short stories and non-fiction and has been published in The Guardian, Interzone, Black Static, Strange Horizons, and anthologies such as Fox Spirit's European Monsters. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice, and won the Drabblecast People's Choice Award in 2007. Her writing is often violent, tender, terrifying and funny. It has garnered much critical praise and provoked discussion.

Whiteley Gardner applied the Page 69 Test to his newest novel, The Arrival of Missives, and reported the following:
From page 69:
My parents, knowing that we have reached the date of the meeting in Taunton, watch me over breakfast with intensity, but we do not speak of it. I am so meek and mild with my newfound ability to dissemble that I give them no reason to be mistrustful. If I place a foot wrong my father would lock me in my bedroom today, but he cannot play that role unless I give him cause.

I see now that this is a lesson all women must learn, and my mother is an adept. I had never noticed her performance before. She handles my father with her downcast eyes and serene expression. She skips over the obstacles he lays for her with deceptive ease, so when he complains about the stale bread she takes it away and presents a fresh loaf without a word. When he asks why she is silent, she says cheerfully of how she was just thinking of a funny thing Mrs Barbery said to her in the village, and relates a piece of tattle with such charm that my father forgets that he was looking for a fight at all.

Then she looks away and I see the pretence fall, and I know she is hiding all her thoughts and feelings in order to pander to him. He is an enormous tyrant baby to whom she will be forever bound.
This is a flash of realisation for my narrator that I really like, because it begins a series of revelations about the village where she lives and the people that surround her. She begins to examine the balance of power, and at how her mother has to placate her father, who is a tyrant in many ways.

My narrator, Shirley, is sixteen years old and has a zealous naiveté at the start of the book. She sees everything in terms of black and white, including her romantic feelings for her schoolteacher. Then the teacher involves her in a far-reaching plan, and the novel takes a leap into a very different kind of story that forces her to question everything she thought she knew.

This page contains a moment of clarity. Shirley has grown up just enough to re-evaluate her parents’ relationship. I think maybe that comes to us all at some point; I loved getting a chance to write about it here as part of a larger science-fiction storyline. It seems to me sci-fi is often at its best when it manages to include delicate details of emotional and personal discovery within its big ideas.
Visit Aliya Whiteley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue